By Daisy Serem and Minu Limbu

The Nairobi Innovation Week Organizing Committee from the University of Nairobi and UNICEF with H.E. the President of the Republic of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, Cabinet Secretaries from Ministries of ICT, Industrialization, and Education. Photo Courtesy: Kevin Wamz/University of Nairobi/2016
The Nairobi Innovation Week Organizing Committee from the University of Nairobi and UNICEF with H.E. the President of the Republic of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, Cabinet Secretaries from Ministries of ICT, Industrialization, and Education. Photo Courtesy: Kevin Wamz/University of Nairobi/2016

NAIROBI, Kenya, 5 August 2016 – In East Africa, Kenya is a growing hub for startups and young entrepreneurs. At the heart of it all is Nairobi, the capital city, which has been named by CNN as the most intelligent city in Africa for two years in a row, where scholars, researchers, and innovators are making their mark on society.

During the Nairobi Innovation Week, UNICEF’s Stuart Campo, Georgia Hill, Rene Dierks and Moses Rono lead the most participated DESIGN THINKING WORKSHOP. Photo courtesy: Daisy Seren/UNICEF Kenya/2016
During the Nairobi Innovation Week, UNICEF’s Stuart Campo, Georgia Hill, Rene Dierks and Moses Rono lead the most participated DESIGN THINKING WORKSHOP. Photo courtesy: Daisy Seren/UNICEF Kenya/2016

The Second Annual Nairobi Innovation Week (NIW) was an opportunity to learn and showcase innovations and inventions that benefit children, adolescents, and young people. Thousands of participants filled the University of Nairobi grounds where the event took place.

For UNICEF, this was a chance to inspire young innovators to create solutions for those that need it the most, particularly children. In Kenya, 6 out of 10 people are children, and out of a total of 21 million children under 18, almost 80 percent are deprived of at least one of these basic needs: access to water,  proper nutrition, education, health, or child protection services (source: Kenya child deprivation index).

There is – therefore – an urgent need to address these deprivations through sustainable and holistic innovative solutions. In response, UNICEF signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the University of Nairobi to work together to find locally relevant solutions to problems affecting Kenya’s children. As one of the strategic partners, UNICEF commits itself to hosting the Nairobi Innovation Week annually.

The UNICEF Kenya Deputy Representative, Patrizia DiGiovanni says

“Partnerships are central to the development of a sustainable innovation ecosystem in Kenya. The Nairobi Innovation Week provides Kenya-based innovation hubs and UNICEF with a unique opportunity to explore home-grown solutions that have a positive impact on realizing the rights of all children in Kenya and beyond its borders.”

To further strengthen the development of a sustainable innovation ecosystem, in February this year UNICEF launched the Innovation Fund, a USD 10.6 million fund that invests in open-source technologies that have both a social good mission and a potential to grow. The Innovation Fund follows a Venture Capital model and focuses on early stage investments to help companies, which might otherwise not be able to create pathways to scale for their open source technology solutions, build their capacity.

Chris Fabian, UNICEF Office of Innovation Ventures Lead, who was also a keynote speaker at the Nairobi Innovation Week, highlighted the opportunities presented by the venture fund.

“We are living in a world where there is an explosion of data so how can we use this to change our unequal world and make a difference for the vulnerable and forgotten?” he asked. “The Innovation Fund is looking for problem-solvers who can build open-source solutions that will help children globally.”

Throughout the one-week long innovation week, UNICEF emphasized the need to innovate for children. During the pre-event, UNICEF led one of the most attended events, the “Design Thinking” workshop and participated in a panel discussion about the Innovations for Children and Youth – one of the primary highlights of the NIW2016.

UNICEF Innovation Co- Lead Chirs Fabian with young Innovators during Nairobi Innovation Week 2016. Courtesy: Daisy Seren/UNICEF Kenya
UNICEF Innovation Co- Lead Chirs Fabian with young Innovators during Nairobi Innovation Week 2016. Courtesy: Daisy Seren/UNICEF Kenya

The Cabinet Secretary of Ministry of Information Communication and Technology Mr. Joseph Mucheru, who is the former head of Google Sub-Saharan Africa, also visited the UNICEF Innovation Stall and interacted with the exhibitors. “We need to work together to build need focused innovation ecosystem for Kenya,” he said. “Innovative ICT partnerships and infrastructures are key to deliver sustainable and affordable innovations in Kenya.”

The Government of Kenya also pledged to invest in young innovators and committed Kenya Shillings 100 Million the University of Nairobi to cater for the innovation week 2017. Speaking during the official opening ceremony of NIW, His Excellency the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, lauded the University of Nairobi for being a beacon of innovation.

“Innovation is the engine that drives entrepreneurship; and it is entrepreneurship that opens up opportunities for our young people, and creates the jobs that sustain and reward them,” H.E. Kenyatta said. “But our innovation and hard work mean little if it does not improve people’s lives.”


NEW Update on Nairobi Innovation 2017:  The Third Nairobi Innovation Week will take place on 6 – 10 March 2017. If you are interested in participating in Nairobi Innovation Week 2017 or showcasing child focused innovations, please contact:

  1. Minu Limbu, mlimbu@unicef.org, Innovation Lead, UNICEF Kenya
  2. Daisy Serem-Esinapwaka, dserem@unicef.org, Communication Officer, UNICEF Kenya
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