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IBM’s Nairobi research lab will look at ways to improve transportation infrastructure (Photo: IBM)

IBM is opening its first African research lab in Nairobi, where it will focus specifically on the problems and issues facing the continent.

The US-based IT services group said the facility in the Kenyan capital will conduct research on how better IT systems can help make the public-sector more efficient; how  big-city transportation and water infrastructure can be improved; and how IT and other scientific skills can be raised.

Identifying Africa as a "key growth market," IBM's senior vice president and director of research, John Kelly, said in a press release: "The IBM research lab, will not only rubber stamp Kenya as Africa’s leader in ICT, but will help the country to transform into a knowledge based economy."

Work at the lab will start immediately and more African locations could be considered at a later date, IBM said.

The IT group wants to increase its presence in growth markets and is, in general, increasing its focus on emerging markets

The Nairobi research lab will become part of IBM's global network of research facilities, which are already established in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and the US.