Empower and Serve Kenya (Empserve Kenya) is a registered NGO and a humanitarian organization operating in Kenya with an aim of empowering youth through sustainable development programs including career mentorship, entrepreneurship development and linkage to youth opportunities globally. Here are a few words Martin Irungu, the Executive Director of Empserve Kenya.
When it comes to Kenya, it is known that it is one of the most advanced IT countries in Africa. How much are young people in Kenya familiar with digital technologies and the use of mobile apps?
Martin: It is true! Kenya adopts very fast to new technologies and harbors great innovation and creative potential. Nairobi has been the foundation of technological innovation in Kenya, and the center of the country’s thriving tech ecosystem, famously known as Silicon Savannah thanks to a strong private sector, government support, and outside investment. Recently, the trend of decentralizing Kenyan tech industry has been on the rise with digital hubs such as DigiLabs sprouting far from the capital.
There is also a growing rate of smartphones adoption, highest in Africa according to Jumuia Tech Survey report 2018. Moreover, Kenyans access the internet through their smartphones more as opposed to computer desktops and their tablets. Demand for smartphones especially among youth has enhanced utilization of mobile apps for digital financial services, games, music and social media. There is a great twist for developing mobile apps to solve eminent challenges facing Kenyans.
This is the second edition of the mYouth project in which EmpServe is a partner. Can you tell us more about your cooperation with Mladiinfo?
Martin: We are delighted to have formed a Consortium with Mladiinfo, a leading education association in Europe. Our continued partnership has been stimulated by the impact we have realized in both editions of mYouth project here in Africa and in Europe. We look forward collaborating the more on projects that are transforming lives in our communities and giving youth opportunities to explore their potential.
What was the interest of young people to join the mYouth project? Was it difficult to select the best mobile apps?
Martin: As mentioned earlier, there is a growing spirit especially among youth to develop solutions for challenges facing the people of Kenya and the world at large. In this context, Kenya being a tech hot spot, launching a competition such as mYouth really attracts participation from all corners. Like last year, we received over 100 applications from mobile apps startups all at different stages of development. We had to run a very intensive shortlisting procedure and a competitive national camp where we crowned three winners who represented Kenya in the African Continental Camp held in Accra, Ghana.
What was the best experience of the mYouth project?
Martin: The best experience for me and EmpServe is to see the fulfillment of young entrepreneurs who had no opportunity to develop their startups getting a platform to improve on their products. International exposure, personalized mentorship and business training offered has been of great value to the young entrepreneurs.
The local events; code week and national camp escalated the work of EmpServe as ecosystem leader in empowering youth through innovation for social impact. We realized more opportunities for youth to co-design their mobile apps, peer learning and mentorship facilitated by our local partners.