Category Archives: Creators & Innovators

Join us in chronicling Kenyan innovation and celebrating our most accomplished innovators and creators all around the world. By introducing their work and achievements, we hope that the next generation of creators and innovators can draw inspiration from them.

EVANS WANDONGO: RENEWABLE ENERGY INVENTOR

In 2010 Evans Wadongo was named CNN Top 10 Hero for his work improving the livelihoods of Kenyans through his solar lantern invention called MwangaBora.  He designed the lantern as a replacement for kerosene lamps still used in many Kenyan households. This is just one of the few honors that have been bestowed upon him for this invention and the ensuing campaign that he undertook starting in 2011 to promote MwangaBora called Just One Lamp.

According to an article published by The Guardian, as February 2015, there were 50,000 Mwangabora lanterns being used in Kenyan households with each lantern costing about 2000 Kenya Shillings. The lamp is partly built from recycled materials in addition to solar panel fragments that are used to charge the lamps. A USB port can be in-built into the lamp to allow families to charge small electronic devices.

Evans graduated from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology with a degree in Electronic and Computer Engineering. In 2013, he was included in the 35 Innovators Under 35 list compiled by MIT Technology Review.

He is currently the Executive Director of SDFA-Kenya which he founded in 2006. SDFA-Kenya a non-profit organization promoting social and economic empowerment. He is also the Chief Strategic Officer at Greenwize Energy Ltd which he co-founded in 2003.


Learn more about MwangaBora in a Feature Video by CTGN AFrica

TOM OSBORN: INNOVATOR, GREEN ENERGY ADVOCATE

Tom Osborn is the young founder of Greenchar which was conceived while he was still a student at Alliance Boys High School.

Greenchar manufactures smokeless charcoal briquettes made from recycled agricultural waste such as sugarcane bargasse, the fibrous waste that remains after sugarcane juice has been extracted. In addition to being smokeless and longer-lasting than conventional charcoal obtained from trees, these briquettes offer a greener alternative to the latter still widely used in Kenya.

According to Quartz Africa, as of February 2015 Greenchar was serving over 3000 families and had sold more than 130 tons of briquettes.

In 2015, Osborn was named to the Forbes 30-under-30 list of social entrepreneurs. He is a 2014 Echoing Green Fellow, an endowed fellowship given to the next generation of social entrepreneurs. In 2014, he was also named Fellow, Anzisha Prize, an award that honors and celebrates innovative young African entrepreneurs.

Osborn joined Harvard University in 2016 for his undergraduate studies, majoring in Economics and Computer Science.


Learn more about Greenchar in the video below shared by Kelly Ranck.


Photocourtesy: CC Image courtesy of user Echoing Green NYC on Flickr

KAGO KAGICHIRI: PROMOTING E-LEARNING

Kago Kagichiri is the CEO and co-founder of Eneza Education. Eneza education is an e-learning company providing learning resources to students through simple and innovative mobile technology.

In 2015, Kago was named to the Forbes 30-under-30 list of social entrepreneurs. He is also a 2014 Echoing Green Fellow, an endowed fellowship given to the next generation of social entrepreneurs.

Eneza Education platforms allow for users with the simplest of mobile technology to still be able to access learning resources from Eneza.

In the last couple years, Eneza has partnered with Safaricom in developing SMS based learning platforms. The most popular is Shupavu 291, a learning app that assists students to access lessons and other learning resources using a mobile phone. To access Shupavu 291 for a flat weekly fee, all the user has to do is dial *291# on their Safaricom mobile line.

Eneza Education also provides live chat resources allowing students to ask a teacher questions and receive guidelines in real-time. In addition, they also provide refresher courses for teachers, a general business course for the public and curated learning content in line with the national primary and secondary curriculum. This is all done under the Shupavu 291 platform.

Safaricom also recently invested into the company through its Safaricom Spark Venture Fund showing confidence in their partnership and future. Eneza education has reached nearly 2 million learners since its inception in addition to expanding to 11 other countries in Africa.

Read this Daily Nation article titled “Kago Kagichiri: taking education to the next level” published on April 1, 2016 to learn more about Kago.


Hear Kago talk about Eneza in an Feature by CTGN Africa.


Photocourtesy: CC Image courtesy of user Make it Kenya on Flickr

CHAMPIONS OF INNOVATION: PROF. BITANGE NDEMO

Prof. Bitange Ndemo is an Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Nairobi focusing on the link between ICT and small and medium enterprises in Kenya. (source: bitangendemo.me)

However most remember him as the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication between 2005-2013. During his tenure, the ministry was credited with instituting the policy framework that has shaped the ICT industry in Kenya to its current vibrant state.

Prof. Ndemo earned his PhD in Industrial Economics from the University of Sheffield. In 2009, he was the recipient of the Distinguished Leadership Award for Internationals from his other alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

He also continues to engage Kenyans on issues of development and innovation through his weekly articles for the Daily Nation.

Prof. Ndemo was recently appointed to Safaricom’s Board of Directors.  Certainly the professor has shown over the years that he is very comfortable shuttling between the boardroom and the hallowed halls of learning, championing innovation in Kenya and beyond.


Hear Prof. Ndemo talk about the state of the ICT industry in an all-encompassing interview by K24 TV.


Photocourtesy: CC Image courtesy of ICT Authority on Flickr

NJERI RIONGE: BUSINESS INNOVATOR AND ICT ENTREPRENEUR

Njeri Rionge is one of the most celebrated woman entrepreneur in the African continent. In 2011 she was named by Forbes Magazine as one of Africa’s most successful women.

She is best known as a founder of Wananchi Online which morphed into what is the current Wananchi Group. Wananchi Group is now one of Kenya’s largest home entertainment operators. (Njeri co-founded Wananchi Online with Joe Mucheru the current Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communications)

Wananchi Group’s Zuku brand is bringing residential fibre optic broadband internet, pay TV services and telephone services to an increasing number of customers in Kenya and East Africa. With total equity funding north of USD 200 Million to date, investors have continued to show confidence in the company’s expansion plans.

Njeri has also been widely described as a serial entrepreneur owing to the number of successful startups that she has founded in the last decade including Ignite Consulting Ltd and Insite Ltd, among others.


Listen as Njeri speaks about her incredible life and business story in a video interview with Africa 24 Media. A lot of young people will draw inspiration from her meteoric rise.


Photocourtesy: CC Image courtesy of Veni on Flickr

ERIK HERSMAN: INNOVATOR AND ENTREPRENEUR

Erik Hersman has spent most of his life in Africa having grown up in Sudan and Kenya where he attended school at the African Missionary Rift Valley Academy (RVA). And it is in Africa where he is undoubtedly leaving his footprint as an innovator and entrepreneur.

But more importantly he is helping young innovators develop their ideas and cash in on these ideas through his roles as General Partner at Savannah Fund,  a venture capital firm and also as founder of iHub, an innovation space located in Nairobi.

Erik was a co-founder of Ushahidi Inc. Ushahidi, an open source crowd-sourcing platform, was first used in Kenya to track and map violence outbreaks during the post-election violence of 2008. The platform has now been used worldwide to assist first responders during disasters such as the Haiti Earthquake, the Christchurch Earthquake in New Zealand among many others.

He is also the founder and CEO of BRCK Inc based in Nairobi. The Nation newspaper recently featured the BRCK, a rugged WIFI Hotspot and extender device, as one of the hottest innovations to come out of Kenya’s Silicon Savannah. BRCK Inc. is also a winner of numerous international innovation awards. The company also takes pride in its in-house product cycle management all the way from research and development, product management to user experience, which is rare for an African firm of its size.

Erik is also a Senior Ted Fellow and serves as a Board Member in many organizations in across Africa. He has also invested in many startups in the continent through Savannah Fund.


Hear one of Erik’s recent TED Talk titled, “The quest for a free, open Internet in Africa”


Visit Erik Hersman’s Wikipedia Page.

Photocourtesy: CC Image courtesy of Erik (HASH) Hersman on Flickr