1. JAMILA ABASS, Kenya – CEO, M-Farm : Jamila Abass quit her job as a database specialist with the Kenya Medical Research Institute to start a tech company of her own. She co-founded M-Farm, a mobile app that allows farmers to get real time retail price of their products, buy farm inputs directly from the manufacturers and find buyers for their produce, thus effectively cutting off parasitic middle men. Jamila showed her innately entrepreneurship tendencies since she was very young. “As a child in north-eastern Kenya, despite the harsh weather, I used to grow coriander and kales next to our well and sell it to the neighbours”.
2. ERRIC MUTTA, Tanzania – Founder and CEO, Problem Solved Ltd : With an initial investment of just $27 in his flagship MiniShop app, the US Department of State awarded Eric $15,000 as winner of the Apps4Africa Climate Challenge 2011. MiniShop is a user-friendly accounting and inventory control system for small businesses. “It is transforming societies by empowering SMEs to maintain better records which they can then use to access credit,” he says. The software has been upgraded into a national grain supply chain management system that monitors the purchase, storage, distribution, and consumption of grain across the entire country. It is designed to ensure both food and economic security. “I have to figure out how to turn the $15,000 into $15 billion in fifteen years…and how to dominate the world of course,” he chuckles.
3. JESSIE GAKWANDI BENIMANA, Rwanda – CEO, Sail Ltd : “I think as techies, we ought to develop simple, sustainable, innovative and efficient apps, in order to overcome the everyday struggles of our communities.” Sophie sees her role in Rwanda as a change agent. She wants to contribute to the transformation of her country into a knowledge based economy, “people should be able to reserve tables in restaurants, buy electricity or pay school fees for example, by a simple click on their phones.” Her tech firm is behind Get-It, an app that enables restaurateurs locate their favourite eateries in Kigali, it’s a first of its kind in Rwanda. “I used to see a lot of people frustrated, especially tourists venting on travel blogs that they could not find Italian or Chinese restaurants in Kigali.” She offered a solution.
4. VICTOR MICLOVICH, Uganda – CEO, Kuyu Project : A programmer, an entrepreneur and a tech-teacher, he says; “I want to see a wonderful technology eco-system built up in East Africa. Technology can be used to build markets, encourage better integration as a society and improve livelihoods.” Miclovich has been down this road before, after having worked for an MIT professor, taught a mobile programming course for the UN in Italy and quit his faculty job at Makerere University, he is now back in the game with StorySpaces, a digital story telling portal that allows writers to get their voices heard. Victor’s app “builds on the age-old African tradition of storytelling”.
5. ERIC LWAMBURA, Tanzania – Founder, Crystal Interactive Systems : The government pension fund awarded Eric $3,000 for developing and implementing a mobile based information system. Currently, Eric is developing a mobile based partogram – a graphical record of vital data including cervical dilation, fetal heart rate and duration of labour – that will assist doctors in detecting problems during labour so that any deviation from the norm is treated accordingly. The app targets health centres that cannot afford sophisticated monitoring equipment. It requires the user to feed in key data, and the interpretation is done automatically to determine whether the progress of labour is normal or there is cause for alarm.
6. KARIUKI GATHITU, Kenya – Founder, Zege Technologies : As a young boy Kariuki wanted to invent a telepathic device. He now develops applications that can transfer money from Turkana to Lamu with the click of a button. Kariuki is one of the brains behind Equity Bank’s M-Kesho, an app that enables clients to transfer money from their bank accounts to M-Pesa. His latest development M-Payer, helps small businesses manage their payments. “The difference between small businesses and large businesses is not the product but the payment systems,” he says. Kariuki thinks techies are the game changers in Africa’s development “they will overturn the very basis of reason, and challenge the status quo, pushing the boundaries of innovation for the benefit of society”.
7. MESHACK ALLOYS, Kenya – Co-Founder, MTL Systems : A USAID merit scholar, Meshack has been involved in the development of almost every major mobile app in Kenya. He co-founded MTL Systems when he was an engineering student at the University of Nairobi. This tech firm is behind M-Shop, an app that “brings the market to the people and the people to the market.” Through this app consumers can purchase goods and services and order for events and travel tickets using their mobile handsets. “The tech community will play a major role in helping Africa in the acquisition, adaptation and application of relevant mobile technologies to eradicate poverty,” he argues.