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First-ever assessment of Kenyan digital-cleantech ecosystem completed by Cleantech Estonia


Report-Kenya digital cleantech ecosystem
With the support of the Estonian Centre for International Development (ESTDEV), Cleantech Estonia and the Kenya Climate Innovation Center have carried out the first-ever assessment of Kenya’s digital-cleantech ecosystem.

Kenya’s digital-cleantech ecosystem is among the top four in Africa, alongside Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa. The sectors already incorporating outstanding digital-cleantech innovations are renewable energy and energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture, waste management, aquaculture, water management and sustainable livelihoods.

Accordion to the assessment, Kenya’s young adult population already has a good awareness of digital-cleantech solutions, thanks to the popularity of several widely-used digital innovations, such as MKOP, a pay-as-you-go system for underbanked customers which allows access to mobile credit for solar lighting, smartphones, fridges, TVs, etc.; and T-Bin for solar powered smart waste bins, among others.

While Nairobi and other urban areas remain the start-up hubs of the country, the report has noted several important innovations making waves in rural Kenya:

  1. Satellite Imaging for Climate and Agricultural Management: Satellite technology is used for weather mapping and monitoring crops and livestock.
  2. 3D Printing for Farming and Medical Equipment: Efficient, low-cost planting scoops, which are used for the precise application of fertiliser, are being made using 3D printing. Rural medical facilities also use 3D-printed parts for medical equipment, which boosts the accessibility and affordability of healthcare.
  3. Mobile Phones for Market Access and On-Demand Products: Platforms like Digifarm and M-Farm use text-based prompts to provide market information, micro-loans and access to agricultural inputs.
  4. Tablets for Education and Research: Tablets are often used in rural areas for educational purposes and data collection, as they are cheaper and more user-friendly than laptops.

Despite the many opportunities in Kenya’s digital-cleantech ecosystem, challenges remain. The report outlines major obstacles to innovation, including cost/financial restraints, information/technical expertise deficiencies, market barriers and policy frameworks.

This assessment has filled a critical knowledge gap by providing an overview of Kenya’s digital-cleantech ecosystem and outlining the key players, such as innovators, government bodies, private sector entities, incubators, educational and financial institutions, development partners and businesses.

The assessment is part of the larger collaborative project "Estonia-Kenya Twin Transition Ecosystem Building.” Twin transition refers to using digital technologies to support sustainability goals while making digital technologies greener. This initiative focuses on supporting clean technologies featuring data and digital solutions and establishing communication channels between Kenya and Estonia while looking for additional opportunities for collaboration.

Cleantech Estonia’s CEO, Kädi Ristkok, believes the project is important to Estonian cleantech startups. “The goal was to map the current state of the Kenyan ecosystem of clean digital technologies and the opportunities for Estonian companies in the market. Through this, we hope to contribute to the export of Estonian companies’ products and services to Africa,” Ristkok said.

Project partner Ernest Chitechi from the Kenya Climate Innovation Center  says this project creates a better understanding of the current state of the clean technology sector in Kenya, its strengths and limitations and ways to address today’s challenges. “We’re thrilled about the opportunity to learn from the Estonian ecosystem and see the potential for long-term collaboration,” Chitechi said.

ESTDEV’s advisor for innovation and entrepreneurship, Kristel Rillo, concluded that this initiative between Estonia and Kenya creates pathways for digital collaboration to foster innovation in greentech and address climate change. 

“Through such partnerships, Estonia and Kenya are setting an example for how international cooperation can empower innovation in greentech, setting the ground for the global economy and society, but more importantly leading to a more sustainable future for all,” Rillo said. 

Read the entire report here.