Digital Entrepreneurship in Kenya 2014

photoMarissa Drouillard, Intelligence Consultant, Mobile for Development at the GSMA, discusses the findings of their recent report on Digital Entrepreneurship in Kenya which looks at current opportunities and challenges for the Kenyan entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Pete’s Coffee, nestled in Nairobi’s Bishop Magua building, is the kind of place where aspiring Kenyan entrepreneurs mix with international investors and more mature startups. Spend an hour on the patio sipping a cappuccino and you will likely encounter a number of Kenya’s uber-hyped tech company founders having meetings with their team or potential customers.

This scene in Nairobi is evidence that the coming-of-age moment for the mobile internet is occurring globally. Not only are more and more people owning phones and accessing mobile services, but developers everywhere are also seizing the opportunity to build businesses leveraging mobile technology. As penetration rates in the developing world increase, so too do markets for potential customers.

While still nascent in Kenya, the rapidly rising digital entrepreneurship scene has potential to build successful companies, stimulating growth across other sectors and developing local content. This is good news for the mobile industry, which is looking to generate new sources of revenue as acquisitions decline in these markets.

GSMA AfricaCritics are quick to dismiss Kenyan entrepreneurs as being young and inexperienced, and not serious about executing on their business ventures. This may be true in some cases, but consider this: 60 percent of the population of Kenya is under the age of 24. What they lack in practical experience, they make up for in drive to tackle real challenges in their communities.

But at the end of the day, the vast majority of tech startups today in Kenya struggle to survive: trust between large industry corporates and young entrepreneurs is shallow, critical business skills are lacking and many investors prefer to sit back and wait rather than act like angels. If nothing is done to address the issues they face building and scaling their business ideas, they may just leave for friendlier startup environments. This would be a real tragedy for Kenya, contributing further to brain drain and perpetuating reliance on international aid.

In order to better understand the opportunities and challenges for Kenya’s digital entrepreneurship ecosystem, the GSMA undertook a significant piece of research, which included over 300 interviews with startups and other stakeholders as well as thoughtful contributions from colleagues within its global network.

The resulting report focuses new attention on Kenya’s emerging digital entrepreneurship ecosystem, with a unique perspective on entrepreneurs developing mobile enabled services. The report highlights the challenges startups are currently facing and the opportunities for collaboration among stakeholders, in particular opportunities for engagement with the mobile industry.

You can download a copy of the GSMA’s report, Digital Entrepreneurship in Kenya 2014 here.

Innovation and entrepreneurship across Africa will also be on the agenda at next week’s MEF Africa Day, 25th March in Johannesburg. Speakers at MEF Connects Africa Start-up for Success, in association with Samsung, include digital entrepreneur and investor Gareth Osche, CEO of mobile learning platform Obami, Barbara Mallinson and Google South Africa’s Head of Small Business Marketing, Craig Wing, who will discuss the challenges and opportunities of locally relevant mobile content and commerce solutions for the African market. The first MEF Africa Day also features a Mobile Music Rights Management roundtable supported by Content Connect Africa.

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