Kenyan corporates urged to leverage technology in poverty alleviation efforts

Prof Muhammad Yunus, the President of Grameen Foundation, has challenged Kenyan businesses and startups to leverage tech in alleviating the impact of Poverty, Food Insecurity, Climate change, Waste management, Insecurity among other issues afflicting the country.

“Poverty is not created by poor people but by the systems we have in place, policies made and the legal frameworks created in the specific countries and in order to alleviate poverty the systems and policies have to be fixed, and tech is a major way to go about it,” he said.

Prof Yunus was speaking during a Hackathon event held in collaboration with Moringa School themed “Technology for Impactful Change“. The focus of the hackathon was to leverage on the power of collaboration and technology to develop home-grown impact-based solutions.

The award winning founder of Grameen Bank as a microcredit solution in Bangladesh, cited the economic movement he created, and which is credited for lifting millions of families out of poverty. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering the concept of microcredit and microfinance.

Former Makueni County Governor Prof. Kivutha Kibwana, applauded Prof. Yunus’ approach to grassroot economics and reported that he tried to implement the  Grameen model of microfinancing in Makueni, but was hampered by existing legal and licensing barriers. He added that such a game-changing model would alleviate poverty and improve the livelihoods of Kenyans.

Four Kenyan tech companies Chiro, Kambare, Kilimo Africa and Rafiki Carbon pitched their solutions in a hackathon to eliminate Food Insecurity and to promote Waste Management. The judges of the event were Jana Lessenich, CEO Yunus Social Business; Susan W. Ngalawa, the Regional Director for East Africa at Yunus Social Business; and Maria Palmeri, the Managing Partner, Grameen Creative lab.

For Food security, the challenge included showing how tech can be leveraged to mobilize information and optimize food distribution between food-secure and food-insecure areas as well to align food supply with food demand by providing farmers with the relevant information.

On the other hand, under Waste Management, participants had to have designed a smart waste collection system that allows citizens to segregate the various types of waste to be disposed of and to enable county governments to effectively collect and dispose waste to other partners for recycling.

The winner of the Hackathon was Kilimo Africa- a company that offers trainings to farmer groups and individuals, trainings to farm managers, soil testing services, mobile and on farm consultancy, farm layout plans as well as farm budgeting for all enterprises and development fertilizer and spray programs.

The judges found their concept to have potential for impact and scale, their business model scalable and included a solution to farmers and the entire ecosystem. Kilimo Africa will benefit from a mentorship program by Yunus Social Business that will help them refine their business model and position them for funding.

Yunus Social Business (YSB) was founded to harness the power of businesses to finance and grow social businesses in East Africa, Latin America and India, and to tackle poverty and the climate crisis. In addition, YSB brings corporate purpose to life by co-creating new social business ventures, and helping corporations collaborate with innovative social businesses.

Globally, the YSB portfolio includes 53 social businesses and over $13m funds while in Kenya, has committed over $3 million to five businesses in Kenya within three sectors- energy, financial services, and waste management. Beneficiaries in Kenya include Burn Manufacturing, Deevabits Green Energy (DGE) and Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment Centre (WEEE Centre)

The impact gained so far includes 717 incomes supported, 42,000 customers have been served and 2.5m tons of CO2 averted.

Yunus Social Business was founded in Germany in 2011 by Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Saskia Bruysten and Sophie Eisemann to expand on the success of social business from Bangladesh and ignite it around the world. In 1983, Prof. Muhammad Yunus created the Grameen Bank, beginning a microfinance revolution which in 2006 earned him one of humanity’s most prestigious awards, the Nobel Peace Prize.

Grameen grew from a microcredit bank into a group of enterprises created with the specific intention of solving human problems. These embodied the first cases of a new, emerging model: social business.

Prof Muhammad Yunus co-founded Yunus Social Business and currently serves as the Chairman of the Board. He is the founder of Grameen Bank and father of microcredit, an economic movement that has helped lift millions of families around the world out of poverty. Today, Grameen Bank has over 8.4 million members—97 per cent of who are female—and has lent over $12.5 billion since its inception. In 2006, the Norwegian Nobel Committee jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Peace to Professor Yunus and Grameen Bank “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below.”

Professor Yunus is also the creator of social business and since 2006 has focused on spreading and implementing the concept. He has written four books about micro-lending and social business: “Banker to the Poor” (2003), “A World without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism” (2008) and “Building Social Business” (2010) and “A World of Three Zeros” (2017).

Among Professor Yunus’ many awards and honors he has received all three highest US Civilian awards (Presidential Citizens Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal). Thereby he is one of only seven people in history that has received these awards, along with recipients Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela. In 2009, Forbes named Prof Yunus one of its “10 Most Influential Business Gurus.”


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