At the crossroads of East Africa and the rest of the world, lies Kenya. Kenya is one of the most important economic hub in Africa and is equally showing a lot of promise in the tech sector. New apps, tech hubs, tech-incubators adopted to the dynamic tech industry pop up year after year not only in Nairobi but other Africa’s major cities. IHUB a tech incubator, for example, has helped entrepreneurs create new techs and thus seen the launching of over 200 companies since its creation over half a decade ago. This has led to a tremendous growth and changes in East Africa’s tech lens.
In a country where the unemployment rate among the population is high, startups are seen as a unique path to jobs. Online marketing platforms e.g. Jumia, KiliMall, Msoko adopted to almost anyone in a stall environment have sprung up and target even the most informal markets which are the nation’s real economic driver. These platforms have made it possible to purchase desired products by just a click of a button on a phone and at the customer's comfort. Quick photos and a few seconds later products are up for sale. Once an order has been received, the product is packed and sent to delivery via motorcycle. Motorcycles are the main and most convenient delivery methods in Nairobi and most of East Africa’s countries. This interdependence has led to the provision of jobs for thousands of people cutting down on unemployment.
Due to lack of funds, developers are focusing on new spaces to attract foreign investors. Smart cities are already springing up in Kenya. Konza city metropolis, for example, has seen its hallmark launch for the first buildings. It’s poised to attract over quarter a million residents and is aimed to be Africa’s own Silicon Valley where entrepreneurs pitch up ideas to solve problems and subsequently get investments from the angels.
The tech developments in Nairobi is aimed at solving the ever-witnessed societal challenges. Smart technology is being developed to deal with the traffic menace of the city. The National Intelligent Traffic System(ITS) project is aimed to foresee traffic control technologies such as intelligent traffic lights, road markings and signage installed an estimated 400 intersections. The traffic digitalization hopes to enable smooth mobility within the city, a problem commonly witnessed during the rainy seasons.
There are also advancements in the agricultural field. Great startups have been developed in this sector too. Greenhouses fitted with sensors have been developed to help farmers monitor their crops. From monitoring water levels in their farms to detecting fungal and bacterial invasion, automatic irrigation of crops, auto lighting; all these via a click of mobile phone thus enabling farmers to manage their crops even when they are far from their farms. Great apps have also been developed to help farmers find a market for their fresh produce updating them on the constant changes in market prices. This has greatly helped farmers elude exploitative middlemen and to get the best of their hard work. Many farmers are now able to live decent lives from their noble jobs. In fishing villages of Kenya especially around Lake Victoria Kisumu, a group of young tech enthusiast have innovated a system that helps fishermen track their fish while on transit. The sensors fitted in the fish cooler boxes relay back information to the fish farmers enabling them to monitor progress till their good reach the faraway markets.
Africa is still conservative when it comes to matters to do with sex education. Open discussions about sex matters between parents and their children remains a taboo. However, with the ballooning sexually active youth population, challenges related to sexual matters need to be addressed. Sophy, a chatbot developed by a student of JKUAT helps the youths answer some of their worrying questions. One can basically ask it any question related to sexual matters and get an answer right away. Since its launch, it has helped answer over 30000 questions and thus has helped many especially the youth get educated on sex-related issues.
One major innovation that stands out in Tech world in Kenya and that has changed many Kenyans lives is Mpesa. Using your mobile phone and it doesn’t have to be a smartphone, one can send money to another Mpesa user anywhere in the world. Its simplicity has made it be accepted by many Kenyans and has become come part of their day to day activities. This has made Kenya be in the spotlight as the top in the world when it comes to mobile payments. Globally it has been well accepted by over 30 million users. The platform has since created over half a million jobs and grown businesses estimated to be over 900 million euros.
However, one questions still lingers in my mind. Will all these technological advancements bring any real change to the common Mwananchi who lives on below a dollar a day budget? If not, then how can we take advantage and use technology to bring real impact? How I wish there was an app that we could use to get rid of corruption in Kenya and Africa as a whole because, with corruption still engrained in us, there will never be any real change.