Kenya is coming into its own.
With a steadily growing economy and a relatively free economic system, exciting new companies are thriving throughout Kenya. According to the World Bank, Kenya is one of the key economic countries in Africa and will become one of the fastest growing countries in the region.
A number of companies — both private and nonprofit — from a variety of industries are making their mark in Kenya. Here aree five particularly innovative companies worth keeping an eye on.
Only about 15 percent of the Kenyan population has access to electricity. Traditional infrastructure (like power lines and power plants) is prohibitively expensive for sparsely-populated areas, so solar power is the best way to increase access. M-Kopa offers pay-as-you-go solar installations for people to connect while remaining off the grid.
M-Kopa has made strides in the industry by ensuring that they are extremely efficient and affordable. All equipment is in top condition and operating at maximum capacity. Their safety measures include making sure that equipment like air compressors are not over or underworked, as factory equipment is most efficient when it is the right size.
Education is improving in Kenya, and that’s partly due to startups like Eneza Education. This social enterprise teaches nearly half a million users from all over the country and many of these students through a basic phone. By working on a modest mobile device, Eneza can help some of the poorest students in the country. The curriculum is designed in-house and a variety of subjects are offered. The material — including quizzes — is texted to the signed-up students. Courses are also available on computers and smartphones.
The platform is perfect for reaching students (including kids in refugee camps) that would otherwise struggle to receive an education.
One Acre Fund
Agriculture is extremely important in Kenya, as around 75 percent of all working people in the country sustain themselves on it. With such a large part of the country dedicated to farming, the One Acre Fund nonprofit organization is making a big impact. The organization offers loans, supplies and training to small farmers to allow them to increase their yields and make more money.
The organization was started in Kenya but now operates in several other East African countries. In Kenya alone, a staff of 1,400 serves 135 thousand farmers.
In a country of 45 million, approximately 43 percent of Kenyans are Internet users. This is one of the highest rates in Africa and highlights the growth of Kenya’s Internet and telecom companies. The startup Mawingu (that name means “cloud” in Swahili) is focused on connecting people in rural areas that would otherwise have no access. To do this, they install solar-powered Wi-Fi hotspots that serve the country’s poorest people. Through these hotspots, students access to educational info, farmers have access to market info and citizens can stay abreast of the news.
Mawingu’s technology is simple yet effective. Their solar-based solution wouldn’t work in every country, but it’s ideal for Kenya.
During the post-election violence of 2008, Ushahidi was formed to document the violence through interactive maps. The organization, whose title means “testimony,” has since grown well beyond those events. Ushahidi focuses on data collection, visualization and management for a number of different issues. Their tools have been used to monitor elections, track foreign aid and observe human rights cases.
As in other countries, income inequality and other challenges still plaguing Kenya Thanks in small part to these five companies, and countless others, the future of Kenya looks brighter.