Interesting Tech overview from the  Business Ireland team in Kenya.

Kenya, Africa’s ‘Silicon Savannah’ is emerging as a top destination for technological innovations both in the region and in Africa. From mobile payments to agri-tech startups to education apps, the country is bracing itself for the industrial revolution of the 21st century.

There is no doubt the mobile money transfer platform ‘MPESA’ caught the world by storm long before ‘Apple Pay’ was introduced. A recent report by Credit Suisse estimates that approximately 4.1 billion transactions were carried out in 2015 through MPESA. The success of MPESA has since spurred the growth of mobile money service providers in a region accounting for 80 % of global mobile money transactions.

The capital Nairobi, is home to a series of tech co-working and incubation spaces including the iHub, mlab East Africa, Nailab and Growth Hub. These hubs link to innovate research and development institutions including the University of Nairobi’s Fab Lab, Strathmore University’s iLab Africa and Kenyatta University’s Chandaria Business Innovation and Incubation Centre. The tech boom has already launched start-ups that are making waves globally including Ushahidi, BRCK and Eneza Education.

The Business Ireland Kenya network (BIK) established in 2014, works to increase trade between Kenya and Ireland. It does so by linking Irish investors and firms with the networks, service providers, and potential business partners they need to thrive in Kenya’s exciting and fast growing market. BIK is co-chaired by Ambassador Dr. Vincent O’Neill and Mr. Lau Larsen. BIK hosts 5 business discussions each year. Two of last year’s themes related to business opportunities between Ireland and Kenya in technology; one in ICT and the second in Financial Technology (Fintech).

Kenya and Ireland are both leaders in technology in Africa and Europe. Ireland is home to 9 of the top 10 global software companies, all of the top 10 ‘Born on the Internet’ companies, 9 of the top 10 US technology companies and 15 of the top 20 global medical technologies companies. There are therefore numerous opportunities for partnerships between the two countries in terms of joint research, capacity development and capital investments.

Oxygen 8, an Irish owned company operating world-wide and in several countries in Africa including Kenya is championing for the intersection of financial services and technology to present opportunities for Irish businesses in the region. ‘Tola’, a payments platform enabling mobile users to pay for goods and services via their mobile phone is allowing African consumers to buy and trade without the need for credit cards. Furthermore, Tola has tapped into the booming gaming industry in Kenya to provide the platform for this activity. In his recent presentation at the Business Ireland Kenya 2016 meeting, Brian Waluchio, CEO Oxygen 8 Group Kenya mentioned that Tola secured € 1 million from IDA Ireland in early February 2016, a firm indication of the immense opportunity for business development in Africa.

M-Changa, a startup company that integrates mobile money and credit card payments, SMS, email, social networks as well as geo location is transforming the way fundraising for events such as funerals, hospital bills and family activities is being conducted. M-Changa has a strong Irish connection with its servers, which keep the platform running, based in Dublin, Ireland. The company indeed has taken an unprecedented end to end transparency approach to enhance an individual’s fundraising experience. Already, M-Changa is developing a new initiative called Changa Labs with a view of fostering further innovations in social and financial services.

UKALL Limited co-founded in 2011 by Kate Kiguru is a technology company that focuses on helping businesses run more efficiently through automation. Ukall started out by developing ‘Akida’, an app that eases the way security firms collect data for their guards. Kate, a software engineer by profession partnered with Paul Rees, an Irish living in Kenya who had been in the security industry for over 20 years. Kate observes that hiring private security in Kenya remains a common practice. Verifying staff attendance however still remains a hectic not to mention a costly process. Together Kate and Paul developed ‘Akida’ platform to assist organizations manage their mobile employees; and ‘Upay’ a supporting HR database.

Ukall clients have crossed international borders and include the University of Leicester.
International Computer Driving License (ICDL)- (an Irish organization) is the world’s leading computer skills certification entity and has a large presence in Kenya. A majority of high school and university graduates and individuals across the public and private sector engage with ICDL in developing skills in computer essentials, Microsoft packages, IT security among other modules. Irish Minister of State with Responsibility for Skills, Research and Innovation Mr. Damien English in his visit to Kenya in 2015 commended ICDL and the government of Kenya for efforts in adoption of digital skills in the country and in Africa.

Thanks to ‘M-Farm’, farmers in Kenya can get up to date market prices via an app or SMS on their mobile phones. M-Farm company empowers Kenya’s farmers with price transparency and market access providing the much-needed link between agribusiness and technology. M-Farm’s website has an online trading platform which displays produce available to purchase by their subscribed members. Buyers are therefore in a position to contact farmers directly protecting them from unscrupulous middlemen. Jamila Abass, M-Farm CEO is quoted saying “M-Farm can lower costs and offer better margins for farmers, but the other value proposition is a consistent market. It’s not just about the prices but also knowing if a buyer will be available.”

Disruptive technologies taking shape in Kenya include mobile money, cloud computing, 3G Technology, Optical Fiber Technology, payment gateways such as PesaPal, USSD technology, application frameworks and Content Management systems (CMS).

The BIK network is committed to increasing trade between Kenya and Ireland. The Irish-Kenya business network launched in 2016 ‘The BIK Guide to Doing Business in Kenya’. The guide was launched by Mr. Joe McHugh T.D, Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development during his recent visit to Kenya. The guide aims to give Irish businesses planning to explore investment opportunities in Kenya a first glance at the economic landscape.

Ambassador of Ireland to Kenya Dr. O’Neill noted in a past meeting that the Irish government long term focus was on developing Trade & Investments in Kenya/East Africa particularly in Agriculture, Life Science, Education, ICT, Infrastructure and Technical Assistance through Trade Missions, & Market Studies. He stated that “Given the strong utilization and demand for technology in Kenya and the ICT capacity of Irish businesses, there are very considerable opportunities for the expansion of businesses relationships between Ireland and Kenya in the ICT sector.”

Embassy of Ireland
Twitter: @IrlEmbKenya
Business Ireland Kenya
Twitter: @BIrlKe

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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