Kenya’s tech innovation shines amid investment slowdown

Kenya’s tech innovation shines amid investment slowdown

In the face of a recent dip in investment across the African continent, Kenya stands as an unyielding beacon of entrepreneurial activity, particularly within the burgeoning agricultural technology sector. This assertion comes from none other than Torsten Fischer, a stalwart in start-up development advisory at GIZ, a global leader in international development.

Stepping onto the stage of innovation, GIZ has teamed up with AfricArena for the upcoming Nairobi Summit, scheduled for Wednesday, 6 and Thursday, 7 September. This event aims not only to spotlight the region’s vibrant ecosystem but also to cast a spotlight on the resilience and potential housed within Africa’s agtech sector.

The focal point of this partnership is the “Scaling Digital Agriculture Innovations Through Start-ups” (SAIS) project, implemented by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ GmbH) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It is co-funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The mission of SAIS is to nurture and propel agtech and foodtech start-ups into the realm of investment readiness.

Torsten Fischer, advisor for start-up development at GIZ. Photo: Supplied
Torsten Fischer, advisor for start-up development at GIZ. Photo: Supplied

With unwavering commitment, approximately 20 meticulously selected start-ups engage in an investment readiness programme each year, receiving tailored support amounting to around $54,000 per start-up. This entails expert guidance, amplified visibility, participation in conferences, and more. The guiding principle behind this approach is founder-led empowerment, granting start-ups the agency to make well-informed strategic decisions.

Amidst the prevailing investment hurdles facing Africa, Fischer underlines Kenya’s steadfast entrepreneurial ecosystem. The AfricArena collaboration emerges as a consequence of the organisation’s deeply entrenched involvement in the local start-up sphere.

“AfricArena is deeply involved in the local ecosystem and they get what start-ups need to make it to the next level,” asserts Fischer, brimming with anticipation for the imminent event. “It has been great seeing the event shaping up and I am super excited to take part next week. We will also use the event to promote some of our highly promising start-ups.”

Anticipation swirls around several promising start-ups poised to seize the AfricArena stage, wielding solutions that span the spectrum of agtech innovation. Fischer reassures that these start-ups will have ample opportunities to connect with investors in the lead-up to the conference.

Among these trailblazers are:

  • Koolboks: Led by chief executive Ayoola Dominic, this visionary venture introducing pay-as-you-go solar freezers, revolutionising cold storage capabilities.
  • Seabex: Hailing from Tunisia, Seabex specialises in data-driven irrigation, optimising water usage for elevated agricultural productivity. In attendance will be Amira Cheniour, its chief executive.
  • Mavuno: Harnessing the power of machine learning, this start-up is committed to bolstering yields for smallholder farmers, ensuring sustainable and increased crop production. Mavuno will be represented by its COO, Lukas Röhrenbach.
  • SKT Live: Armed with a treasure trove of high-quality aerial data, SKT Live from Ghana is dedicated to data-driven crop protection, nurturing sustainable agricultural practices. In attendance will be Francis Owusu, CEO of SKT Aeroshutter.

2024 applications now accepted

The AfricArena Nairobi Summit not only provides a dynamic platform for these start-ups to present their solutions but also serves as a conduit for SAIS to trumpet its 2024 call for applications.

The investment readiness programme unfolds as a comprehensive year-long support scheme meticulously crafted to fortify business growth. Designed for start-ups operational within Africa, this transformative programme offers support in both English and French, entirely free of charge.

With a keen understanding of shared aspirations between SAIS and AfricArena, Fischer remarks, “We know that it is not easy to be a start-up founder – and the founders we work with are some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. Because of this, they should get all the support they can.”

Fischer further elucidates that SAIS aims to fill the void left by the absence of strong community and support systems, providing peer exchange, expert access, and invaluable funding advice. This role is bolstered by AfricArena’s complementary initiatives that encompass founder circles, pitch support, investor matching, and more.

SAIS and AfricArena committed to African innovation

As the summit’s allure reverberates across tech and start-up enclaves, it aligns with the collective commitment of SAIS and AfricArena to steer human progress through start-ups, ads Fischer. A strategic partnership with the UN Climate Summit augments the event’s reach, extending its impact far beyond the confines of the start-up arena.

As the stage is set for the summit, Fischer envisions it as a pivotal catalyst for the African start-up ecosystem. This grand showcase of innovations, business models, and entrepreneurial brilliance paints a vivid picture of the continent’s innovation tapestry.

“With AfricArena, we share the belief that African innovation will consolidate and emerge stronger than before. We also see that while there is less private equity in 2023, the role of institutional players is becoming more important,” says Fischer, underscoring the evolving role of institutional actors in shaping the investment landscape.

He believe GIZ’s federal ownership status situates it favourably to wield greater influence, channelling innovation towards the Sustainable Development Goals and confronting the spectre of climate change.

In the upcoming AfricArena Nairobi Summit, Fischer is set to embody the spirit of the SAIS programme’s “start-ups to the front” ethos. Alongside their start-up founders, he will share insights, experiences, and expertise, fostering a culture of collaboration and shared growth throughout the event.

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