Kenya unveils business acceleration program Startup Savanna for early-stage entrepreneurs

KENYA – The government of Kenya through the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development, has launched Start-up Savanna, an international business acceleration program that will link Kenyan startups to global angel investor and business support resource networks. 

The program opens a platform where local startups can be facilitated to access a global network of events, accelerators and incubators, mentors, investors, and corporate partners which in the end will attract much-needed technical expertise and funds to enable them to scale their operations within and beyond Kenya.

Betty Maina, Cabinet Secretary for Industrialization expressed confidence in the programme saying that it creates a reliable government-bank pipeline where local startups and SMEs with proven viable projects can access business training and equity funds.

“Through Startup Savanna, Kenyan startups will gain access and linkage to international events and conferences to market their innovations as well as compete globally for partnerships with global industries and business experts for mentorship programs and training. The startups will also secure opportunities to be part of global incubator and accelerator programs for extensive business support and investment prospecting during investor forums and pitch sessions,” she noted. 

“Startup Savanna which targets early-stage startups, growth stage enterprises, and mature ventures poised for international expansion is expected to expose an estimated 1,000 Kenyan startups to global networks and match approximately 175 Kenyan startups to mentors, investors, international accelerators, and corporates,” she added.

“Through Startup Savanna, Kenyan startups will gain access and linkage to international events and conferences to market their innovations as well as compete globally for partnerships with global industries and business experts for mentorship programs and training’’

Betty Maina – Cabinet Secretary for Industrialization, Kenya

Speaking during the launch, Startup Savanna Team Leader, Manasseh Miruka said: ‘’Startup Savanna seeks to continuously deepen the support government is providing to startups and SMEs. Through the project, we will showcase Kenyan innovation and entrepreneurial spirit globally through interactions with global peers, investors, support partners, and entrepreneurship ecosystems. We will do this while harnessing the knowledge and learning to pursue business improvement and expansion to increase Kenya’s participation and involvement in global innovation.”

The establishment of a ready training and funding pool is expected to ignite interest in entrepreneurship appetite for innovation and technology absorption among major employment generating sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, and traditional companies while facilitating commercial relationships with startups in the country.

It will also strengthen access to international resources for Kenyan startups and support women entrepreneurs.

The Economic Survey 2020 showcases startups as the bedrock of Kenya’s Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector which plays an important role in job creation, value addition, income generation, linkages with large firms, industrial development, and overall economic growth.

It is estimated that the MSE sector employed 15 million (or 83%) people out of the total of 18.1 million jobs created in Kenya in 2019.

Kenya’s nascent startups’ scene has suffered sluggish growth with many startups closing shop within two years due to lack of funds and business skills to help their founders access patient capital as well as wade through legal challenges that are a major impediment to business success. 

Nairobi is an attractive destination for angel investor funds channelled through incubation hubs mostly targeting information technology startups in various economic sectors. 

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