African tech start ups are on the rise and that’s a fact. From Lagos to Johannesburg and to Nairobi, innovations are fuelling African economies. While Nigerian and South Africa may have higher technology appreciation levels, By several ratings, Kenya is said to be fourth most technologically advanced nation on the African continent in face of scarce resources as can be found in several African nations. Of the thirty start ups (mostly tech) selected to pitch their ideas at the Demo Africa event this September, eight of those start ups came from Kenya alone, the same as Nigeria and five more than South Africa. Bear in mind that the Kenyan population is about 47 million people compared to about 51 million in South Africa and over 180 million in Nigeria. The article I have shared from Bloomberg tells you just how real this is. From urban to rural technologies, lives are being affected. M-Pesa is a clear example of this story and with new technologies like the water dispensing ATMs, Kenya is poised to lead in this tech boom era that’s about to happen on the continent.
In a four-story building on the fringe of Kenya’s capital, “Ninjas” and “Pirates” are working on finding solutions to problems. Problems like traffic jams, which sometimes get so bad in Nairobi that residents jokingly refer to them as free parking.
The young tech entrepreneurs, laptops plastered in stickers, dress casually and sit around big tables, on couches and sometimes on the floor at the iHub, a tech incubation center that has spawned 150 startups and created more than 1,300 jobs. Its corporate partners include companies like Google, Microsoft and Intel.
The “Ninjas” are the ones who develop ideas for products. “Pirates” are the people who go out and help raising cash for projects. Their building houses startup incubators, a user-experience lab, an under-construction hardware-development workshop and a community space.
“The importance of ecosystems like this is to create startups that then create jobs, that create value and that give back to the economy,” says Juliana Rotich, one of the trustees of i-Hub.
Together, the entrepreneurs come up with concepts like Ushahidi, the open-source software that’s used to share information and interactive maps to prevent conflicts and help aid agencies provide relief in disaster zones. Used in 31 languages across 159 countries, Ushahidi, which means testimony in Swahili, has been used in Haiti and Nepal after major earthquakes.
Kenya’s tech sector accounted for about 8.4% of Kenya’s GDP in 2014, and Rotich, one of the developers of Ushahidi, expects it to grow further.
“My personal mission is to make something of value, or work with people to make something that fixes a problem, and also to help others,” Rotich says. “That’s what drives me.”