Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity sponsored the first Pwani Innovation Week that took place on 3-7 December 2018 at Swahilipot Hub in Mombasa, Kenya. The Fund’s Program and Learning Manager, Grace Njoroge, Communications Associate, Grace Oduor, and Musoni representatives (John Wamathai, Marquelence Ogola and Justine Muriithi) were in attendance. The interactive conference was aimed at stimulating the innovation ecosystem in the Pwani region through showcasing innovative businesses and solutions that have been started by youth from counties in coastal region i.e. Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, Tana River and Lamu.
Some of the keynote speakers at the event included Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho, Mastercard Foundation Board Member, Dr. Jendayi Frazer, UK Deputy High Commissioner to Kenya, Susie Kitchens, Honorary Consul of Estonia in Kenya, Excellency Kadri Humal Ayal, and Deputy Governor, Taita Taveta County, Majala Mlagui.
Pwani Innovation Week (PIW) Pitch Judging panel session
The Fund team members were part of the PIW Pitch judging panel on 4 November 2018, evaluating pitches from 10 shortlisted, innovative start-ups operating in Kenya that have the potential to achieve sustainable social outcomes by becoming commercially viable and self-sustaining. The pitches were judged based on several elements including, degree of innovation, market opportunity, social impact and potential for investment. The start-ups were ranked and the winners, who will undergo a 4-month incubation programme, received their awards on 5 November 2018. The first winner was KENLU Hub, offering an e-Bursary system that will see the bursary application process done online and the second runners’ up was Zuri Afya, a healthcare start-up that offers home-based care service at affordable rates.
Nurturing the next generation of creative thinkers
Addressing attendees on Wednesday, 5 November 2018, Dr. Jendayi Frazer noted that Pwani Innovation Week was fundamental to encouraging innovation and integration of coastal counties towards a joint growth agenda, and that innovation remains a critical tool to foster economic growth and competitive advantage of counties and countries alike.
“If we are to genuinely pursue the goal of meeting future aspirations, attention has to be placed on the inclusion of women and elevation of youth. It is encouraging to see the rapid increase in women-in-tech and we must focus on offering greater support to young girls and women-in-tech since their participation becomes a driving force to economic and developmental spill over,” said Dr. Frazer.
“Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works program will work with governments, communities and the private sector to improve the quality of education in vocational training to equip young people with the skills needed for employment and entrepreneurship. The program will also enable entrepreneurs to expand their businesses through access to financial services” Dr. Frazer went on to add.
On 6th November 2018, Grace Njoroge, made a keynote presentation about the Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity, its objectives and how it is supporting innovative business projects to deliver financial inclusion.
“The $50 million Fund aims to reach one million financially excluded people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Established in 2014, the Fund has 38 projects in its portfolio which includes technology-driven solutions, mobile technology, agency banking, solar pay go solutions and agribusiness solutions”, said Grace Njoroge
Speaking about the portfolio of projects managed by the Fund, Grace stated; “Musoni Microfinance, one of the Fund grantees present at the event, offers loans to smallholder farmers through its ‘Kilimo Booster’ project. Young entrepreneurs within the portfolio such as Farmerline and Easy Solar have managed to raise a substantial amount of funds to drive their strategy.”
Giving advice to the youth, Grace emphasized that the future belongs to young people and they can create innovative technological solutions with the potential to be replicated worldwide. “Start-ups need to identify the problem and develop ways to address it, identify their unique selling proposition to meet market needs and ultimately achieve sustainability. Start-ups also need to get the basic fundamentals right; from legal requirements to governance requirements,” she added.
During the panel discussion on infrastructure and development, Grace Njoroge highlighted the importance of drawing out a vision for businesses and also identifying partnerships as one ingredient that can boost success in the long-run.