Kenya’s innovation ecosystem receives World Bank backing, 8 varsities picked

Formalization of Kenya’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem has commenced with eight universities selected to train intermediary organisations among them incubators, accelerators, and rapid technology skills providers.

The exercise, being implemented by the Strengthening Kenya’s Innovation Ecosystem (SKIES) and funded by the World Bank is targeting intermediaries that incubate and accelerate enterprises engaged in various value chains such as Leather; Livestock (Dairy and Pastoralism Economy); Garments and Textiles; Industrial Production (Building Materials and Pharmaceuticals); and Crops (Edible Oils, Rice, Tea, Coffee).

Speaking during the grant signing ceremony, State Department for Industry Principal Secretary Dr. Juma Mukhwana said Moi and Dedan Kimathi universities, Mama Ngina College, Open University of Kenya, University of Mombasa, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenyatta and Kibabii universities have been selected to deploy the Rapid Tech Skills Training programme.

“The universities will be tasked with imparting knowledge and skills to individuals and companies that provide business development services to micro, small and medium enterprises. The primary objectives of SKIES is centred around four key outcomes that embody its transformative vision: establishing a collaborative system, ensuring long-term intermediary sustainability, enhancing outcomes for entrepreneurs and promoting technology skills, especially among women,” he said.

SKIES, a subcomponent of the Sh7.5 billion Kenya Industrial Entrepreneurship Project (KIEP), seeks to streamline delivery of professional business development services thereby enabling budding innovators, small and medium enterprises get the right business training when required.

267 young ínnovator’ students, 10 incubators, 10 accelerators, and 4 tech boot camp providers will be funded to receive the three-month rapid tech skills training with the 20 incubators and accelerators receiving financial grants based on individual improvement plans. A further 16 beneficiaries are slated to benefit during the second training session where 532 students have been selected to receive subsidies to cover their tuition fees.

The SKIES initiative started with a call for applications that attracted a total  of 142 incubators, 103 accelerators, 119  tech bootcamp providers, and 1,167 rapid tech Skills students.

Absence of a uniform platform to oversee the startup ecosystem has been identified as a major barrier to successful entrepreneurship. The challenges encountered include innovation duplication, absence of a national opportunity repository, lack of standardised best practices, information imbalances, leading to ‘grantpreneurs,’ and intermediaries lacking commitment to excellence.

A recent National Economic Survey report by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) indicates that SMEs constitute 98 percent of all business in Kenya, create 30 percent of jobs annually and make up three percent of the Gross Domestic Product clearing indicating that the future of Kenya’s economic development rests heavily on the entrepreneurial sector’s growth, innovation, and employment opportunities.

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