NAIROBI, Kenya Jun 24 – More companies from South Korea are set to start operations in Kenya following a recent innovation exhibition held in the capital Nairobi, involving nine startups keen to utilize the vibrant Information Technology space in the country.
South Korea’s Ambassador to Kenya Young-Han Choi said the new investments affirms the confidence the country has in Kenya’s economic potential.
“They will be more Korean companies visiting Kenya and establishing their own offices here,” the ambassador said, “and you will see more Korean people visiting Kenya and coming to Kenya for training, education and friendship.”
He said South Korea is keen to “share our experience so that Kenya can follow our path and be a better country, with better economic development.”
ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru, who attended the exhibition, said Kenya is open for business, and urged more Korean investors to expand their businesses to Kenya, with an assurance of maximum support.
“If you have innovations that are Kenyan one thing that you can be sure is that you be protected,” he said.
“As government and through my ministry we have what we call the whitebox. This is an innovation that actually came out of this Nairobi Innovation…where if you have an innovation that can work for government, you bring it to the whitebox and we will see how best we can work with you, how it can fit into any of our current systems and how best to get those systems to actually work and in fact there is even funding,” he said.
Cabinet Secretaries Margaret Kobia (Public Service, Youth and Gender) and Professor George Magoha of the Education Ministry also attended the exhibition.
The South Korean firms that took part in the innovation week in Nairobi include, Aka Intelligence, Anyractive, Geni Robot, Social Impact Dot Incorporation, Tinker Education, Luxrobo, Yolk Electronics Nutrient, Cintec Group and KOTRA Nairobi—the organizer.
The company’s Strategy Manager Shu Tsuyuguchi explains that they develop robots with Artificial Intelligence.
“You can talk about food or the movie you like and the cool thing is that this robot, since it has an AI, it will learn about you. So one day you say you like marvel, the following day it will say that I remember you said you like marvel you should watch the latest movie,” Said Shu.
According to Shu, robots are important because they can solve challenges like having few English teachers like in Japan.
The firm was represented at the exhibition by its CEO, Edward Lim.
He said it provides future communication solutions, described as ‘Go Touch’.
“The Go Touch will turn any surface into an interactive whiteboard and touch screen. So you can easily carry it around in your pocket,” he said, and described Kenya as a “very innovative country.”
“I feel it. I can understand it,” he said, and revealed that it is the third time he was visiting.
Geni Robot specializes in coding, and is keen on training Kenyan students on its techniques at affordable rates.
“We make coding robot to teach coding because there are so many robots but the one problem is they are so expensive so how can I teach coding to developing countries? So my price is about 60 USD,” said the firm’s CEO Jackie Lee said.
The South Korean company specializes in manufacturing product for the blind and visually impaired people and has already entered into a partnership with Safaricom—the region’s largest telecommunications company.
“The reason we are in Kenya is to launch the world’s first Braille smart watch, dot watch,” said Ah Rum Choi, the firm’s Director of Social Impact, “Through Safaricom we launched the dot watch last year. You can read all your notifications on your smart phone such as MPESA. They can read how much money received and how much money you withdraw.”
Tinker Education specializes in computer science and programming skills mainly targeting children.
According to its Manager Neene Gichaara, the company is keen on developing problem-solving skills for the 21st century.
“We deliver our programme through our curriculum and e-learning platform which has been created by South Korean headquarters known as EMCast and the education technology expertise that they have equips us to be able to train our teachers and establish a standard that will ensure our young people are able learn STEM at par with what is being taught in America or the United Kingdom,” Gichaara said.
Luxrobo deals in smart education and mostly software education.
Doyeon Kim, an Engineer at the firm says Kenya has the potential of growing talented young people through innovation.
Doyeon cited manufacturing in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda as one that can immensely benefit from its innovation, saying “one of the problem is manufacturing, can be also solved from our education.”
YOLK ELECTRONICS NUTRIENT
“We have solar cow system to help bring the kids to school using the solar energy using the power of nature to solve the human problems,” said Shirley Lee, the firm’s Marketing Assistant Manager.
Using new technology, solar panels are installed in schools and the kids are given batteries so that when they come to school they can charge them.
“While studying the batteries charge and when they take it home with works as a power source for the whole family. So we are solving three problems, energy distribution, education and child labour,” said Shirley.
The firm believes it has what it takes to solve challenges in Kenya, particularly in the rural areas where electricity is not connected.
KOTRA Nairobi, the organizer of the Korean Pavilion, MD Mi Ho Jon said they are leveraging on Kenya’s status as one of the top among other African countries where digital innovation is vibrant.
In line with the Silicon Savannah, he said, Korea has been supporting it through KAIST Technology and Science University and currently doing knowledge sharing programme in Konza Technopolis.
“Korea partnered with Nairobi Innovation Week from this year. KOTRA organized Korea pavilion where innovation, pitching, hack-a-thon…between Korean startups and Kenyan stakeholders,” the firm said.
Another firm from Korea that exhibited is CINTECH GROUP that was represented by its CEO Geunseok Kim.
The company’s Systems Engineer Lucy Mbugua says they participated in the Nairobi Innovation Week as part of the Hack-a-thon organized by the Korean Embassy.
“In terms of technology, Korea is quite ahead of us, and they have amazing solutions and can fit to our need. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel if something has already been done we just need to pick, it customize it and then make it applicable in our market to solve the challenges that we currently have,” she said in an interview.
SIMPLE SELLABLE SOLUTIONS
The company works in collaboration with Cisco and has been working on a product called Go Touch from her Korean company which it said allows one to turn any projector screen or TV screen into a whiteboard.
“So we combine that with *Webex from Cisco to make it into a fully collaborative platform where not only can you have a whiteboard that is shared but also you can have video conferencing and teleconferencing for experiences such as E-learning and E-meeting,” said Victor Murage, a Director.
TABARIN CONSULTING LTD (Microsoft Partner)
“From assessment we identified three Technologies that we feel can be very effective in helping us achieve our agenda. Specifically there’s one called the solar cow there is also another one called Anyractive which is an interactive projector that converts any surface into an interactive touch screen, so we will be supporting the deployment of these technologies with our education partners,” said Andrew Gakiria, a Senior Associate at Tabarin Consulting.