A week-long series of exhibitions, trainings, and hackathons titled “Mt Kenya Innovation and Investment Week” has taken place in the Kenyan counties of Nyeri, Meru, and Kirinyaga. Organized by Mt. Kenya Hub in partnership with the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the initiative, which ran from 26 November to 3 December 2021 aimed at enhancing skills development, job creation, and inclusive growth. “It offered youth, start-ups and women the opportunity to access foundational knowledge, digital tools and platforms to enable them to become better innovators, entrepreneurs and tech leaders,” said Oliver Chinganya, Director of the Africa Centre for Statistics at the ECA.
Mr Chinganya said Africa has the lowest rate of Internet penetration and the widest digital gender gap in the world “with only 22.5 per cent of women using the Internet, compared with 33.8 per cent of men” He noted that “among the obstacles affecting Africa are its weak digital connectivity, limited infrastructure, high cost of bandwidth, and issues of cyber security and digital literacy.”
Against this backdrop, Mt Kenya Hub’s founder – Savio Wambugu – underscored that the Mt Kenya Innovation Week provides the necessary technology education and skills to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in a bid to spur inclusive economic growth, bridge the digital gender divide, and eradicate poverty.
The event featured a contest in innovation (167 submissions) and hackathon (103 submissions), out of which a total of 16 submissions were shortlisted and the best five were selected and awarded.
The first prize went to Popit – an app that uses argumented reality to help online shoppers see, virtually, how items would fit in their homes or desired spaces before actually buying them.
Qwas, a water quality testing device that uses AI to test water property for safety of human consumption, came second. In third position was Signal Ai – an assistive technology that helps translate words to sign language. Nyeri youth Empowerment group – a group of Nyeri youth using waste materials to build various products emerged in the fourth place, while the fifth prize was picked by Ecoville – a technology that seeks to connect environmentally conscious people to work on recycling.
Speaking during the closing ceremony, George Kosimbei, Director in the Directorate of Innovation Incubation and University Industry Linkages at Kenyatta University, commended the ECA and Mt Kenya Hub for the initiative, stating “empowering youths with problem solving skills is key for achieving SDGs” Cynthia Muthoni Ngigi, a representative from Nakuru Boxe, urged participants to “stay ahead in innovation, look at horizontal industries and the ones leading your current industry, someone is always doing something new.“
The event also served as a platform for entrepreneurs and innovators to exhibit their products to potential customers and investors. Mr Wambugu highlighted that “African youth are creative, innovative and dedicated about solving Africa’s problems; give them a chance today, invest in them today don’t wait for tomorrow”
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