Kenyan startups win Africa Business Challenge

Young Africans Friday Roseline and Shelia Koechwin Africa Basque Challenge in Spain
Young Africans Friday Roseline and Shelia Koechwin Africa Basque Challenge in Spain

Over 20 innovators from Kenya joined 20 contemporaries from Basque to take part in the Africa Basque Challenge (ABC) in Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain. The challenge was to find social and technical solutions to help bridge the urban-rural divide in today’s rapidly urbanising world.

The winning team, which was made up of young people from the Basque County and Kenya, was selected by an expert jury. Their idea, called HOCO, seeks to boost sustainable development in rural areas by producing construction materials out of coconut waste. They were awarded €6,000 of funding and six months of mentoring to help them bring their idea to life.

HOCO’s winning team comprised of  Gaston Okamika, entrepreneur – Friday Roseline, social worker – Shelia Koech, environmental scientist – Alba Resano, entrepreneur – Pol Molas, architect.

Sharing her experience about taking part in the Challenge, Sheila Koech said : ABC has been an eye opener for me. Our team spirit was exceptional and I believe that it played a big role towards our success. Going forward our teamwork will be stronger than before. I now believe that with determination and hard work everything is possible. Our multicultural and multidisciplinary background will go a long way in defining our objective. I am proud to be part of ABC.

Friday Roseline added, “We are honoured to receive the prize, the journey was not easy, starting from the moment when the project was only a small idea until today much work has been done. Challenges also arose, but working together as a team transformed the idea into reality.

Alba Resano from the winning team from Spain added: “Participating in the ABC has allowed us to meet and build something incredible to make a change. From now on, we have a commitment with ourselves and Kenyan society to make this happen!”

Three runners up were also awarded €3,000 to help develop their ideas.

Other innovations pitched in the final included an idea to reuse charcoal from food waste into aromas for culinary use, business plans for a zero emission electric-motorbike and a scheme to give access to safe and re-usable sanitary products for women and young girls in rural areas. The chosen entrepreneurs were picked from over 200 young professionals who applied to participate in the programme.

Speaking about the Challenge Asier Alea, General Manager of trade promotion and tourism at the government of Biscay said, “The ABC is the first hub-to-hub competition for entrepreneurs, linking innovators in Kenya and the Basque Country. Kenya was chosen because it is known as the Silicon Valley of Africa and it’s a thriving hub for entrepreneurs. Providing a dynamic ecosystem for start-ups. It also it home to and shares co-operative values. The idea is to broaden the innovators horizons, show them the world is their market and that all entrepreneurs think the same regardless of their geography.”

The selected ‘teampreneurs’ had earlier met in a boot camp in Nairobi in November, where they received training on brainstorming, market exploration and planning to hone and develop their ideas. They also visited an innovation centre in Kibera.

The gap between urban and rural communities is a major issue for us all today. In 2016, only 77 per cent of the world’s rural population had access to electricity, compared to nearly 97 per cent of those living in urban areas.

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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