Posts tagged ‘Kenya’

June 24, 2018

ISHOW Kenya and E4C Kick-off

In the beginning of May I had the privilege of attending Innovation Showcase (ISHOW) Kenya, an event that brings together inventors/entrepreneurs who are developing technology solutions that are accessible to low-income populations. Nine finalists from across Africa were invited to participate in the event. On May 9th the event was launched with an introductory session in the afternoon followed by a dinner. The next day the finalist teams went through rotations of meeting with industry experts in a particular area of product development. E4C was also a part of the rotation and interviewed the finalists to determine whether they were appropriate products to include in the Solutions Library. The finalists included a producer of biomass smokeless brickettes, a hands free pedal tap retrofit, a cart for street vendors that incorporates solar panels, a machine that harvests water from the atmosphere, an environmental controller for monitoring baby chicks, a biogas milk chiller for off-grid dairy farmers, a neonatal bacterial meningitis diagnostic device, and a smart electronic walking stick for the blind. As the expert fellow who was familiar with the library, I conducted the first interview, and then allowed all of the fellows to have a turn interviewing or note-taking. It was very interesting to talk to the teams of entrepreneurs. At the end of the afternoon there was a reception, and the judges announced the three winners who would receive between them the $50,000 seed grant and access to prototyping equipment. The winners were the biogas milk chiller, the biomass brickette producers, and the chick monitoring device. I like the structure of the event because all of the finalists get to network and benefit from the knowledge of the consulting experts. During the reception I conversed with several different people including an interior designer, business coaches, entrepreneurs, and global development practitioners.

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The next day the E4C Kickoff session started bright and early. It was similar in structure to last year except that we shared our introductions over Google Hangouts with the fellows who had attended the kickoff session in Portland. Since favourite movie was already done for the Portland session when the fellows in Nairobi were the ones calling in, we came up with the idea to share something that might be surprising about ourselves. It produced some very interesting stories! Next we had a presentation from a representative from Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), a producer of sanitary pads using banana fiber. Then Iana, the E4C president, and Mariela, the program manager, took turns presenting different aspects of E4C as a whole, the Solutions Library, and how the fellows would be contributing to the work. Near the end of the day I had a time slot to bring the fellows through the practice of filling out a product report for the Solutions Library. For happy hour we decided to go to a neighbouring hotel called Ibis that has a nice rooftop bar. It started raining just as we planned to go and so we ordered Uber rides to get only a few hundred meters! We socialized over drinks (and cocktails because there was a special 2 for 1 happy hour deal) and I enjoyed hearing a bit more of people’s backgrounds and areas of work and research. This year’s cohort is from around the world and I am looking forward to working with them over the next four months!

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June 23, 2018

Nairobi

I am in awe at how God works things out sometimes. When I accepted to serve with IRI in Congo, I committed to serve 3/4 time because I knew that I would need to find some other work for additional financial support. Soon after, I was offered a position to be an expert fellow with Engineering for Change from May until September. This opportunity was ideal because the work is part time and done remotely. What amazed me even more is that I discovered that E4C had decided to have two kickoff sessions this year, one in Portland Ohio, and the other in Nairobi Kenya. Also, the kick-off session in Nairobi was being planned for May 11th, only a few days after my flight was scheduled to arrive in Kigali! All it required of me was to post-pone my arrival in Congo by one week, and book a flight from Kigali to Nairobi. The only inconvenience was that flight times were limited and so I had a 5 hour layover and a red-eye flight that left Kigali at midnight and arrived in Nairobi at 4am after a stop in Entebbe. The flight didn’t allow me any sleep, and so it was only the adrenaline of being in a new place that kept me going. My friends Jon and Kate recently moved to Nairobi and so I had arranged to stay with them for the first night. I know them from my time in Congo in 2014 and since then have visited them once in Ann Arbor and again in Congo. I was looking forward to seeing them again after two years! Jon had kindly arranged for a driver to come pick me up at the airport. The drive to their place took almost an hour. I was amazed at how cool it was and near the end of the journey we drove through thick patches of fog. Finally we arrived and it was still dark. How wonderful it was to see such warm and familiar faces! I sat with Jon and Kate in their living room and we caught up as they enjoyed their morning coffee. They were the first I shared the news of Othy and my engagement with, which was extra cool because they know both of us! Afterwards Kate made bacon and eggs and we enjoyed breakfast together and were soon joined by the boys. I enjoyed seeing the lush landscape out of the large back window as dawn arrived. Jon and Kate live in a house in Limuru, which is apparently one of the colder parts of Kenya and is an area known for its numerous tea plantations. It is so fresh that they heat the house by burning wood in a fireplace. Because of the fog and the rain, they were having trouble finding dry wood.

Shortly after breakfast I went and took a two hour power nap. I didn’t want to sleep so long as to throw off my schedule. I helped Kate do some homeschooling with the boys and then we went on a walk. They showed me their backyard which was a vast area of lawn and gardens full of large tropical plants and trees. We also visited the neighbour who rents the house to Jon and Kate and is responsible for creating this piece of paradise over the many years she has lived there. Her house is beautiful and from the colonial period. We chatted for a while with her and warmed ourselves by her fire. From there the boys showed us the soccer pitch that the landlord had set up for them and then took us through a trail at the back of the property. There were so many beautiful flowers and thick vines hanging from the trees! Jon and Kate decided to take me to have lunch at Brackenhurst. It is a nicely developed hotel and conference centre. Afterwards they took me on a drive to see the tea fields. The landscapes are stunning and I found that the pictures I tried to take didn’t really do it justice. We returned to the house and spent some time working, and then in the evening we made the decision to go and visit Phil and Emily who live only 40 minutes away at Rift Valley Academy. Phil and Emily are long time friends with Jon and Kate and I know them from my time working with EMI Uganda.¬†We arrived just as the sun was setting. The view of the rift valley we had along the way was amazing! We drove along the top edge of it, and then to get to RVA we started curving our way down into it. We enjoyed catching up over a dinner of pizza and salad and delicious homemade cookies. The visit was short and sweet and we were soon on our way home. Unfortunately some fog had rolled in and it was a bit stressful coming back out of the valley because of being unable to see very well. We made it out and home safely and by then I was pretty out of it! I went straight to sleep! The following morning Kate made pancakes with a delicious homemade syrup. I played some lego with the boys for a bit and then Jon arranged for the same driver to come pick me up to take me to the Azure hotel where I would be staying for the rest of my time in Nairobi. I was sad to say farewell to Jon and Kate so soon, but was thankful for the time we had together and for their generous hospitality!

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