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Will Kenya get it right with second Kshs 1bn tech innovation initiative?

Will Kenya get it right with second Kshs 1bn tech innovation initiative?

Kenya's ICT Ministry has launched Huduma Whitebox, a program to enable innovators to pitch their ideas to potential backers and potentially secure a share of a Kshs1 billion (US$$10 million) fund.

Speaking at the Connected Kenya Summit held recently in Nairobi, Cabinet Secretary for ICT Joe Mucheru said that the initiative will aim to nurture the next big companies in Africa.

"Our start-ups are not scaling as fast," he said. "My ministry is always engaging start-ups to identify their needs and to find solutions to foster a proper environment for growth."

Huduma Whitebox is an online portal (whitebox.go.ke) where innovators can pitch their ideas directly to government and if selected, will get the opportunity to work with innovation hubs across the country to develop their idea.

In February 2015, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Enterprise Kenya program to facilitate government funding of budding entrepreneurs and start-up innovators.

However, there has been no word of the progress of the initiative.

Media reports have stated that Enterprise Kenya had also secured a Kshs1 billion (US$$10 million) fund to offer seed capital to start-ups.

Eunice Kariuki, Director of Partnerships, Innovation and Capacity at the ICT Authority, declined to comment on the fate of Enterprise Kenya and said only: "We now have Huduma Whitebox. It has the structure and the funding. I would suggest we move forward."

Kariuki added that innovations that target the governments "Big 4 Agenda" (manufacturing, universal healthcare, affordable housing, and food security) will be prioritised in the program.

Ideas submitted through the portal will be evaluated by public and private experts to ascertain their viability.

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