Young entrepreneurs and innovators were the biggest winners of the Grassroot Entrepreneurship Summit 2018 held on 13th September (#GES2018) at Kenyatta University.
The summit hosted by EmpServe, an organization that has pitched young people as champions of true sustainability and impact, has been dubbed as a new journey towards empowering the youth even as they continue to work towards realization of the SDG’s . With a nod of approval from stakeholders, the summit was a success, attracting over 100 delegates, mainly from Nairobi, Kenya, a regional hub considered as a frontier of innovation and entrepreneurship in larger sub-Saharan Africa.
Earmarked by the MIT-design for equitable world program and supported by Kenyatta University, the summit signaled a journey of ‘UNLOCKING NEW PATHWAYS FOR ENTREPRENEURS AND INNOVATORS’ that progressively keeps focus on the neglected grass-root innovators & early stage entrepreneurs.
Comprising key stakeholders from Youth advocacy groups, Young entrepreneurship, Media advocacy, International cooperation, innovation hubs and institutions of higher learning, the summit headlined youth empowerment agenda in local media houses. Brandplus TV & Kenyatta University TV were the official media partners.
MIT through Design for equitable world program is keen on creating through partnerships an environment that empowers early stage innovators, particularly those from developing countries, to take their ideas to the next level. EmpServe executive director, Mr. Martin Irungu, an MIT D-Lab fellow spearheaded the event. Other fellows from other parts of the world i.e. Latin America, India and Africa are implemented different approaches with same goal of cultivating cross border knowledge exchanges that will set the world for economic prosperity.
Mr. Martin Irungu convened the summit with a profound emphasis on the genesis and goals of the Summit. ‘EmpServe is a champion of the youth empowerment, and no better person or organization to charter such an ambitious path than EmpServe’, he remarked full enthusiasm.
In asserting the choice of grassroots entrepreneurs, he cited neglect, grassroot entrepreneurs continue to face, despite existing in communities and environments that are need huge backing. As a way of setting discourse, he further accentuated that Intra-sector collaborations will set the ecosystem up for a more inclusive innovation and entrepreneurship environment in the grassroots as the definitive from community-to-global approach.
In line with the goals of promoting access to mentorship and networking opportunities, Empserve gave 10 early-stage SME’s, exclusive opportunities to exhibit their solutions for free during the summit.
Ms. Molly W. Rubenstein, Innovation Ecosystems, MIT D-Lab, via live webinar, explored MIT’s role in creating sustainable ecosystems for economic prosperity. Collaborative innovation is at the heart of MIT D-labs existence. Through a strategic partnership with EmpServe and by supporting #GES2018, the program is creating a sustainable reality of combating global poverty. She further extended a hand of appreciation to all those in attendance.
Participating in the conference as panelists were: Dr. George Kosimbei PhD, Economics dept. Kenyatta University, Kariuki Mutemebei,regional coordinator–tech entrepreneurship initiative Make-IT Africa, GIZ-KE, Charlotte DE Ridder, Founder Yusudi, Lucy Kerei, Senior Associate BluInventures, Derrick Gakuu, Entrepreneur, Jackline Lidonde, Founder of Voluculutue and Philanthropy consultant and Ms. Rose Ellah Ngari,Training and Development Manager at Cytonn. Event was moderated by Cephas Gathii, Top 40 Under 40 Men.
Dr Kosimbei, in highlighting role of institutions of higher learning and incubation centers in modeling sustainable innovation, tracked progress Kenyatta University and Chandaria innovation center have made and challenged entrepreneurs to innovate around problems. He extensively, challenged all institutions to adopt similar approaches in training and development of students. As a recipe for young leadership, taking initiative, design thinking approaches to problem solving profoundly curating job creators.as opposed to job seekers.
On the role of curriculum, Dr. Kosimbei was quick to admit it may not be the best but as a factor it cannot be viewed in isolation. Young people need to think outside the box and action on their unconventional ideas. That having an idea is just not enough, scaling and sustaining that idea is what matters.
Another interest was in how the Summit and the course can assist entrepreneurs from grassroots in taking advantage of mega-trends and emerging tech. In this way they, too, will become part of economic globalization in a more substantial way.
Mr Kariuki Mutembei, underlining the MakeIT Accelerator program’s impact, encouraged young innovators to invest in advancing knowledge, practice and application of new tech as well as how global business trends as leverage to accelerating growth.
It was a no brainer, when the question of insufficient to no-funding-for grassroot startups came up, there was impeccable consensus.
However, Lucy Kerei, surmounted this school of thought, by clearly emphasizing that the pathway was within facets of building investor ready ventures.
Investor-ready ventures have intrinsic values and mindsets which almost always win over venture capitalist, access to global markets and grow relatively fast.
During the summit break-out sessions, there was exclusive -let’s make a deal sessions – a mechanism to help entrepreneurs engage in a serious way to find opportunities for growth.
Another important pathway from the Summit as echoed by Jacqueline Lidonde, an expert on philanthropy was the role of corporations, diaspora philanthropy and foundations in the issue of shared wealth and shared prosperity. She highlighted comprehensively how this can be achieved and made a call to entrepreneurs & stakeholders to look beyond VC funding and governments.
Responding to the role of the accelerators, innovation hubs and incubations, Mr. Mutembei said that he had been involved in the sector for a while and was really excited by the progress within. He then challenged young innovators to collaborate more, build high growth companies and take full advantage of the maturing Kenyan ecosystem. They need to be breaking down barriers -color barriers and trade barriers. He then proposed the need for sector players collaborate more and offer all-inclusive approaches as opposed to operating in silos as a better pathway.
Representing young women entrepreneurs on the panel, Ms. Charlotte De Ridder, stated that she had founded YUSUDI to bridge the skills gap.In support of relevant skills pathway, Organizations & institutions like Yusudi can promote relevant skill acquisition through constant training and development to ensure startup success and growth.
Derrick Gakuu, as a participating young entrepreneur and a key beneficiary of EmpServe Programs made a rallying call to entrepreneurs to invest in research as a precursor to startup success. Furthermore, he encouraged entrepreneurs to collaborate more while prioritizing tech innovations as well as focusing more on SDG’s because of the ability of tech to scale and universal nature of problems respectively.
Ms. Rose Ngari underscored ‘Role of leadership and management’ as a pathway. Inexperienced innovators should seek out mentors and advisors.
In conclusion the Grassroot Entrepreneurship Summit 2018 (#GES2018) served its core mission which was to create a discourse with a view of identifying which pathways to pursue in inspiring change and empowering countries to combat poverty. Above all ther was a call for enabling players to create synergy to ensure better support for entrepreneurs and innovators.
The journey ahead is a validated one. Enhancing existing and unlocking new pathways in favor of grassroot entrepreneurs and innovators is EmpServe’s core mission before #GES2019.
About the organizer EmpServe Kenya