KENYATTA UNIVERSITY Leading Kenya’s move to a digital economy
Kenyatta University’s strategic and vision plan speaks to a high ambition of contributing to the achievement of Kenya’s national development goals as elaborated in various development policies in particular the Vision 2030, the sustainable development goals and the current priorities of the government in the diverse areas of agriculture transformation, housing, manufacturing, healthcare, service economy, environment management, among others.
To this end the university council and management has made decisive investments in the establishment of strategic capabilities including highly competent expertise and advanced infrastructure for learning and research.
At the core, learning and research excellence leadership is provided by experts in the Department of Computing and Information Technology which has a focus on developing capacity for industries of the future that emphasize knowledge and skills in coding, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, among others.IT research and training at KU is conducted in excellent partnershipswith specialists in other major knowledge areas such as medicine, engineering, agriculture and business.
For effective management of the innovations developed by staff, students and collaborators, Kenyatta University established the Chandaria Business Innovations and Incubation Center in 2011.
The Chandaria BIIC provides a wide range of services to support and nurture innovations and business ideas to grow into enterprises that sustainably create employment opportunities and wealth. A large diversity of startups has been incubated at the Chandaria BIIC. Notably nearly one third of the innovations incubated at Chandaria BIIC have been in IT and the digital space, which speaks to the dominating importance of digital technologies for Kenya’s economic growth and competitiveness. A sample of our leading successes is here below presented.
In the service economy, Flexpay Technologies (FlexPay) is one of the successful startups whose foundation was laid at the Chandaria BIIC. The company provides an automated layaway platform that enables buyers topurchase essential goods and services while paying piecemeal in flexible installments. The platform enables merchants and their customers to manage flexible payments for both goods and services across mobile money and bank transfer platforms. The firm works in partnership with major retailers and super markets including Naivas, Magunas and leading financial service providers including banks and microfinances institutionsis transacting items worth many millions of shillings monthly.
The platform provides follow up service with buyers, and also avails an avenue for sending promotional messages to potential buyers regarding new products merchants may have in store. In recognition of its potential, the startup was featured in Techstars, a global investment firm, as one of the top ten promising start ups in Africa. They were part of the annual 3 – months Barclays Accelerator that took place in Cape Town, South Africa among other major international accolades.The tech company currently operates from the UNICITY mall at Kenyatta University.
SHOPOKOA (‘SHOP OKOA’ SORTING YOU OUT ON ALL YOUR SHOPKEEPING CREDIT SERVICES – YouTube) is another app designed by innovators at the Chandaria BIIC. The innovation is shaking up the service industry through a digital revolution of how small and medium enterprises lend goods to buyers, obtain micro credits for their own business growth and insure themselves against risks. The mobile application is helping shopkeepers to bypass limitations of financial literacy on debt accounting and management in their daily transactions. This Mobile App was created to replace and enhance manual ledgers that businesses traditionally relied on to keep records of transactions and especially keeping track of customers taking goods on credit. This app means thousands of businesses in Kenya don’t have to worry anymore about the hassle of keeping and maintaining manual ledgers.
In the agriculture transformation space, one of the high potential startups incubated at Chandaria BIIC is an innovation called the Intelliegg Incubator. This is an affordable egg hatching machine that can hatch all types of eggs. The innovation enables affordable payment by installment whereby the buyer pays 30% of the sale price with the balance cleared while the equipment is in use. The incubator has an inbuilt chip that enables the manufacturer to control until payment is completed, and can be shut down in case of default.
Intelliegg incubator can hatch eggs from different types of birds at a go compared to birds that are limited to a single type of bird. Monitoring of temperature, humidity and other variables is automated; the machine uses auto turning and auto candling to check for egg fertility, and Internet of Things (IOT) to ensure high quality of service. Users are able to remotely monitor and control the machine’s performance via the Intelliegg App. Additionally, the App connects poultry farmers with buyers thus eliminating the challenges of middlemen, and it therefore gives farmers an advantage when negotiating with suppliers and buyers. This innovation won the INFINIX Tech Innovation, was one of the top 6 Hultz prize Africa region competition and also emerged semi-finalist in the Cleantech Innovation challenge.
ZALISHA (zalisha (zalishafrica.com)) is another one of the digital space startups developed at Kenyatta University aimed at assisting farmers, aggregators, farm input providers and cooperatives to manage their activities and operations digitally. The mobile platform integrates digital information on agronomy and weather information that is geolocation mapped, and deploys IoT solutions, AI and mobile applications to provide customized advisory and financial services that include credit score services to enable farmers access financial services.The app is capable of connecting farmers directly to local consumers and market, thereby enabling famers to avoid exploitation by middle men and brokers. Farm input retailers are also able to more easily connect with famers.
In the healthcare sector, Kenyatta University is emerging as a leader among pioneers of locally innovated medical devices. A team of researchers has designed an intelligent pneumonia detection and monitoring system that combines Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and mobile Application technology to prevent infant mortality caused by pneumonia. The breakthrough innovation enables monitoring and timely detection of pneumonia using body parameters such as blood oxygen levels, heart rate and temperature. The innovators won the Huawei ICT sponsored competition for students in higher education institutions worldwide which took them to South Africa in 2021.
One of the other well publicized innovations in healthcare achieved in Kenyatta University was the Tibavent ventilator developed in response to the COVID19 outbreak. The fully functional ventilator, which applies advanced engineering integrating IT applications, was entirely locally designed and developed, and is awaiting testing and approval by the regulator authority.
Kenyatta University prowess has also been proven through successful development and testing of the KUCUBE nanosatellite unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that can be used to monitor events, predict and enable effective mitigation of disasters. A team of engineers at Kenyatta University fabricated the structure and the satellite’s operating system (the first in Africa), which enabled the satellite to remain powerful while using half the power compared to similar nanosatellites. The ground station was designed to run a machine learning algorithm that allows for image reconstruction and signal recovery, thus making the prediction highly accurate and dependable. Threats such as locust outbreaks and climate related disasters can be more effectively predicted, monitored and controlled using this innovation.
Looking ahead the university aims to develop a center with unique capabilities for training and research in advanced digital technology prioritizing IoT and AI applications. The university has established strong linkages with industry actors including IBM, Cisco, Google, Huawei, among others. Kenyatta University is determined to build on the highlighted achievements to consolidate the leading role as a provider of an effective innovation ecosystem to power Kenya into a digital economy.