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Local youth gain global recognition through innovations

Friday July 10 2015

One of the brightest concepts conceived in Kenya is the electronic money transfer system M-Pesa. FILE PHOTO

An M-Pesa customer sends money at a Safaricom agents. Safaricom has opened up M-Pesa allowing local and international developers to create applications that use the platform as the main payment option. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

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Young Kenyans have in recent times come up with brilliant ideas and technological innovations that have gained recognition on the global stage.

Some of the young entrepreneurs and innovators have even been listed among the world’s top by Forbes magazine.

One of the brightest concepts conceived in Kenya is the electronic money transfer system M-Pesa, which has changed the lives of millions, if not billions, of people locally and in many nations around the world.

The concept was quickly adopted by Safaricom. Nearly everyone in the country has embraced this form of electronic money transfer.

Recognising the immense innovative talent and entrepreneurial skills the youth in this country possess, the Jubilee government has established special funds to tap this great potential.

The Youth Fund is aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship among young people. The Uwezo Fund taps into innovation.

A directive has also been issued to all public institutions that at least 30 per cent of all government contracts should be awarded to women and the youth.

Top young African entrepreneurs (under 33) who have been listed by Forbes this year and are likely to feature at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit include the following four Kenyans:

Mubarak Muyika

The 20-year-old is the founder of Zagace Limited. He was orphaned at the age of 10. He turned down a Harvard University scholarship to become an entrepreneur. When he was 16, he founded Hypecentury Technologies, a web hosting company.

After running the enterprise for a number of years, Munyika sold it to Wemps Telecoms in a six-figure deal. Muyika’s new venture, Zagace, which has raised funding from local investors, is a cloud computing innovation.

He develops software that helps companies in accounting, payroll, stock management and marketing.

Joel Mwale

He is the founder of SkyDrop Enterprises, a rainwater filtration and bottling company. It produces low-cost purified drinking water, milk and other dairy products. The 22-year-old is now relatively wealthy. In 2012, Mwale sold a 60 per cent stake in SkyDrop to an Israeli firm for $500,000 (Sh50 million).

Last year, he founded Gigavia, an educational social networking website.

Kennedy Kitheka

Kitheka, 25, is the founder of Funda, which started as BluUni. In 2008, Kitheka and his friends established the online education platform that provides university students with a cheaper way to get course materials. Kitheka started the business, along with his partners, after returning to Miambani Village, where his father grew up.

After being away for 10 years, Kitheka was worried by the lack of progress in the community. Funda was created to provide resources for young Africans who have the potential to become future leaders. Kitheka said these are the people who will create change in Africa.

Ronak Shah

A Kenyan of Asian origin, Shah is the founder and chief executive officer of Kronex Chemicals Ltd, a manufacturer of affordable dishwashing liquids and multipurpose detergents for Kenya’s lower-income earners. He started the firm to improve hygiene in the country. Kronex set up a manufacturing plant on Mombasa Road in January 2013, with operations starting in June that year.

The 27-year-old’s enterprise is battling it out with larger and established local firms that produce liquid soap.

The writer is an investigative reporter with the Nation