All Posts By jacob

The Challenge of Turning an Idea into an Income

Posted on 5 min read

Tech product engineers consider themselves to be the geniuses of the 21st century. They have disrupted the world with both hardware and cutting-edge software, and are still working on some cool stuff that you probably have not heard about. Programmers claim that they rule the world and that the solution to every problem facing the world is just a few lines of code away. This fuels the drive to create the next tech startup with the goal of becoming a unicorn.

However, often these dreams never come to be, in some cases, leaving a very demoralized potential founder.

It always starts with a person with an idea; the next big thing. But an idea on paper does not translate into a successful venture, or as they say in Kenya, vitu kwa ground ni different (on the ground things are different). Many software developers who started a venture with a product slowly abandon their pet projects and become resellers of existing products, or go into employment. It does not take long for someone to realize that it is easier to resell a product than to build your own from scratch. Building a product is hard and painful. The worst part is that even a good engineer needs expertise in the specific niche they want to disrupt. If you are building a solution for lenders, you need to fully understand how their business runs.

What are the challenges that keep people from commercializing and making money from their products?

Your Product is not Good Enough

Not everyone can create a product, even if they are good engineers. It is as simple as reading and writing. While many people can become very knowledgeable in a language, and master all the words possible, not everyone can write a thriller story or novel. And once you have written one, marketing is the other challenge that you face. Many great books have failed to fly off the shelf because marketing was not properly done. In a different scenario, poorly written books that have little or nothing to tell can end up becoming bestsellers. Many people have invested in creating products that simply don’t work. To be fair, many products fail even great ones. However, it takes determination, skill, great talent, and sometimes chance to get a good product.

If you have a product that you want to launch, you may consider getting experienced people who can tell you whether what you are doing is nonsense or the next big idea. Mentorship is important, and people with expertise are able to identify what can work, what may work, and what will definitely never work.

Geographical Barriers

In 2012, when I was required to do a final year project, I was looking for the simplest solution that could give me an easy time and a good grade. I came up with a noise meter that could report via SMS, as well as issue alerts on excess noise depending on the set levels. After school, I tried to find a practical application for it but there was simply no market, and thus no motivation to commercialize the project. Three years later, a company was founded in the US to offer the same product. Airbnb hosts love the idea.

The problem was that the geographical location I was in did not have a market for the product. Somewhere in a different country, it would have made sense. When Google launched a Personal Safety app that detects car crashes and calls 911, I saw some people in West Africa who already had done that years earlier, but they never made news, and possibly sales.

Marketing Skills

When a friend actively sold software, he used to marvel at the great opportunity that existed in the market. He had taken time to study the market and the competition, going into detail to understand what it would take to sell. There were many competitors with inferior products to theirs, and he knew that it would be easy. It did not take long for him to realize that some of their competitors were outdoing them in sales, despite the fact that he had a superior product. Today, he still keeps up with the industry and he knows better; in some cases, the sale comes first, and the product comes second.

Marketing is key, and even if you had the cure for cancer but you cannot convince the world to use it, you are as good as without a product. Unfortunately, many people who come up with products have poor marketing skills. A partner with such skills can help.

Lack of Funds

It requires money to make money. You need to have a business idea that can bootstrap, or else you have to turn to angel investors and venture capitalists. Bootstrapping requires a product that will sell easily with minimal input so as to generate the resources that will fund further development. This is hard, and most people would require an external investment in order to push their products out there. Unfortunately, VCs and angel investors are not that easy to come by, and this is where one needs networks that can help build credibility. Most innovators find themselves limited when they start looking for funds. 

It is not just the business funds that may hinder the growth of a product. One other factor to do with money is the background of the would-be entrepreneur. People who have a social safety net such as wealthy parents are able to venture into entrepreneurship more easily because there is always a fallback plan. This helps them to build a form of risk-averseness that encourages entrepreneurship, knowing that they do not risk starving to death.


The world is full of so many people who have great products but cannot make money out of them. It could be due to a lack of entrepreneurial skills, a lack of money to monetize their innovation or simply environmental factors such as geographical location. The best we can do for them is to provide an environment where they can try out their ideas, such as incubation hubs, and also help them to get the right partners who can help jumpstart their ventures.


Safety in the Ceiling

The higher you go, the safer you are.

One survival hack that pilots know is that altitude is your friend. When you are flying a plane, the higher you are, the safer you are. Why?

One may assume that flying very near the ground is the safer option. In case of an engine failure, you will not come tumbling down from 11 km up in the sky. If you are flying 100m from the ground, you may have an opportunity to get to the ground with a smaller thud, and possibly survive. The reasoning makes sense, but it is wrong.

Pilots know that the higher you fly, the more you have time to react to unexpected situations. This is because, with speed and height, the plane can glide for long distances, giving you an opportunity to find a solution. For example, a 737 flying at 40,000 feet can glide for more than 150 km after losing both engines. While this is just slightly over 10 minutes of ‘airtime,’ there is a lot you can do during that time.

If your engine goes off, you have some 10 minutes to try to restart them before you crash. You have some time to think about where to land. There might be an airstrip, a good highway, or a lake, within your lifeline of 150 km. This is the reason why the higher you are, the safer it is for you as a pilot, and of course, as a passenger in the plane.

It is for the same reason that planes at take-off climb so steeply – pilots buying altitude.

High altitude also means lower resistance, hence lower fuel consumption. A plane at a cruising altitude consumes less fuel.

Fly High

What life lessons can we learn from this?

It is good to have options and a margin to cushion us in case of the unexpected. It is good to have savings that can take us a long time. It is good to have room for the unexpected. It is good to be ahead of the schedule, rather than barely running to beat deadlines. It is good to have a good plan  

It is also good to have a steep take off which gives you room for safety quickly. This could be working extra harder when starting a business, saving more when you are young… etc. Work to get to the cruising altitude so that you can relax a little bit.

Avoid living on the edge. Be safe.

Take Risks

But it is not every time that high altitude is desirable. In combat, fighter jets may operate at low altitudes in order to avoid detection by surveillance systems and anti-aircraft establishments. This is a special application that is used as a survival tactic. You do not want to be shot down by an enemy.

This also happens in life. At times, we must make the risky decision of flying low. It could be because we are facing an enemy such as a lack of opportunities, time constraints, lack of a fallback plan, a do-or-die situation, or even adventure. While this is acceptable, it should not be the norm. I do not think that we are supposed to be in combat all the time. Only if it is unavoidable.


The Challenge of Recruiting from a Market with a High Unemployment Rate

Posted on 3 min read

Ever wondered what recruitment looks like from the side of the employer, especially for small businesses?

Most people apply for jobs while assuming that the recruiting person will read through their applications in detail, and with the best intention in mind. They will fill in the blank spaces and will give the benefit of doubt where details are not clear.

Unfortunately, this is not usually the case.

Screening Challenge

I once did some recruitment and that is when I realized how hard it is to carry out recruitment in Kenya. With so many jobless or underemployed people in Kenya, a simple advert for an internship that is not very widely shared will result in hundreds of applications. There are reported cases of a hotel advertising for 15 positions and thousands turning up for the interview. This is where it becomes a nightmare.

How do you go through 100 CVs and application letters to get 3 candidates to interview and eventually hire one? If you are short on resources, as most SMEs are, the first step you do is to start eliminating the candidates. Remember that most small businesses do not have a dedicated recruitment person.

You ignore the CVs that you do not understand. You ignore those that lack essential information. You look for evidence that someone has relevant knowledge through what they mention in the CV.

For a developer, you want someone who says that they have created something, not the ones who say they know XYZ languages.

You are still not sure if the person you are hiring is a serial killer who has not yet been arrested. You cannot contact referees for entry-level jobs until the person has passed the interviews. In any case, referees are likely to tell you good things about the person, even when they know that the person has never woken up before 9 am.

This is why instead of advertising for jobs, small companies will just look for referrals. This is a common practice that means that those who do not have the networks may not get the jobs, even when they have all the skills. Those without networks and connections end up losing the game.

Job Scams

There are also many employment scams that seek to con people. People are asked to pay for job applications in nonexistent positions or to pay somebody who will help them secure a job position. Unknown to them, the job position does not even exist – just scammers whose end goal is to extract money from jobless people.

Others advertise jobs with the end goal of harvesting personal data. Want to get the phone and email contact of thousands of accountants? Just advertise for an entry-level/ junior accountant position with a very high salary. Data will fill your inbox in a short time. Nobody will ever be shortlisted for the position because the position did not exist in the first place.

Such factors make some people lose confidence in job recruitment systems and may not even apply.

Recruitment Agencies

One of the people that are filling the recruitment gap is the recruitment agencies. These agencies seek to connect job seekers with employers, and charge fees for the same.

To solve the problem of costs, some of these agencies have models where the applicant pays only if they get a job placement (from their initial salary), or the employer pays for the service. This model is becoming popular and leads to a more equal society, as opposed to one where the most connected people get all the opportunities.

In all these challenges and solutions, the one elephant in the room that must be addressed is the lack of employment opportunities in Kenya.


The Power of access to Information

Posted on 2 min read

One of the most astounding findings I recently came across is the study of the effects of mobile phones on the Kerala fishing market in India. The research by Robert Jensen is best summarized by the figure below which shows how mobile phones led to the stabilization of fish prices in different markets.

From the figure, it is seen that the fish prices are very volatile in the three regions, but stabilize almost as if by magic when mobile phones are introduced in the region. It seems that access to information leads to the damping of the price curve and the consistency that follows is just incredible.

Responding to Demand and Supply

Jensen offers various explanations for the impact of communication on the market. It is argued that fishermen had access to price information and thus were in a better position to know where to sell. This helps them to respond to the demand and thus normalize supply in different markets.

The same could be said about buyers who had information on where the prices are low and would flock there, leading to increased demand, hence prices. Overall, the availability of information leads to a natural form of price control as market forces are able to respond more accurately.

This is one study that shows how access to information continues to impact the world in ways that many people would not have imagined. Buyers are able to get the best value for their money, while fishermen can expect more consistent prices. The social impact of this may not be easy to quantify but I can imagine the benefit of being able to plan effectively and budget.

Information age

While the information age may have peaked, there are still opportunities that are yet to be unlocked especially in marginalized societies and communities. There are still places where people have not enjoyed the full benefits of access to information, due to skill levels or lack of resources.

It is hard to imagine what will be the real impact when this happens. Imagine a scenario where all children have equal access to education, where all people have equal access to skills necessary to thrive and produce optimally, and where farmers have access to the best available agronomic information. We could solve a number of problems that we are facing in Africa today.

Let’s make it happen.


Big Tech Still Wanting on Transparency

Posted on 3 min read

One of the biggest online communities we have ever built consists of 1100 subscribers who regularly read one of our websites. That is quite a big community of people from a small geographical location who are willing to keep visiting your websites and reading our content.

How does it work? Easy. It is through WhatsApp.

We created a WhatsApp broadcast list that for people who want to subscribe, and this works well because it is easy to message the 1100 people who have saved your contact. You do that through a few broadcast messages.

WhatsApp Ban

After using the service for about 6 months, I woke up one day to find that WhatsApp had blocked the number and I could no longer send messages. This was a big blow. I wrote to WhatsApp asking why the number had been banned. The response was that we violated the WhatsApp terms and Conditions.

Attempts to get them to explain the terms that we had violated were not successful. They will not give the specific details and the case is closed.

PayPal Account Suspended

I had a similar experience with PayPal seven years ago. One fine morning they asked me to provide more details about a transaction that I made on date X, else they would suspend my account. I asked them to clarify the date because on the specific date, I did not have any transactions. I shortly received an email saying that my account had been suspended and the decision was final.

When I asked them for more information, the automated response was that they would no longer respond to my emails on that matter. The account was closed.

Faceless Tech Giants

This seems to be a common trend with most of these big tech platforms where they are faceless when they deal with individuals, but really love their users when talking about them as a whole. They do not have time or resources for individuals, but they want you as the group because data is more useful in bulk.

This has also happened to many people on Twitter who have been banned and not given sufficient reasons as to why their accounts were suspended. I bet the reason why these tech giants would not want to give specific details is that they would want to avoid close scrutiny and possible legal processes that may follow.

But is it okay to just kick people out of a platform without giving a good reason for the same? Is it right especially when you consider that some of these people are doing their best to stick to the Terms and Conditions that the same firms make them as long as possible and as complicated as they can ever be?

Some people argue that tech firms can do what they want because in many cases they are giving a free platform. This is misguided because the platform is not free; I am giving them my data in exchange for the service.

Following Terms and Conditions not Good Enough

For the WhatsApp account that was banned, we had gone to great lengths to ensure that we were in good books with WhatsApp. This included not sending automated messages, ensuring subscribers request for inclusion in the list of subscribers by having them message us first via WhatsApp, and making it easy for them to unsubscribe. All these never worked.

What did we do wrong? We do not know. We may never know because Facebook (WhatsApp) will not go into details.

Transparency is not something they may be willing to fully embrace, and the (little) progress they have made in the past few years in being more transparent has come not because they wanted to, but because they have been pressured to be more transparent.

We have a long way to go.


Social Capital

Posted on 5 min read

Self-Made Myth

You have ever heard someone say that ‘I am a self-made person.’ It could be a self-made millionaire, self-made YouTuber with many followers, self-made programmer, or even self-made businessperson. The claim here is that the person is who they are due to their own effort, and did not depend on help from other people. The pride!

Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no self-made person. At least, they did not give birth to themselves. They never taught themselves how to speak. Did they invent money so that they can make a lot of it? They never became influencers by following themselves, nor did they make the gadgets that they use for social media. Even if they stole, they did not steal from themselves. All their achievement is because they live in a society with other people, who directly or indirectly, influenced who they are.

There is no self-made person.


At the center of everything we do is other people, and this is a unique gift from God that sets us apart from other animals. Human beings are able to collaborate with one another in very special ways. Take the example of taking a cup of tea; where you can walk into a café and get some ready-made tea, or you can buy the ingredients and make yourself a cup of tea. You do not need to grow your own tea, make your own sugar, blacksmith your own sufuria or model your own cups. You depend on other people to have your cup of tea.

In life you never see monkeys specializing and having some of them look for bananas while others look for berries. You do not see some of them working hard to map the forest so that they keep an up-to-date database of where all foods are. You do not see wild animals coming together to irrigate the jungle during the dry season. Neither do you see lions setting traps and hunting in bulk so that they can sell to other lions, and so that the elderly lion will not need to hunt. Specialized collaboration is the gift that human beings have.

Social Capital; Definition

Which brings us to social capital.

Social capital refers to the links and bonds people form through friendships and acquaintances. It is what allows groups of people to work together for a common purpose or goals. When you know somebody who can solve your problem, or you know somebody who knows somebody who can help you file your tax returns, you are making use of your social capital to achieve a certain goal.

Why is this important?

Herbert Smith, Nobel-prize-winning economist, estimated that 90% of what people earn in wealthy “western” societies is down to social capital. Had Bill Gates been born Yatta, Matuu, perhaps he could be a major sand supplier in Kenya. The guy pushing a handcart in Nairobi could easily have been a logistics officer with British Airways of they were born in London. This is social capital at work.

If you are born in a poor country, you will make less money for the same skills and effort compared to if you were born in a rich country.

Social Capital in the Bible

Let me put this here so that I do not forget, or lack somewhere else to say it.

‘The greatest of all networks is to know and be known by God.’

That said, we move on.

The idea of relationships and networks starts right from the beginning, where we see a Triune God setting things in action in Genesis. We see laws that help people live together as a community because this was key.

Something worth noting: While social capital is built on the idea of reciprocity, that is not expected in Christianity. The command is to reach out to those who cannot pay back. “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.” (Lk 14:12)

Some 3 examples from the bible:

  • Perhaps he was the 3rd in line to be King (After Saul and his father Jonathan)
  • All this was lost when David takes over. But,
    • David comes to his rescue, on account of his father Jonathan
    • David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2 Samuel 9:1
    • This way, he enjoys royal treatment based on the relationship that the Father had with David.

Lesson: Networks we build today could help us or our children in future.

  • Leprosy was a nagging problem for this big person. A servant girl in his house knew the solution.
  • She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 2 Kings 5:3
    • Naaman was known by the right person, who offered a solution.
      • The problems you have today, someone possibly has the answer.
        • Someone could be looking to hire someone with the skills that you have. But do you know them? Do they know you?

Lesson: Know people, or know people who know people, or be known.


  • His ministry was dependent on people, who he needed to build first
    • He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach. Mark 3:14
      • This was like getting interns.
      • He trains them and they end up being his witnesses.

Lesson: Create your networks by building people.

What determines our social capital?

There are three things I can highlight:

  • People we know

Our social capital is tied to the people we know (and of course, if they know as well because I know Vladimir Putin very well). It is important that we seek to know people.

  • Depth of those relationship

It is not enough to know people; ensure that they know you in the right way. This calls for a rich and genuine relationships with other people. People may not know that you can offer a certain service or possess a certain skill unless you interact closely. If people do not know that you are looking or a job, they will not be looking out for opportunities on your behalf.

  • Benefits of those relationships

You could have people who know you, know your needs, but are they willing to go out of their way to help you? What are they willing to do to help you? While there is little we can do to get people to help us, we can take the first step to ensure that we help people who are within our networks.

How to Build Networks/Social Capital

 A few tips:

  1. Do good to the people that you already know. People reciprocate.
  2. Know new people. Do not sit back and blame your introvertedness or claim that you are not good at making friends.
  3. Diversify your networks
    1. Get to know people in different fields. If you are an engineer, you will need a lawyer one day.
    1. Get to know people in different locations. There many opportunities outside your locality.
  4. Create time for people. Visit if you can. Make calls. Invite people to visit you.
  5. Keep in touch with former colleagues. Here there is a goldmine of people and you already know them.

**** Notes from MUBET fellowship talk on Social Capital. Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash ***


A Tribute to my Editor: Tefo Mohapi

Posted on 2 min read

One thing that Engineering school teaches you is brevity. No need for stories when a simple equation is enough. Perhaps, this is why many tech people suck at explaining things that seem obvious to them but rocket science to everyone else. I know this from experience.

With an engineering background, I knew that writing stories would not be my thing. But it is now. What changed? I met one man by the name Tefo Mohapi.

I decided to try writing out of necessity. I needed something written and published, but I did not know a professional who could help. At times, working in a startup means that you are forced to do something because you neither have the talent to do it in your team, nor do you have the money to pay someone to do it. That is how I started writing. A few posts later, I realized that I needed to know where to publish the content and when I approached iAfrikan Media, Tefo Welcomed me with open arms.

In two years, I ended up publishing over 100 articles, thanks to guidance from Tefo who was the editor. He edited my work and helped me to communicate effectively. With him in the background, I had the freedom to write knowing that someone had my back.

Covid-19 came and hit him hard, but he fought harder. He was thankful to God for carrying him through the dark ordeal where he was in the hospital five months in 2021. I was hoping that things would brighten up and he would fully regain his health, but that was not to be. On 14th of July, he succumbed to pneumonia after a short illness.

Tefo is gone, but his legacy will live on. Rest in Peace brother.


The Sachet Economy

Posted on 3 min read

Sachets dominate the retail industry in many parts of Africa. I had always imagined that Kenyans are the masters of buying goods in these miniature packaging, but Nigerians seem to be the masters of this game. This week, images of goods packed in sachets were all over social media with discussions about their costs and the impact of their packaging on the environment.

Why are so many fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) packaged in sachets?

For those who know the industry, the answer is almost obvious. Fast-moving consumer goods are nondurable products that sell quickly at relatively low cost and account for about half of all the regular purchases made. They include products such as soft drinks, milk, detergents, cooking oil, cereals, kinds of toothpaste, and many others. They sell fast.

Small Purchases

They also sell small. One surprising piece of information that hit me this year is learning that more than 70% of all FMCG transactions that occur in Kenya involve consumer spending of less than KShs 55. This is a trend that has pushed manufacturers to package their goods in smaller units, usually targeting a specific price. If a certain product costs KShs 120 per kilogram, the manufacturer packages the products in 75 grams packages and sells each pack at KShs 10.

This is the lifeline for most people who have less than a dollar to spend every day and enables them to survive on a day-to-day basis. Take the example of informal settlements. In a place where there are many people earning casual wages, I am told that it is possible to shop for everything you need to prepare a decent meal for only KShs 50 (that was a few years ago). One would buy maize flour for KShs 10, cooking oil for KShs 5, Vegetables for KShs 5, onions and tomatoes for a similar amount, kerosene for KShs 10, Chocolate and sugar for a similar amount, and one is set to prepare a full meal. As a bonus, one could get a cracked egg for KShs 5 for a balanced diet.

With such a trend, sachets become very useful because they are cheap. Cheap for the manufacturer – not for the consumer.

Single-use Packaging

Besides targeting the poor, sachets are very useful when packaging single-use products such as the soaps used in high-end hotels. This also includes products such as sugar, tomato sauce, and shampoos. The demand for this continues to grow as the hospitality industry grows. These are sachets for the rich.

This use case may be more common in developed countries than in developing countries, but it is found everywhere in the hospitality industry.


The Cost

While this packaging helps people access goods at an incredibly low cost, the unit cost of these goods is way much higher than those bought in large quantities.

Consequently, the people who buy goods in these small quantities – the majority of whom are poor – end up paying more for goods than those who buy in huge quantities. The poor pay more than the rich for the same basic goods.

Environmental Concerns

Many of the sachets that are used today are never recycled. They end up in landfills, water bodies, and many other places, where they remain for hundreds of years. It is a curse we are living with.

How can we reverse this?


Tips for Video Meetings

Posted on 3 min read

The age of professional video meetings is here with us. What factors do you need to consider while preparing for meetings and what should you put into mind? Here are a few tips.


Lighting affects how you will appear in the video. The best lighting considerations would require a professional to get it right, but the most important point to note is that you should not be positioned between a source of light and the camera. Let light be above you and at least in front of you.

Let lighting be sufficient and uniform. If your meeting ends late in the evening, consider switching on the lights before you run out of daylight.


Most computers have very poor cameras compared to smartphones, but they still work because you may not need HD video. However, you can consider getting a webcam if the inbuilt PC camera is not sufficient. A few apps can also be used to convert your smartphone into a webcam.

Keep the camera at eye level and at an appropriate distance from you so as to allow for a ‘mugshot view.’ If you are using a smartphone, keep the phone in landscape mode. Try to keep to the center of the screen and avoid unnecessary movements.

It may also be necessary to keep the video on unless you have a slow internet connection.


Be early for meetings and test your tools in advance. Remember that starting your computer could take time, and getting the link for that meeting could take longer. This means that you should aim to be online at least five minutes before the start of your meeting.

Be conscious of time too when online. Let meetings end on time, and if there is a need to extend beyond the stipulated time, let the people attending know.


Find a quiet environment away from physical distractions and noise. If you are working from home where space is constrained, let your housemates know when you are in a meeting so that they can give you some space. Consider using the quietest room available.

Privacy and security

Do not share meeting joining credentials publicly to avoid zoom bombers. If you have many people attending a meeting, give individualized invitation links, and control the ability of members to share screens.

Dress appropriately for the meeting as you might have to stand up. In addition, be conscious of what you do or say, as sometimes you might think you are muted when you are not, or your video is off when it is on.

Display Name

Rename your device appropriately, where necessary. Let it show your name instead of ‘Samsung Galaxy S20.’ You might also want to consider a virtual background with the company logo for identity or branding.

General Etiquette

Remember an online meeting is just the same as a physical meeting in terms of what people expect. Behave appropriately and speak in the same way you would in a physical meeting. It may not be a good idea to bring food to the meeting, although drinks seem acceptable.

Avoid multitasking and be attentive when others are speaking.


The Race for Electric Boda Bodas in Kenya

Posted on 4 min read

Twenty years ago, motorcycles were a preserve for the rich in Kenya. In rural areas, a few teachers owned them, and agricultural extension officers used to ride them as they went for farm visits. They were not common, and were never a public means of transport.

This all changed when President Mwai Kibaki’s government implemented some policies that lowered the buying price of motorcycles, enabling many people to acquire them. Many youths jumped into the opportunity and motorcycles, popularly known as Boda Bodas in East Africa, went mainstream in Kenya.

Since then, motorcycles are a preferred means of transport in all parts of Kenya. As of 2020, there were more than 1.4 million boda boda riders in Kenya, doing a total of 22 million rides per day. The total revenue from the industry is KShs 980 million per day.

The Energy Part

One of the associated industries that has gained from the growth of boda boda is the energy sector, where it is estimated that the riders spend about 25% of their income on fuel. This would translate to about KShs 250 million spent every day on fuel.

It is this lucrative industry that is attracting different players with electric bikes. Traditionally, motorcycles run on petroleum fuel which has a lot of negative effects on the environment. Besides, the cost of repair and maintenance is high due to the many parts involved using Internal Combustion Engines.

With electric bikes, boda boda operators can save on fuel costs, spare parts, serving, and reduce their Carbon dioxide emissions.

Startups in the Electric Motorcyle Business in Kenya

Here are few startups that are seeking a piece of cake in lucrative electric boda boda sector.


Ampersand is an electric motorbike company which has been operating in Rwanda, but now expanding to other countries in East Africa. In April 2021, Ampersand secured a funding of 3.5 million USD from the Ecosystem Integrity Fund (EIF) to fund its expansion. Already, the company has advertised for various positions as it plans its entry into the Kenyan market.

Ampersand assembles its electric motorcycles and finances riders to acquire the bikers, as well as providing swap stations where riders come to swap batteries once charge is depleted.


Opibus is a Kenyan based electric mobility start-up that has successfully converted Internal Combustion Engine vehicles to electric. One of the products that they are building is an electric motorcycle that is locally designed in Kenya.

Opibus’ electric motorcycle comes with a 2.9kWh battery with an extra slot for an optional second battery, and is available for preorder in Kenya, with delivery dates starting late 2021.


Ecobodaa is a Kenyan startup that is slowly disrupting the boda boda industry in Kenya. The startup providers riders with electric motorbikes that are designed and assembled in Kenya, and supports them to succeed as boda boda riders. With its unique ride-to-own financing model, riders get to own their bikes after sometime.

Ecobodaa launched a successful pilot program in 2020 before beginning their expansion. The startup has secured funding from Persistent Energy Capital in April 2021 to help accelerate its growth in Kenya.

Mazi mobility

Mazi mobility is another Kenyan startup that is assembling electric motorbikes in Kenya. Founded in 2020, Mazi mobility seeks to enable boda boda riders in Kenya to acquire electric bikes and provides battery swapping stations where riders will quickly swap their batteries quickly and efficiently.

Kiri EV

Founded in 2020, Kiri EV manufactures electric motorcycles in Kenya. It also provides charging stations, as well as battery swap stations. The firm has been in pilot phase but is now taking preorders from the public.

Fika mobility

Fika mobility wants Kenyans to transition to electric motorcycles by offering them affordable electric motorcycles and providing battery swap station for easy charging.

ARC Ride

Arc Ride is a British startup that offering electric motorcycles in East Africa. The startup is focusing on assembling electric motorbikes, establishing solar charging networks, assisting in ownership and offering fleet management services.


STIMA enables boda boda riders to acquire electric motorcycles and offers a battery swapping network to enable faster and easy battery swap.


In May 2021, Uber announced the launch of electric boda bodas in Kenya on its platform. This would allow riders offering the Uberboda, Uber connect and Uber Eats to run the service on electric motorcycles.


Bolt followed Uber’s move and unveiled electric motorcycles in Kenya in June 2021. The electric motorbikes are in use by Bolt Food Carriers who do food delivery and will be expanded into the ride hailing business.


There are some startups that are solely dedicated to providing charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. These include Chaji Energy and E-safiri.

UNEP’s Electric Mobility Programme has also added a voice in the race to electrify the boda boda industry in Kenya. Earlier in 2021, UNEP donated 99 electric bikes that are in use in Kenya in Karura Forest, Kenya Power and Lighting company, Power Hive and Kisumu County.