Kenyan Students Turning Class Ideas Into Multi-million Businesses

Marcel Aksoy, an entrepreneur, PhD Candidate and Research Associate at Universität des Saarlandes, Germany mentors Kenyan university students in October 2021

Kenyan university students impressed potential investors and mentors after converting their class ideas into business projects worth millions. 

The students at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology and Karatina University showcased their projects to a team from Universität des Saarlandes, Germany, in a one-week incubation held at the Kenyan institutions in October 2021.  

In the last three years, the German university has partnered with local tertiary institutions across the globe to exploit new entrepreneurial activities. A number of launched initiatives have been realised in practice. One of these is an online digital training format that has been completed by hundreds of students and teachers.

The partnerships are part of the DAAD Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst-supported project dubbed “Entrepreneurship Development at African Universities” that aims at creating entrepreneurial structures, skills and mindsets in these universities.

Marcel Aksoy, an entrepreneur, PhD Candidate and Research Associate at Universität des Saarlandes, Germany (second left) with Karatina University lecturers in October 2021

At Dedan Kimathi Univeristy, a mentor role at a startup centre, aided the student teams to develop their ideas into business models prior to pitching to prospective investors. 

Among the startup ideas that stood out were biofertilizers, over smart pipelines and Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (VR/AR) solutions for e-commerce. VR/AR refers to computer-generated simulations that integrate the real world or are entirely self-contained. 

“Many of the ideas directly tackled pressing problems in the country such as nutrition, unemployment or transportation. It is still a way to go until founding one’s own company. However, this is considered equivalent or even more attractive to students than getting jobs at government or industries (which become increasingly harder due to the high level of unemployment). 

“Nonetheless, with startup centres and incubators and our partners in the making, I am excited to see how these teams will develop and grow their ideas,” Marcel Aksoy, an entrepreneur, PhD Candidate and Research Associate at Universität des Saarlandes, Germany stated. 

At Karatina University, the team shared its courses and teaching methods on Digital Transformation and Entrepreneurship to professors and postgraduate students. 

A number of Kenyan students have been in the headlines after successfully converting their school project ideas into business ventures. 

Among these are Hilda Moraa, a graduate at Strathmore University who sold her startup for Ksh166 million ($1.7 million) in 2015. Moraa currently is the CEO of Pezesha, a digital financial ecosystem connecting and empowering the underserved in Africa through its robust value chain that entails financial education, credit decisioning and connecting MSMEs with affordable financing. 

She is also a member of the Covid-19 ICT & Innovations Advisory Committee for Kenya. 

Hilda Moraa, Pezesha CEO and Strathmore University graduate

Festus Kavita Ndolo, a University of Nairobi (UoN) graduate who studied Civil Engineering, built an artificial dam in Misuuni, Machakos County. The dam supplies water in the drought-stricken area thus supporting irrigation. 

Rachel Ngina, an Egerton University alumnus, also implemented ideas she learnt in Israel and taught Turkana residents how to produce onions, pumpkins, garlic, dates, grapes, pomelos, mangoes and other products. 

"Many of my trainees had never seen anything growing. It was their first time to see seeds and to plant anything. I am proud that after six months, they have been fully equipped on how to grow their own food from a nursery establishment, how to prepare the land, transplanting, pest control, harvesting, and post-harvest handling,” she stated.