It appears that the Kenyan tech scene is one of the major reasons why the US Ambassador to Kenya, Meg Whitman, considered the job in the first place. This was revealed by The Citizen following an impressive and exhaustive interview reported by the publication.
To note, Ms. Whitman has never been a diplomat in her life. She has been into tech leadership, with stints at e-commerce website eBay, where she grew the company from 300 employees to over 15,000 and 8 billion in revenue over a decade or so, and her reigns as HP’s CEO from 2011 until her exit in 2017.
She is also a member of multiple American corporations, and while in Silicon Valley, stated that she was a keen follower of the Kenya tech scene.
For instance, local products such as M-PESA have been one of the most admired services globally. Ms. Whitman says that M-PESA is still a marvel in Silicon Valley because it achieved what others couldn’t. To date, it is the leading mobile money product in Kenya and has been exported to other countries across Africa where Vodafone, which owns 40 percent in indirect interest in Safaricom, operates.
“How to take this digital environment and make it work for small- to medium businesses is a real passion of mine,” she was quoted by The Citizen.
“What Kenyans have to build on are things like the penetration of M-PESA. I’m not sure that Kenyans realize how impressive this is. In Silicon Valley, we all knew about M-PESA and were amazed at the penetration and how it had lifted people out of poverty, and now everyone in Kenya is banked,” adds Ms. Whitman.
While she lauds all these developments, the billionaire says that Kenya can still achieve much more in terms of how tech can influence and change the lives of people.
She quotes the presence of Google and Microsoft in Kenya. Both companies have since opened their innovation centres in Nairobi and are on an aggressive hiring spree to tap the best of talent that Kenya can offer.
“I think it’s very vibrant, but maybe at the beginning of the cycle,” she says. “What you need to create an even more vibrant tech scene is some large companies: Safaricom, now Google is here, Microsoft, among others. What they are doing is bringing in young tech workers and training them.”
She further mentions the benefits of venture capital for community investments in Kenya, citing that the country has some of the biggest investments in Africa.
Additional points include the benefits of STEM for extended gains, as well as the development of quality higher education institutions to develop and nurture that STEM talent.
You can read the entire catchy interview here.