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UK-Kenya Tech Hub advocates ‘camels’ over ‘unicorns’

The UK-Kenya Tech Hub has rolled out a digital apprenticeship and virtual support channel to demonstrate to business the value of digitisation and empower young tech professionals with real industry experience.

In a bid to address issues that Kenyan entrepreneurs face, the virtual channel focuses on using local experts to help local teams with "boring business fundamentals" such as basic sales, revenue, operations, logistics etc.

There is also the DEAR MSMEs which tests what 40 small female-owned businesses need while the Tech Ecosystem Innovation Support pilot offers to trial a multi-stakeholder approach for 120 innovators which have applied with the government of Kenya.

“As with all pilots, learning and continuously improving is vital,” said UK-Kenya Tech Hub director, Sheena Raikundalia. “Kenyan entrepreneurs have shown how innovative they can be. They now need support to grow. Whether this is through an enabling regulatory environment, access to capital, talent, markets, networks. A game-changer could be angel investment to really help entrepreneurs grow from idea to sustainable business.”

The proposed pilots stem from the Hub's assertion that African countries like Kenya need ‘camels’ rather than the sought-after US$1bn ‘unicorns’ within Silicon Valley .

The organisation believes the unicorn model requires large amounts of capital but creates relatively few jobs – and this does not work for Kenya or Africa.

Rather fledgling businesses should aspire to be like camels, sturdy and possessing the ability to withstand tough conditions.

“Camels will need to really understand their business model, unit economics, what customers will pay for, not just focusing on growth without profits,” said Raikundalia.

In the Investing for Global Impact: A Power for Good - 2020, Kenya-based John Kamara of ADA Lab said: “I don’t agree that every company should be a unicorn and become a billion-dollar enterprise. Maybe we should create a lot more companies that can be sustainable. I call them camels… because a camel can last in the desert without water for so many weeks. We need to build companies that can sustain themselves with little resources.”

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