SEATTLE — Kenya is an East African nation known for its dramatic geography and cultural diversity. In the past 20 years, Kenya has also become increasingly known as a regional economic powerhouse. The economy has been growing at an average of 5.3% a year since 2005, attracting scores of technology companies to Nairobi and reducing poverty across the country. However, with poverty still at 36.1%, there remains a lot of work to do. These four innovations in poverty eradication in Kenya are signs of the role technology will play in combatting poverty over the next decade.
Fair Prices for Farmers
MFarm is a technology service that has made a big impact on Kenyan farmers in recent years. MFarm offers an app and a direct message service that inform farmers about the current market price for their crops. This greatly empowers farmers who have traditionally been vulnerable to being underpaid, especially by middlemen who buy in bulk and would set the price for crops. MFarm also offers group buying and selling options so that small farmers can join together to fully take advantage of more transparent prices.
Solar Powered Internet
The Internet has the power to greatly increase people’s access to education, economic services, entertainment and many other important services. This is why Mawingu, a solar internet company, is such an important innovation in poverty eradication in Kenya. Mawingu is a local startup that is building a network of solar-powered Wi-Fi hotspots across rural Kenya. Mawingu’s internet plans sell for $3 a month and have been life-changing for towns such as Nanyuki, where people no longer have to walk hours just to send an email. As an early adopter of Mawingu’s technology, Nanyuki now enables entrepreneurs, writers, school children and farmers the ability to easily connect to the internet. Solar-powered internet has the ability to greatly affect poverty in Kenya by increasing access to quality education and economic opportunities.
Forest Garden Projects
Kenya is currently working to increase total forest cover in the country from 6.2% to at least 10%. By protecting and growing forests, Kenya can help farmers transition to a more sustainable form of agriculture that prevents the type of environmental degradation that can hurt communities and lead to poverty. To accomplish its goal, the Kenyan government is working with a nonprofit group to build Forest Garden Projects. These projects are different because they directly involve working with farmers and local communities. Farmers go through a 4-year program where they are taught how to plant trees and diversify crops in a way that supports the local ecosystem while also boosting the productivity of their land.
The COVID-19 pandemic means that schools in Kenya are largely closed until 2021. However, increased internet access in many parts of the country means that students do not have to stop learning. At the start of the pandemic, Eneza Education released a free platform to allow students learning from home to get into contact with a real teacher for academic support. Their Ask Teacher platform is designed to keep students interested in learning and get them the help they need. Eneza Education and other technology services present in Kenya are innovating with education so students have the resources to stay on track in these difficult times.
Though Kenya still has a long way to go as it lifts millions of people out of poverty, the country’s status as a technology hub is a reason to be hopeful for the future. As more students are educated with access to the internet, they will go on to make their own technological breakthroughs and build further innovations in poverty eradication in Kenya.
– Jack McMahon