[NAIROBI] Esther Mwangi, a 2014 alum of economics from Kenyatta University in Kenya who wanted to adventure into entrepreneurship but had no clear path, started off affairs solar panels in littoral parts of the country as she conducted market analysis on other attainable ventures.

“I was abashed to come across statistics assuming that 65 per cent of women in Kenya could not afford germ-free towels in 2016,” Mwangi told . “This really affected me and moved me into cerebration of how I can help accommodate a band-aid in the country.”

One in every ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss school during menstruation and this could affect the goal number four on affection apprenticeship of the UN’s Agenda 2030 on acceptable development, according to the UNESCO.

When Mwangi moved to Nairobi and visited schools in the city’s breezy adjustment areas, her interactions with girls accepted that majority of them lacked access to germ-free pads.

“Some were even using sponges and other unsafe pieces of clothes. As a result they could skip classes during their menses,” Mwangi anecdotal to.

Mwangi absitively to build a automat apparatus for accouterment affordable germ-free pads. While administration the idea with a friend who worked at iHub in Nairobi, she learnt about Gearbox.

“I went to Gearbox and shared my idea. I wanted this to work. I had no engineering accomplishments but I had the affection to move it,” she explained. “At Gearbox, an architect helped me design [the] pads automat machine. Additionally, Gearbox got me a grant through a philanthropist to accomplish my design and have automat machines that are attainable and attainable 24 hours a day.”

Gearbox is a accouterments accelerator adventure in Kenya that helps abeyant inventors such as Mwangi to get space for accouterments design, training, mentorship and assuredly accomplish ideas.

Why accouterments accelerator was formed

Kenyan architect Kamau Gachigi accomplished in 2008 that most of the tech start-ups were in software development.

In 2011, Gachigi came up with the idea of ambience up a space for accouterments evolution in Kenya called Gearbox. At this venture, people including those after formal engineering apprenticeship with avant-garde ideas are given access to machines they can use to design and accomplish their innovation.

“At the University of Nairobi, I was teaching engineering acceptance who had bright ideas that I knew could accord to the claiming of industrialization if they had access to equipment,” said Gachigi abandoning how access to accessories could enable acceptance to test their ideas.

A holder of US patent for innovation, and an academician, Gachigi set up Gearbox in 2011 to help bridge the gap of bare engineers needed for Africa’s industrialisztion. The space operates like a association that brings agreeing people to work calm and create articles that meet all-embracing standards and customized to Africa to abode the problems on the continent.

Addressing the TED Global Conference held in Arusha, Tanzania in 2017, Gachigi said there is a need to create an ambiance in Africa that allows the few engineering acceptance and graduates to test their ideas and start businesses.

“Most governments in Africa have a plan for bread-and-butter growth anchored on industrialization such as the Kenya’s Vision 2030,” said Gachigi, adding that the world is going through an automated revolution.

Gachigi, who has a doctorate in solid state science, said that his interactions with Kenyans, abnormally those who had not accessed formal education, showed that they had good ideas that if turned into articles could help transform livelihoods.

Creating affordable innovations through Gearbox

Through her adventure called EsVendo, Mwangi has placed germ-free towels automat machines in two slums of Kibera and Kawangware in the outskirts of Nairobi. The adventure is an avant-garde administration system that accomplish like ATM machines where one can aggregate a pad upon acquittal anytime.

They are placed at cardinal points in the slums where girls can easily access them and also in hospitals where adult women can access them. This has added access to germ-free towels and bargain the stigma of not using them among school girls, according to Mwangi.

The girls in the areas can now buy a pad at ten Kenyan shillings (about ten US cents) compared with the price of most pads in the market that go for about 70 US cents.

The story is not altered for June Kimani, whose venture, housed at the Gearbox center, works on popularizing absolute sewage analysis technologies exported from Japan.

The adventure called Usafi Comfort, gives wastewater analysis technologies such as water-saving accessories and wastewater recycling solutions to residential and bartering needs across Eastern Africa.

“This holds the affiance of a new industry with many jobs, better healthcare outcomes thus addition accepted healthcare further, enabling affordable apartment off-the-grid, attention the ambiance and fixing a common abode deficit,” Kimani explained.

Although the technologies are still big-ticket to be used in many settlements in the country, Kimani said that they are alive on affordable innovations for Kenyans.

“Gearbox has given us space to rent at affordable rates and they are accommodating when rent is late as is normal with start-ups. This enables us to survive through tough times,” Kimani added.

She explained that Gearbox also provides “an ecosystem from which we get engineering acquaintance that enables us to have an adaptable workforce after having to employ a large staff full time”.

This involves many engineers from the adventure who can be hired on either part-time or concise basis. “This space attracts many visitors some of whom become our audience and other ally in alive to advance technologies,” Kimani told .

According to  Kimani,  early this year, her adventure needed to accumulate ascendancy panels locally to save on import duty, an exercise that was done auspiciously thanks to the ability from Gearbox engineers.

Kenya and other African countries will crave more avant-garde basement for sewage administration in buildings, she said, to progressively reduce the volumes of basic sewage being appear into the environment.

Gearbox inventors have created a space of about 25,000 square feet for abeyant accouterments developers to create globally aggressive innovations. As of May this year, Gearbox has enabled 22 start-ups to design accouterments that they use to abode common challenges facing people in Kenya, says William Maluki, head of engineering at Gearbox, Kenya.

These accommodate Paygo Energy adventure that develops a clean energy administration account which enables people to pay and access affable fuel globally.

“Start-ups need space to work, to abide convalescent their articles or ideas, to write emails, and even proposals for allotment and that’s what Gearbox gives,” Maluki explained.

Gearbox led to the accumulation of Gearbox All-embracing Foundation in 2017 as a belvedere to be used to help others in low- and middle-income countries around the world to build agnate ventures. The Foundation also shares acquaint learnt from the challenges that faced the development of Gearbox in Kenya with new accouterments accomplishment space makers to enable them to work easily.

Solving development challenges

According to the Gearbox Foundation, accouterments solutions are appropriate to solve many challenges such as sanitation, food aegis and access to affordable apartment faced by developing countries.

The Foundation says that at least 11 of the 17 UN Acceptable Development Goals including access to clean water and sanitation, and decent work and bread-and-butter growth will crave accouterments technology development or the cost-effective acceptance of absolute accouterments technologies.

Phylis Wakiaga, chief controlling administrator of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, says that ventures such as Gearbox play a analytical role in active the growth of the abridgement through application and wealth creation, adding that start-ups are the future large companies, which will position Kenya and Africa in the global market as a force to reckon with.

“Innovation is analytical for the sustainability and competitiveness of local industries in the light of a alteration world,” Wakiaga tells . “Providing incentives such as bargain cost of energy, tax incentives, and low cost of raw abstracts that will reduce the all-embracing cost of assembly will in turn animate local industries to access their assembly and advance in analysis and development arch to more addition in industries.”

Plans to reach more innovators

According to Maluki, start-ups could access space at Gearbox through two ways. First, they could become associates by registering after paying US$100 a month for daily access or US$40 for two days a week. This enables innovators to access accessories and co-working space. Alternatively, they could rent unused space on the premises.

“We want to have an ecosystem of agreeing entrepreneurs and innovators who work on accouterments products,” said Maluki.

Maluki says that local accouterments developers were ahead not advanced because they had to import almost all the raw abstracts including design services. “This made accouterments development acutely expensive, a gap that Gearbox has abundantly bridged,” said Maluki, answer that Gearbox gives most of the casework such as design freely.

He adds that accouterments development is arduous because it involves a lot of logistics, designing, with some of the articles created as a result of importing designs being inappropriate for the local markets and thus not analytic the problems facing people.

Gearbox inventors plan to open up accessory spaces in other parts of the country including rural areas to open up space for more people to invest in accouterments technology. “This should not leave any innovator behind, even those in remote parts of the country should access casework and space provided for by Gearbox,” Maluki said.

Currently, Gearbox is alive with the Red Cross to authorize a accessory accouterments addition space in Lamu County, littoral Kenya.

“There’s a growing absorption in what we do. Recently, Laikipia County governor requested us to authorize mobile classrooms to build the accommodation of acceptance from his county,” said Maluki. We want more young people to take advantage of accessories here to strengthen abnormally engineering training which is more applied in an automated space that we offer. We need more spaces attainable to youth to innovate and create accouterments that can help solve challenges facing the common people in Africa.”

But for ventures such as Gearbox to expand and crawl down to advance economies, Maluki said that African governments need to abutment them.

This is because Gearbox is modelled after agnate ventures in the United States that crave a lot of funds. However, the over-reliance on donor allotment threatens its sustainability and could fold up if not appropriately funded like some in the United States which have closed down.

For example, lack of allotment makes the acquirement of some of the machines such as Tormac CNC milling machine, Gearbox inventors want to use impossible. Maluki urges governments to abutment the adventure by abbreviation tax on access of machines and accessories to be used in the space.

“These machines will be used in architecture the accommodation of our young people and accouterment opportunities for inventors to create,” explained Maluki. “This eventually creates jobs and can help employ a large number of young graduates who are unemployed. Failure by the government to abutment such ventures as Gearbox is like cutting at its own feet.”

Gearbox has admiring many arresting people globally, abnormally technology entrepreneurs who have heaped praise on the venture. For instance, during a tour of Africa in 2016, Facebook’s chief controlling administrator Mark Zuckerberg visited the bounds of the adventure to meet innovators and was amazed with the abstruse work being done.

Two years later, British business experts who accompanied the country’s Prime Minister Theresa May to Kenya also visited the bounds and talked to accouterments innovators who pitched their ideas to them.

“This shows the absorption in what accouterments tech inventors are doing in Kenya and Africa is accepting bulge and many people could invest so long as they are assertive the artefact is market ready,” Maluki said.

Impacts on apprentice trainees

Gearbox also has an academy that trains university acceptance and give them hands-on acquaintance to build their capacity. “We use mastery-based alignment where we expose trainees to actual and appraise them until they master the content,” Maluki added.

The academy trains acceptance to master topics such as apparatus learning, bogus intelligence, programming and human-centerd design approaches, among others.

The trainers are drawn from within the workforce of Gearbox and industry experts with ability of assorted fields that subscribe to Gearbox’s work.

Last year, engineering acceptance from the University of Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Technical University of Kenya and Kenyatta University began accessory training sessions at the academy.

The academy also provides avenues for acceptance to coact internationally and co-create hardware. For instance, early this year, Nairobi Design Institute hosted an event where acceptance drawn from Kenyan universities who were ability training at the Gearbox academy interacted with acceptance from UK universities to co-create accouterments technologies. Gearbox also trains acceptance from mid-level colleges and polytechnics and gives them access to accessories to learn practically.

Gachigi challenges young people in Africa to make use of the internet in researching and adding ability to accept the ecosystem of the ideas that they have, as this would help in developing greater innovations that can advance livelihoods.

“But the affection and alive hard really matter in order to be acknowledged in entrepreneurship in the field you are venturing in,” he told .


(UNESCO, 2014)

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