Funding Agriculture: Unearthing Africa’s Potential

Alex Muriu in a superhero stance after the conclusion of GIST Tech-I 2013 competition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Alex Muriu in a superhero stance after the conclusion of GIST Tech-I 2013 competition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Alex Mwaura Muriu’s newest venture, Farm Space Africa, strives to address the issue of food shortages in Africa, despite the fact that 70% of the continent’s employment comes from agriculture. Farmers across the region currently struggle to expand their businesses due to a lack of funding. Farmspace Africa aims to fill this funding void and help boost the agricultural industry in Africa.

Farmspace Africa is a mobile application where urban middle to upper class individuals, investment groups, and other investors can provide crowd source loans and investments to small agricultural businesses and farmers. The mobile platform allows the service to be widely accessible by farmers and investors alike, while its crowd funding nature is also intended to dilute risk. Alex, 27, hopes this brand of micro-finance will propel Africa’s economies into a future of prosperity.

Growing up in Kenya, Alex draws inspiration from his mother, a small business owner who has been working and raising her children for 30 years. He says her perseverance and courage to venture into unknown territories motivates him. He has founded, and is currently running, two other tech startups.

Farm Space Africa received an Honorable Mention Award at GIST Tech-I 2013, during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Malaysia. When asked to describe his experience with GIST, Alex said: “One word: ‘Amazing.’ [Our mentor] Kia Davis is widely read and has greatly helped us refocus our efforts on the right things. The GIST Tech Connects have also been quite useful in helping us maneuver these murky startup waters.”

Innovative SMS based education for children in Kenya

Chris pitching his startup at the GIST Tech-I 2013 finals in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Chris pitching his startup at the GIST Tech-I 2013 finals in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Christopher Asego, a 28-year-old entrepreneur from Kenya, said he was inspired by his underprivileged classmates from primary school as he founded Eneza Education. His product, Shupavu, utilizes technology that allows children to access parent supported education tools and resources through low-cost technology, via pay-as-you-go hosting.

From humble beginnings, Christopher started an impact group of 30 students in an underprivileged community. With his and his teammates’ mentoring, their impact group has grown to over 180,000 students, with a goal of eventually reaching 50 million students across the African continent, most of whom lack access to high quality educational content. Christopher’s ultimate vision is to break the cycle of poverty in communities like these.

In 2013, Christopher participated in the 2013 GIST Tech-I final at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Malaysia. While there, his venture with Eneza Education earned second place in the Startup Stage category. In his spare time, Christopher enjoys playing rugby. After 10 years of tryouts, he became a member of the Kenya Sevens National Team and played with them up until last year when he decided to focus all of his efforts on Eneza Education.

Championing Women in a Male Dominated ICT Sector

Catherine pitching at the GIST East Africa Startup Boot Camp in Tanzania.

Catherine pitching at the GIST East Africa Startup Boot Camp in Tanzania.

Catherine Kiguru, 28, is a skilled software engineer from Kenya who has expertise in building mobile and back end solutions. Though she was one of four sisters orphaned at the age of 14, her parents’ foresight enabled Catherine to complete her secondary education and gain entry into Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology, where she obtained a diploma in Computer Studies.

She currently serves as the Chief Innovator at Ukall, which runs Akida Limited. Ukall Limited is a boutique Information Communications Technology (ICT) Company with a focus on business process automation. They develop and deliver specialized products and services tailored to clients’ individual requirements. Akida is mobile to web platform that addresses the challenges of staff attendance verification and communication in small to large organizations that employ mobile workforces or deploy staff in various locations such as Security Companies, Marketing Firms and Facilities Management.  Akida incorporates staff attendance through facial verification, GPS and time logging. It allows reporting and an effective and affordable way of communicating through its reporting and alerts feature.

In addition to her work with Akida, Catherine is also a founding member of Akirachix, an organization that encourages female participation in the male dominated ICT arena.

Catherine participated in the GIST East Africa Startup Boot Camp in Tanzania, receiving the Best Female Entrepreneur award in 2013. Later that year, she was invited as a guest speaker and panelist at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In her spare time, Catherine enjoys cycling, hiking and rock climbing.