IBM President and CEO Ginni Rometty (left) with President Mwai Kibaki

IBM is looking to have its first research lab in Africa located in Kenya. The lab will be used to conduct basic and applied research focused on solving problems relevant to Africa and contribute to the building of a science and technology base for the continent.

With this IBM makes Nairobi its 12th global lab joining other labs in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and the United States. IBM president Ginni Rometty met with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki to mark the announcement.

The lab will explore 3 key research areas, according to IBM. They are; next generation public sector, smarter cities and the development of human capacity. At the lab, IBM looks to leverage its big data technologies, advanced analytics, and cloud computing technology as part of the “next generation public sector” initiative.

The lab will be used to create intelligence operation centres in African cities in partnership with the academic institutions in the region.

The new lab will establish a Resident Scientist Program, an international recruitment program to reach Kenyan and other African applicants. The program will aim to attract top R&D talent to work side-by-side with IBM researchers in the lab.

It is just not clear why IBM looks to have its research lab in Africa at a time when it its influence in ICT is waning. The IT behemoth never saw Africa as important when it was at the top of the game.