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Kenya's spirit of innovation is ripe but needs nurturing

Christine Anyango at her juakali work station within Kibuye area. [Kevine Omollo, Standard]

Hundreds of students from across Kenya participated in a virtual hackathon organised by Microsoft and Equity Bank between February 17 and March 17 this year.

The initiative encouraged students to be creative and collaborate to create proofs of concept and minimum viable products to address business and social challenges in the payments, financial inclusion, and digital identity thematic areas.

The successful initiative was yet another example of the wealth of innovation and creativity that exists among our youth.

It was also an opportunity for academia and industry to collaborate and find solutions to real-world problems. We are not surprised by the ideas that these young students came up with during the Hackathon.

Our experience with similar initiatives has demonstrated that the spirit of innovation is ripe in Kenya, and it is time for Kenyan businesses to begin looking at local education institutions and technology hubs for the development of unique solutions for their business needs.

Recognising the critical role that such initiatives play, we have implemented several programmes over the last few years that we believe are making a significant contribution to efforts to bridge the ever-present gap between industry and academia. 

For example, through the Microsoft’s Africa Development Centre (ADC)’s Game of Learners competition, which is now in its third year, we have been working to improve digital and coding capabilities among African university students while developing solutions to some of the continent’s challenges. This year, the goal is to propose a solution that reduces or reverses gas emissions and footprints, based on the critical theme of Climate Change.

The solutions from this programme will help in solving Africa’s problems by Africans using technology. Mentorship is key in a student’s life, and those who have access to it throughout their studies often end up with an advantage over those who do not.