A Nascent Knowledge Economy

Innovation Cycle

This week, as I did last year, I attended the Nairobi Innovation Week. It was as usual, educative. I visited the stands that were there and attended a forum where what the university of the future would look like (maybe it would like the Nairobi Innovation Week) i.e. one of its aspects would be the democratisation of practical information and knowledge. Because development in any field of human endeavour will move towards empowering people. The idea that a few people dominating and benefiting from any kind of knowledge (whether moral or scientific) and resources will be a thing of the past. Such a kind of arrangement hinders human development.

I remember venting about standards and laws so I had to go for this one. As I visited the stands, I conversed with a representative from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and she told me how the government offers many free forums to train people (why don’t they teach that in schools instead?). I was curious so I asked about entrepreneurs who are starting out and do not at their disposal a lot of money. What if I’m baking in my kitchen before I expand? Do I have to I pay huge amounts of money to have my baked goods approved? Turns out you just pay Ksh. 5,800.

I also got to learn about what organisations like KEBS ( Kenya Bureau of Standards), KIE (Kenya Industrial Estates), KIRDI (Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute) do. There are so many government organisations doing great work but not many people are aware of them. Is this not the kind of stuff that we should be taught at universities and schools? What I recall learning in business studies was merely descriptive i.e. the kinds of businesses that exist e.g. sole proprietorship and a little bit about balancing of accounts etc. Things that cannot help you once you leave school and you join the league of the unemployed only armed with a certificate that is good for managing someone else’s business. Business studies, BCom, B. Administration courses matter but they are of little use if they do not make us self-reliant. Imagine if I had learnt that to register a business I can go to a huduma centre, that I had learnt how to get source capital for my business and that I need  to protect my inventions (if need be) and all the organisations that can make my business ideas come to life? Imagine if government youth and women’s funds could be accessible to students who would undergo such an education? That’s what the innovation week was all about.

To take it a step further, what if I could decide which industry I want join and have all the necessary information and assistance availed to me? e.g. if I want to be a fashion designer I would know which schools to join, and all the information needed to succeed in one place. Imagine if I would automatically know which industries are not saturated and select which one to join? Writing a CV and producing a certificate would not be the focus of my preparation to get into being a useful citizen! All the sessions, seminars and information gained from the stands are a model for a practical innovation curriculum. Here are some of the government organisations I learnt about:

  1. Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI): A body mandated with protecting innovations that you intend to commercialise. (https://www.kipi.go.ke)
  2. Kenya Copy Right Bard (KECOBO): If you want the sole right to reproduce your works (https://www.copyright.go.ke)
  3. Kenya Industrial Estates (KIE): Can you imagine they have been incubating, financing and developing small and medium enterprises since 1967? (https://www.kie.co.ke)
  4. Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS): Apparently all you have to tell them is about your venture and they will hold you by the hand and let you know what standards you need to know as well as ensure you succeed. At least mama mboga will know what she needs to do instead of constantly evading authorities. They are also involved in metrology (calibration of equipment). (https://www.kebs.org)
  5. Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI):They undertake multidisciplinary research and development in industrial and allied technologies. Some bit of business incubation and technology transfer. (https://www.kirdi.go.ke)

There were other innovations on display but these ones caught my eye:

  1. Mobile phone based Accumulating savings and Credit Application (M-ASCA): “A financial inclusion mobile app … that enables anyone anywhere to save little by little into a common account and borrow up to three times their savings after one month.” 50 bob or 20 bob?(https://www.m-asca.co.ke)
  2. M-Survey: For researchers who want to collect data without actually travelling to the source/physical place. Wish they had a data base of all Kenyans. (https://www.msurvey.co.ke)

My takeaway from the Nairobi innovation week is that there’s so much information and knowledge out there that needs to be disseminated!

Next time the innovation week comes up, I’ll be sure to allocate more time to participate. With all the analysis I kind of forgot to take pictures 😦


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