Growing Kenyan entrepreneurship – the digital programmes and projects that are shaping the future

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By Francis Wainaina, Seacom East Africa Senior Product Manager

Despite being ranked as a leader in ecommerce and digital services, most of Kenya’s major online platforms are still foreign owned. With the rise of Kenya’s digitally enabled start-ups, developing local entrepreneurship is pivotal to the success of an inclusive digital transformation journey. Kenya’s budding tech scene is ripe with opportunities for entrepreneurs who are willing to work hard, but even the most tech savvy of them can benefit from extra support. Here are some of the influential programmes that are cultivating local talent and guiding Kenyans into the digital future.

Kenya Industry and Entrepreneurship Project

This $50 million project, implemented by the Kenyan government and supported by the World Bank, aims to transform Kenya into an industrialised and middle-income country through each of our ‘Big Four’ sectors, as outlined by President Kenyatta. The project’s key focus is to improve the managerial and technical skills of businesses as well as their use of and access to technology. It also aims to spur innovation and productivity through incubation hubs, boot camps and accelerators that connect start-ups with traditional industries and international networks. Two hundred and fifty Kenyan small businesses will benefit from this project, with individual grants of up to $50,000 to help them hit the ground running. This will go a long way in  improving the entrepreneurship ecosystem and building digital skills in our country.

The Presidential Talent Programme

Developing entrepreneurship for government is as important as it is for the private sector. The Presidential Digital Talent Programme offers training and mentorship to graduates with the goal of nurturing talent in government offices. It targets recent graduates, provides a training ground and hopes to expand the government’s ICT capabilities with newly qualified individuals.

In July 2020, Annastacia Muisyo won the programme’s Innovation Award for her Traffic E-court system that uses intelligent speed cameras to notify drivers via smartphone to either pay their fine within a certain period or receive a court summons. Innovative solutions like this show how the programme could not only increase youth employability and entrepreneurship but also improve public service delivery for Kenyan citizens.

Co-Creation Hub

Creating talent is only possible if we collaborate and share our ideas. This is why Co-Creation Hub (CcHub) has launched a pan-African IoT community platform which aims to facilitate conversation around the growth of Africa’s technological environment and allow stakeholders to share their knowledge and ideas with other entrepreneurs. Started in Nigeria, CcHub recently acquired iHub, an innovation hub in Nairobi that was one of the first tech hubs in Africa to offer mentorship, workshops and venture funding to local start-ups. CcHub also acquired the Kenyan ed-tech start-up eLimu, which leverages new technology to provide interactive learning in an African context. With an audience of approximately 500,000 teachers and learners every year, online and offline, this acquisition is a significant investment in digitalising education for future generations.

Mastercard

Start Path is an award-winning start-up programme with more than 1,500 applicants each year that provides entrepreneurs with access to experts to help them innovate their business models and scale effectively. Lipa Later, a Kenyan fintech company that allows consumers to buy goods online and pay later, was selected as one of the eight later-stage start-ups to take part in the programme. This has given Lipa Later a priceless opportunity to access Mastercard’s global partners and technology experts as well as secure bigger investments. More importantly, this fintech start-up has benefited citizens by providing them with more inclusive access to finance.

Microsoft’s Global Entrepreneurship Programme

Microsoft’s venture capital programme has supported many small-scale African farmers to help them access new markets while improving their yields by up to 300%. Microsoft has also promoted business-to-business food supply platforms like Twiga Foods to connect farmers in rural Kenya to informal vendors in cities, opening new markets that were previously out of reach. According to Amrote Abdella, regional director of Microsoft 4Afrika, Microsoft has pledged its support to the World Bank in a shared ambition to “bring one million farmers onto the digital platform within the next three years, and… to bring food security to the countries that need it most.”

Why these programmes are good news for Kenya

Kenya is considered to be one of the most important gateways to other African markets. Nairobi has become a fertile ecosystem of flourishing start-ups, and digitally enabled businesses are growing every day. Helping local entrepreneurs use and understand new technologies to thrive in this digital environment is essential for sustaining our economic growth at a grassroots level. African entrepreneurs are unique in their resilience and drive for success; the more the public and private sectors work together to empower them with digital skills, the closer we come to Africa’s Digital Age.

The writer is the Seacom East Africa senior product manager

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