May 19, 2021

INVEST IN AFRICA’S HACKATHON BOOSTS TECH OPPORTUNITIES FOR KENYA’S YOUTH

The prospect of graduating for many young students should create excitement and anxiety, in equal measure, for what the future holds. In Kenya, those scales tip more towards trepidation. There seems to be more certainty to what life after university has in store, and sadly, unemployment is increasingly common for young graduates.

Invest in Africa’s Kenya team, spearheaded by IT Lead, David Ajowi, embarked on a mission to enhance opportunities for Kenya’s youth. With 65% of the young people out of work, they developed the IIA Technology Innovation Internship Program – that starts with a hackathon.

The program seeks to identify talent and enable young graduates and university students to harness their talent through the industry linkages and provide a platform from which they can gain experience through job exposure and become drivers of change.

During the hackathon, applicants were invited to develop ideas and solutions to digitize processes within small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to make them more efficient, saving on resources and improving customer experience.

The idea was designed to simultaneously address two major economic constraints – youth unemployment and survival of SMEs, severely affected by the pandemic. Submissions from the hackathon would contribute to the sustainability of these businesses while leveraging the underutilized digital expertise of the nation’s youth.

“Submissions to the hackathon included a range of innovative, creative and unique solutions to multiple business challenges faced by SMEs across the country. The hackathon judges were very impressed and encouraged to see the capabilities of participants,” said David Ajowi.

After an in-depth judging process, the overall winner of the hackathon was announced: Gloria Simiyu won with her idea that addressed a serious societal challenge with a simple tech-led business solution. As the hospitality industry witnessed a considerable downturn in client numbers during the pandemic, they were left with excesses of leftover food.

The business expense combined with the opportunity cost of the wasted food inspired Gloria to share help the less fortunate in society. Some of the food was distributed through collaborations with charities and some sold to those unable to purchase in person through a mobile application.

“I am ecstatic to have won this hackathon and grateful for the opportunity to showcase my project,” explained Gloria, who is well attuned to the lack of opportunities for Kenya’s young techies. That is why she believes tremendous tech talent remains ‘undiscovered’ across the country.

She will work with the IIA team to further develop her idea and believes with the guidance it will be a success. Gloria will also be able to lean on newly acquired knowledge from the complementary web development course she was gifted as winner of the hackathon.

In second place, Samson Muchai and his colleagues developed Cleansafi, an Android application designed to expose laundromats in Nairobi to a wider market, boosting their revenue streams and enabling growth; benefitting their clients with improved service and their suppliers with larger orders.

The brilliance and range of ideas presented exhibits the plethora of tech talent in the country and we are determined it has a platform to shine. Look out on our channels for the next hackathon!