Africa’s 1st IBM Commercial Research Lab opened in Kenya


The International Business Machines Corporation (commonly referred as IBM) is an American multinational technology and consulting corporation. IBM once well know for its line of laptops (Thinkpads) and PCs, sold to Lenovo in the year 2004, is now focused on software, services and solutions.


As part for their repositioning as well as reach into emerging markets, IBM has built IBM Research – Africa in a partnership between The Catholic University of East Africa, The Kenyan Government and IBM. This will be IBM’s 12th global laboratory and the first science and technology research lab on the continent conducting both applied and far-reaching exploratory research.

IBM Research’s presence in Kenya will encourage and strengthen an innovative culture, and engage local entrepreneurs and innovators to develop solutions to the challenges faced by the people of Kenya, the surrounding region and other fast-growing markets around the world.


Here at the lab, home of the Smarter City initiative amongst many others, in fields as far reaching as Agriculture, Education and Water management, IBM is harnessing available data, and turning it into meaningful projections that can positively impact the public, businesses as well as the economy. Back in 2012 IBM launched a white paper on Kenya’s roadmap to a Smarter City and outlined the challenges we face as a country on that road.

One of the pilot projects is the Smarter Transport initiative where through a partnership with Access Kenya, is using 46 pre existing Butterfly cameras (on 46 road links) “to give meaningful data on upto 900 road links with more than 90% accuracy”, Eric Mibuari, one of their Research Engineers, explained. He added that this shall aide in city planning as well as offer traffic notifications to the public.

Using image processing software, the cameras are used to carry out vehicle counting, estimated speeds, vehicle density and inform motorists of the above as well as congestion levels, alongside alternative routes. Eventually using a combination of delivery mechanisms, such as SMS, smartphone apps, and Web pages, the above information will be relayed to the end user.

Through the Research Lab, IBM hopes to boost Africa’s economies, by refining data and offering solutions that solve problems in the various sectors of the economy; this shall eventually elevate IBM’s presence and penetration in the market as a trusted solution and service provider, eventually positively influencing their revenues.

This Research Lab will be properly unveiled and opened by all stake holders in the near future, afterwards the Smarter Transport initiative will follow suite.

IBM has recognized the huge potential impact of research, innovation and smarter systems in helping to build Africa’s future… Have we?