‘Banana Queen’ banks Sh1m as Kisii summit renews hope

Governor Ongwae said they have put systems in place to support such innovative business ventures.

Monday February 29 2016

Mrs Askah Nyakwara, the winner of Sh1 million

Mrs Askah Nyakwara, the winner of Sh1 million innovation award at the Kisii Entrepreneurship Summit, shakes hands with Cabinet Secretary for Industrialization Aden Mohamed (centre) and Kisii County Governor James Ongwae on February 27, 2016. PHOTO | BENSON MOMANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MAGATI OBEBO AND AGGREY OMBOKI

The curtain fell on the Kisii Entrepreneurship Summit on Saturday evening with many looking forward to numerous investments trickling into the region.

As Kisii Governor James Ongwae appealed to businessmen from the region, both in the diaspora and back home, to invest in their home county, one lucky trader’s bank account received a timely boost from the summit’s organisers.

Mrs Askah Nyakwara won the Sh1 million on offer at the summit innovation competition at the Kisii University, venue of the three-day summit.

For the mother of two, nicknamed the “banana queen of Kisii County”, the victory was a sweet reward for her nine-year struggle to put banana processing on the investment map in the county and beyond.

“I was disappointed by the idea of selling my banana crop cheaply to brokers who would come to our farm and buy it for Sh300,” she told the Nation.

She decided to dry bananas and make crisps from a bunch she had harvested at her parents’ farm for sale. Since the concept was foreign in her Bogwendo, Kitutu Masaba Sub-County, home, she had to aggressively market it herself.

“I marketed and sold the product to people in my village, including the primary school pupils near my home. More than 90 percent of those who sampled the product loved it,” she says.

Fish leather innovator Mr Newton Owino, who has taken the fish industry a notch higher through his revolutionary products, was second in the contest.

“I turn fish skin into leather, fish eyes into ladies’ necklaces and fish intestines into ladies’ handbags,” he said, attracting applause from the packed auditorium.

Mr Owino won Sh500,000 while third place went to social network creator Mr Sydney Arema.

Governor Ongwae said they have put systems in place to support such innovative business ventures.

“Many of the people from our county have invested in other areas. I urge them to think of setting up businesses at home too,” he said.

He called for more investments in the area of value addition into the county, saying soapstone, bananas, coffee and other locally produced crops are in dire need of value addition.

He said the Kisii people are endowed with the right skills and robust resilience to boost productivity of any business.

Industrialization Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohammed represented President Uhuru Kenyatta at Saturday’s closing ceremony.

The three-day summit closed with powerful presentations from leading lights in business, including Haco Industries chairman Chris Kirubi and Mr Joshua Chekwony, the chairman of Jamii Group of Companies,

Others were Kenya Commercial Bank chief executive Joshua Oigara, Kenya Private Sector Alliance CEO Carole Kariuki as well as Mr Vimal Shah, Bidco Africa’s chief executive.

Central Bank chairman Mohammed Nyaoga challenged youthful innovators to come up with viable projects that would attract capital investment.

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