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KeNIA unveils digital innovation platform

Kenya National Innovation Agency (KeNIA) launched a digital platform that aims to link and connect startups, innovators, researchers, tech hubs, partners and investors in the Lake region.

The launch of the Kenya Innovation Bridge (KIB) was held at the LakeHub Foundation in Kisumu on Wednesday. The digital marketplace will make it easier for the aforementioned groups from Western Kenya to network and scale up their innovations.

The platform further provides startups and businesses with the opportunity to access mentorship, capacity building and training.

Strathmore University developed KIB which seeks to enhance the discoverability of young innovators and connect them to a virtual marketplace. The initiative was funded by the UK government through the Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO).

Mr. George Masila in his remarks on behalf of Dr. Tonny Omwansa, CEO KeNIA during the launch said that the linkages in form of investments, partnerships and capacity-building opportunities would catalyze the process for the youth to commercialize their talents.

“The KIB Platform aims at bridging the skill gap among innovators through capacity building which will be offered by hubs, universities, and other stakeholders,” stated Omwansa.

At the same time, he stressed that the KIB will work to bridge the inclusivity gap by ensuring innovators in the whole country get access to funds, partnerships, and customers for their innovations.

“We established this platform to address the needs of people who don’t have access to potential partners, but can access the digital market to link and network with various collaborators like the County Governments,” stated Omwansa.

In addition, he revealed the Agency’s plan to upgrade all 260 Youth Empowerment Centers (YECs) across the country into Innovation Hubs. The Agency in partnership with other stakeholders will set up programs and capacity-building activities in these innovation centers to attract the youth.

“KeNIA working with the Ministry of Youth Affairs, Arts and Sports is keen to ensure innovators from all regions of the country get exposure through this platform,” he added.

The process was initiated in 2020 and in the initial stage, it attracted participants from 20 Counties.

The Agency is committed to expanding the uptake of KIB across the country and it is in this regard that the team has held regional launches in Nakuru for the Rift Valley region and Kisumu for the Lake and Western region.

They will be heading to Mombasa for the Coastal region and culminate the exercise with Nairobi in the coming weeks.

“We have had 400 successful connections so far in the platform. Some of these are still in the engagement stages while others have reached the final stage of sealing agreements between the innovator and the investor or a funder,” Omwansa disclosed while addressing the participants at the launch.

Also present at the occasion was Mr. John Awiti, the County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Education, Technical Training, Innovation and Social Services joined by a host of Kisumu County leadership who endorsed the KIB platform in the region.

In his remarks, Awiti underscored the importance of promoting innovation which is a precursor to job creation among the youth and a key driver to economic growth in the area.

“As a government, we want to create a cohesive environment for innovators and the establishment of the KIB platform will provide capacity building for startups to scale up their activities,” stated Awiti.

On his part, the British High Commission – FCDO Advisor, Western Kenya Region, Mr. John Manyolo expressed his satisfaction with the Kisumu-based LakeHub organization to ensure a high number of individuals onboard onto the platform.

“Our goal is to coordinate different players and work with local government to move the ecosystem forward through developing guidelines on commercialization and taking innovative ideas to the markets,” stated Manyolo.

By Robert Ojwang’

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