Kakuma Ventures revealed as Finalist in the 2022 Ashden Awards at the international London Climate Action Week conference.

Kakuma Ventures is among one of twelve outstanding organisations delivering innovative climate solutions that have reached the finals of the prestigious 2022 Ashden Awards – a line-up announced at the closing ceremony of the international London Climate Action Week conference Yesterday.  

203 organisations applied for the 2022 Ashden Awards, and Kakuma Ventures is one of just two finalists in the category of Energising Refugee Livelihoods after a rigorous assessment and judging process involving on-the-ground visits and input from sector experts.

Award winners will be announced in late October just before the world climate conference COP27.  

Kakuma Ventures is a social enterprise in the Kakuma refugee camp that exists to enable emerging markets to excel in a globalized economy so that refugees and members of the host community and other underserved populations have access to digital opportunities in education, employment, and business. We have connected to the Internet more than 1400 people in the camp, among them students, freelancers, and entrepreneurs representing less than a percentage of the camp’s population. 

Innocent, co-founder and Managing Director of Kakuma Ventures, said: “Reaching the Ashden Award finals means everything I aspired to see as an entrepreneur running a business that serves the displaced. This proves to the world how the resilience of refugees through our innovative approaches is a valid solution to solving the complex problems that affect 100 million displaced people around the world.”

Ashden, a UK charity, has been spotlighting transformative climate solutions for more than 20 years through their prestigious Awards scheme. 

Harriet Lamb, CEO of Ashden, said: “We are at such an urgent moment in history that world-leading climate solutions are needed in every sector and every business. Through the Ashden Awards we highlight innovative businesses, social enterprises and non-governmental organisations showcasing the most effective and holistic solutions”.  

“Our rigorous awards research underscores the need for more support for green jobs, skills and livelihoods. These inspiring finalists, selected for their achievements and innovations, show how a low carbon future can also be a fairer one.” 

Through the work of Kakuma ventures and as digital transformation shapes the future, more and more people in the camp are seizing digital opportunities to transform their lives and prepare for their future beyond the refugee camp by learning new skills and discovering new markets and industries for employment and business.

How Kakuma Ventures Addresses the Challenges Faced by People on the Receiving End of Aid

Meet Innocent – Founder and Managing Director of Kakuma Ventures. He wrote an opinion piece on cash voucher assistance (CVA) that was published by Cash Learning Partnership on September 23. The 5-minute read emphasized the mission and vision of Kakuma Ventures by reopening conversations on the microeconomics of the poor, the dignity of beneficiaries, value for money, aid program design and implementation, and participation of beneficiaries among many other complex topics.

From the start of Kakuma Ventures, Innocent visioned to build the self-reliance of marginalized communities and embarked on the mission to enable emerging markets in lower resource areas including refugee camps to excel in a globalized economy. Kakuma Ventures has been achieving this complex mission by building partnerships with targeted communities and supporters of the agenda 2030. The enterprise founded and led by displaced persons provides residents of the Kakuma refugee camp access to information by connecting them to the internet for developing critical skills for self-reliance and building enterprises that solve the most pressing problems in this refugee community.

Partner with us to be part of the transformation that promotes equity, diversity, and inclusion for all by supporting a refugee student in Kakuma refugee camp to connect to the internet to access content on their school’s server or by launching a refugee entrepreneur systematically excluded from the credit system.

Thank you,

KV Team

How Kakuma Ventures is changing lives in Kakuma Refugee Camp

Kakuma Ventures has been around in the Kakuma refugee camp for just 4 years. During this time, the enterprise founded and led by the refugees themselves embarked on a critical mission to identify and solve one critical problem affecting the people confined to Kakuma camp to solve most problems across different sectors.

Something that captured our eyes was about solving the basics like typical NGOs that have been working in the refugee camps for decades. However, Kakuma Ventures as an entity of particular concern to problems facing its founders and managers pioneered a different approach to revolutionize the model of dependency on aid and built resilience.

Kakuma Ventures enables the displaced to be co-creators of solutions for their own lives and destiny rather than relying on solutions developed by others who are not related to their problems in any way but motivated by humanitarianism.

After crafting our own road, we have now lived to see energized youth who transform their refugee community by connecting to the internet. Over 700 people connect to Kakuma Ventures access points daily for their work, communication, and education needs.

To do this we have succeeded to build 6 wifi zones and 17 access points to drive productivity and innovation in the Kakuma camp and Kalolbeyei settlement. 80% of targeted locations are yet to be connected… Become a co-builder of wireless networks in refugee camps.

Enabling Access to Learning in Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei Settlement

We are making big progress! It is back-to-school season in Kakuma Refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement where Kakuma Ventures provides Wi-Fi coverage with 17 access points in 6 Wi-Fi zones. Students, parents, and teachers in this part of the world are grateful, but also wondering what will happen amid the pandemic!

Our goal is to ease their concerns. This situation is affecting millions of students, parents, and teachers in thousands of remote villages in the region where our solution is needed. We aim to help by expanding our wireless network solutions closer to the people and provide them with the access they need to the internet. This will help them get access to learning and supplies as needed.

How are we helping? This opening school term we have provided free access to 10 more locations in the Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement at senior secondary school, bringing the total number of subsided access to 110 girls and boys. One of them, Hou, has to travel up to 1 hour to reach the Wi-Fi zone.

At Kakuma Ventures we are working hard to expand our network to cover most blocks in the Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement.

KV Team

Winner of Grant to Promote WiFi Hotspot in Kakuma 1

We recently won a grant from Lutheran World Federation to serve refugees in Kakuma.

We are building WiFi Hotspot service for educational centers and cafes.

We have an update! We recently were awarded a grant from the Lutheran World Foundation to extend our wifi hotspot to youth centers and cafe’s around Kakuma Block 1 at the Kakuma Refugee Camp.

We now have five total hotspots and hope to grow our user base to over 1000 people using our service. Please share the update with your friends.

If you’d like to help us fund the project. Please reach out to Kurt or Innocent.

Winner of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s GSBI Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins Accelerator

Today, we are excited to announce that we were selected to join the GSBI Social Entrepreneurship Acclerator. Our schedule will be as follows.

1. Introduction – October 2019
2. Impact Model – November 2019
3. Business Model – December 2019
4. Growth Plan – January 2020
*Midway assessment completed by GSBI* – February 2020
5. Financial Plan & Investment Ready – March 2020
6. Scalable Operations – April 2020
7. Preparing for In-Residence – May 2020

Phase II: In-Residence at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
*Schedule subject to change:
● Arrival at Georgetown – Wednesday, May 27
● Kickoff & Welcome Reception- Thursday, May 28
● Impact Model – Friday, May 29
● Business Model & Growth Plan – Saturday, May 30
● Investor Diligence – Sunday, May 31
● Mock Investor Meetings – Monday, June 1
● SEM Showcase & Celebration Dinner – Tuesday, June 2
● Debrief, Wrap Up, & Departures – Wednesday, June 3
● Receive Graduation Documents and Complete Program – June 12

Massive Flooding in Kakuma

There is massive flooding in Kakuma following heavy rains in the region. Kakuma soil is believed to be unpenetratable by water and poor drainage system is worsening the situation. Bridges and roads linking to major cities are flooding causing a delay and shortage of supplies delivery to the camp. Roads aroumd the camp are unpassable and movement is limited. Stucking mud is challenging both motorists and pedestrians who are forced to stay in one location. Business activities are relenting and just a few people are seen in business streets. Some shops are inaccessible. Frogs have hijacked water pools that have formed almost everywhere singing multi-vocal songs. Mosquitoes are everywhere and everyone should sleep in a mosquitoe net now.
Join efforts with Kakuma Ventures to respond to disasters that are affecting life of around 200k people in the camp. Help to put in place a strong supply chain system that will ensure availability and movements of supplies in any hard time like the current one.

About the Grand Challenges Humanitarian Application

From the website: http://www.grandchallenges.ca/funding-opportunities/
Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact®. Funded by the Government of Canada and other partners, Grand Challenges Canada funds innovators in low- and middle-income countries and Canada. The bold ideas Grand Challenges Canada supports integrate science and technology, social and business innovation – known as Integrated Innovation®.
One of the largest impact-first investors in Canada, and with a feminist investment approach, Grand Challenges Canada has supported a pipeline of over 1000 innovations in more than 80 countries. Grand Challenges Canada estimates that these innovations have the potential to save up to 1 million lives and improve up to 28 million lives by 2030.
Grand Challenges Canada is hosted in Toronto at the Sandra Rotman Centre at the University Health Network.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, the UK Department for International Development, and Grand Challenges Canada are partnering on Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge. Aligned with the Grand Bargain, we aim to identify, promote, and accelerate groundbreaking local solutions that have the potential to save and significantly improve the lives of people that are affected by conflict.
We seek life-saving or life-improving innovations to help the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach people impacted by humanitarian crises caused by conflict. These innovations will involve a connection to the private sector and input from affected communities in order to provide, supply, or locally generate safe drinking water and sanitation, energy, life-saving information, or health supplies and services to help conflict-affected

Application Questions

Our application for Grand Challenges is about a new logistics and supply chain model for the camp.
Kakuma Ventures Mission: Building a logistics and supply chain center for small businesses focused on basic living needs of those in a refugee camp. Our goal is to start businesses that use existing technology to solve food, water, and energy problems in the refugee camps.

What is the problem addressed by your innovation?
The problem we are addressing is the financing and distribution of needed supplies for basic living in refugee camps. In Kakuma as in many refugee camps, access to safe-drinking water is limited to bottled water and pumped water that is often contaminated or too salty for drinking. Furthermore, food often rots due to insects that penetrate bags or harsh weather that rots perishables like vegetables. Lastly, distribution and storage in the refugee camps are limited to a few solely owned entities that benefit only a few people.

What is your proposed innovation?
We plan to build a logistics, storage and distribution business for the access to products that can solve the problems above. The center organization is called Kakuma Ventures. We will create small hubs in the refugee camp that have clean water facility (filters and cooling), bins for perishables, and hermetic bags for beans and grains. These centers will be run and financed by our team and entrepreneurs / CEOs of each hub. Additionally, we will operate a logistics business with a truck (city to city) and motorcycles for delivery.
How will this innovation address this problem more effectively than current approaches?
The only current approach is independently owned stores that sell foodstuff to a very small population. We have not seen other water filtration efforts, nor the use of new technology to protect expiration of food. The uniqueness of our approach is three-fold: 1) Scale. Our plan is to develop this at scale throughout the entire refugee camp. 2) Use of logistics. By building a center, small spokes, and using motorcycles, we can create a distribution platform for any type of goods to be easily distributed. 3) Empowerment. We will empower locals to operate the hubs and distribution. So we will finance them in terms of investment and require a return. This will allow us to become sustainable and grow.
Describe how your innovation is relevant to vulnerable, hard to reach populations affected by conflicts.

Our focus is on refugee camps. Most people in refugee camps have been affected by conflict and when they reach the camps. They have little access to goods. Our goal is to make a refugee camp, a city like any other. The first thing that is needed is distribution and logistics. Using our truck we will deliver goods from Kitale and surround cities. We are already discussing with a partner name Opportunigee to expand to Nakivale and Bibi in Uganda. And over time, this can be a large distribution business to all refugee camps in the region. To make this successful, we need distribution from the cities to the camps and within the camps.
We are addressing the supply constraint for access to clean water and healthy food. There are over 200k people in Kakuma who can benefit from this. Furthermore, there is an increasing reduction in food supply. UN currently distributes food in the camp once per month and the budget is becoming more restrained. And there is decreasing income from the UN.

Why is the Supply Chain Important?
Vicente Escribano, UNHCR’s head of its supply management logistic service, said, “The efficiency of our supply chain is often literally a matter of life and death to the refugees and families we serve, so any improvements we can make could have a massive impact.”
Our idea focuses creating a platform whereby any product can reach anyone in the refugee camp. Initially, we focus on water and food. Once we solve this problem then we plan to add other new products such as home supplies and solar power like m-kopa. In any developing economy, infrastructure and logistics is the first investment needed. Throughout Africa today, governments are building roads and infrastructure for the dissemination of goods. Likewise, we are building the infrastructure for goods circulate within the refugee camp. The distribution platform is the first big difference.
Next, the second big difference is that we are partnering and financing local entrepreneurs to build and expand quickly. With the grant, we will build a distribution center and several small hubs. So we will own these. Then we will provide the initial capital investment / loan for the supplies such as the water filters, vegetable bins, refrigeration, hermetic bags, and security. We will recoup that over time and increase investment provided the entrepreneur pays back within our time frame. The key is that we will own the core infrastructure and rent out what is inside. To facilitate movement of goods, we will purchase a truck and motorcycles. The motorcycles will be rented out to locals who will help deliver products.

How will we do it?
The idea focuses on social and business innovation that combines existing western technology, established economic development methods from places like China, and mobile micro-financing unique to Africa. We have an existing organization that has been operational from almost 1 year called Kakuma Ventures. They have executed the initial business plan of water filtration and have been testing this within the camp already. We already finance the entrepreneurs via mobile lending on m-pesa.

Business Plan

Relief agencies normally spend as much as 80% of their proceeds on logistics and supply chain, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres. KV wants to fill the gap that UN and other humanitarian agencies have in spending on logistics to reach refugees.
Our innovation, again, focuses on providing fresh water, food, and energy to refugee camps by building distribution and logistics. The technology exists today but the distribution does not. Over time, we expect to increase product types distributed in our facility.
Our goal is to make the supply chain within the camp more efficient. If we can do that we build an infrastructure that any organization or private company can leverage to distribute goods. Learn more about The Evolution of Cheap Van Leasing by reading this article.
Women Empowerment:
We empower both men and women entrepreneurs. Our Kakuma Ventures team was founded with 50% women. One is currently our CFO and the other one is CEO of our water filtration project. We will continue to keep an equal percentage of women as part of our team and entrepreneurs whom we fund. We deeply believe that we need to empower women in the camps.
We will be able to track our progress by using a few KPIs.
1. Amount of fresh water filtered daily
2. Amount of food sold within the refugee camp – first Kakuma then expanding.
3. # of entrepreneurs we empower to help us build the logistics and distribution centers
4. Finally, the repayment of loans and profits on the business. The key is sustainability
5. # of different products distributed
6. Other will evolve
Proof of Concept
Our proof of concept (PoC) was started one year ago and current project is an ongoing concern. We launched the project 1 year ago and have an incorporation in Nairobi. The goal of this is to stimulate our activity.
Expansion of PoC: We will expand the investment throughout Kakuma 1 which is the most dense part of Kakuma. Here, we will invest in 1 large distribution warehouse and 3 small distribution stores that include water filtration, food storage, 5 motorbikes for delivery, a moto repair center and a truck for delivery from Kitale. By starting in Kakuma 1 we can test the model of distribution based on needs and density. We estimate that the initial cost for Kakuma 1 will be around $75k-100k. Once we prove the model, then we will replicate the model in Kakuma 2-5. The cost to replicate will be around $30k per additional area.
We believe that we can execute Kakuma 1 within 6 months and the rest of the camp within 12 months. The activity planning is as follows:
Month 1: Nairobi – Kakuma planning period. Creating a visual map of how to implement the logistics center. Purchase of vehicles and building supplies.
Month 2-3: Building of initial warehouse and stores. Simultaneously, recruiting entrepreneurs to run the centers, stores, and transportation. Putting together contracts and agreements with each. Putting together a financial system to track income statements.
Month 4: Purchase of water filtration, food storage bins / hermetic bags, starting delivery of food from Kitale / Nairobi.
Month 5: Operation starting and monitoring of financial expenses.
Month 6: On going operations in Kakuma 1. Make adjustments and begin planning for roll out into other areas.
Goal: Raise $250,000
Warehouse: $50,000
Water Filters:
4 in Kakuma 1
2 in Kakuma 2
2 in Kakuma 3
2 in kakuma 4
2 in Maloney
Minimum investment $1,400 * 12 points = $16,800
Breakdown: water filter $300, refrigerator $400, accessories (bottles, disposable cups, chair, table, water tank): $300, renovation $250, electrical wiring and connection $150
Food storage:
4 in Kakuma 1
2 in Kakuma 2
2 in Kakuma 3
2 in kakuma 4
2 in kalobey
Minimum investment $7,500 * 12 stores = $90,000
Logistics (transport of people and goods)
1 truck $35,000
15 motorbikes $1300*15 = $19,500

Calling All Partners

Kakuma Ventures operates as a cooperative and a partnership. We work together on different businesses and share the profits based on pre-agreed terms for each business. We understand that if businesses succeed, we are all better off. Our goal in the end is to create a venture capital partnership – just like in Silicon Valley. We envision a real city where we can live in small houses, go to school, eat at McDonald’s, ride bikes and more. We welcome all companies to visit and learn about our situation. As a densely populated group, there are actually lots of opportunities.
First, we will partner with overseas supply companies like CHEP, Lifestraw, ZeroFly, and Picsnetwork.or and others who can supply us product at cost. We will also approach vehicle and motorcycle companies to get cheap transport. It is essential we work with UN and WFP. Kurt’s close friend runs the WFP Post Harvest lost initiative in Kampala. And the UN is reducing food aid to refugees to once per month. Lastly, local and national support is key. We have a legal company already set up and need visibility to policy-makers officials from the Government of Kenya (i.e. The Camp manager, District commissioner, area chief), and finally support from community leaders, religious leaders, and organization (soccer clubs, local initiatives).
The private sector is supported by both the refugees and the Kenyan nationals. The humanitarian sector is supported by UN agencies (UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF, UNFPA) and the international and local NGOs ( IRC, LWF, NRC, AAHI, AAR JAPAN, NCCK, DON BOSCO, RED CROSS KENYA, WORLD VISION, FILMAID INTERNATIONAL, ISRAID, WIK, LOKADO, ETC). The local respondents we have both the refugees and the local Kenyans. We can partner with the NGOs that are supporting projects similar to ours i.e. NRC, ISRAID, AAHI. we can partner with them by bringing innovation in the industry in which they are working. We can work directly with both the locals and the refugees.
Please come join us and help us achieve our dreams.

Innocent Ntumba,
Co-Founder & Managing Director

Our Story

In May 2017 Kurt Davis visited Kakuma to teach an entrepreneurship class. He was traveling Africa for nearly half a year by that time with the goals to visit a refugee camp so to better understand the situation displaced people faced. Luckily during a hike in the Congo, Kurt met Aurore Vermylen who said she had a way Kurt could visit Kakuma. Aurore frequented Kakuma to research her Ph.D. During these times she became friends with Innocent who was from Congo and worked with French-speaking NGO’s. Aurore introduced Kurt to Innocent who played a bit tough at first asking “what will you offer to the refugees?’. Kurt said he could teach an entrepreneurship class. So Innocent agreed to host him and organized the class. It all started from there.

Innocent organized a workshop and invited over 120 people who joined from across the camp to attend the 3-day, 4-hour per day workshop.  The attendees were men and women from Somalia, Congo, Ethiopia, Sudan, Burundi and South Sudan. What was surprising is that Kakuma had a small business community already with food shops, mini-hotels, coffee shops, and electronic stores. Many were already thinking of or had actually started businesses with limited means. It was clear they were entrepreneurs-in-action. It was impressing and prompting to help. They just needed a small boost to get them going. “Could I help at all?” Kurt thought.

The first day was very hot, so hot that bottles of water were ordered for everyone. Idea creation was covered, forming teams, brainstorming ideas, and teamwork. By the end of the day, there were teams and each team had a business to pursue.  On the second day, the class dived into strategy, planning, and making a business plan. Many of the participants had an AHA moment starting to realize that getting these businesses started were easier than expected.

But that day, we had a small rift. One of the students vented: “our biggest problem is access to capital. We have no money to get our businesses going. It is always the problem here.”‘ Kurt responded defiantly, “‘what money do you need? Did you try to raise money? Do you know how much money you actually need? I bet you don’t need it.” The student did not like this response and repudiated, “I don’t think you understand what we face here. You should be sensitive to the surroundings and ask us these questions before you begin.” Again, Kurt did not acquiesce “‘I’m here, I’ve been in Africa half a year. I get it but I’m not here to sympathize, I’m here to show you how to do this. And you know what, it’s not that different from other parts of the world, even parts of America. You have everything here: people with capital running small businesses, community resources, and human support. Let’s evaluate this during tomorrow’s financial planning session and we will calculate how much capital you need. I bet we can start all of these businesses.’”  The student still was not convinced but he agreed to stick it out.

That discussion was challenging – how to give the Refugees a boost? How much money is actually needed to start these businesses?

On the third day, participants presented 13 business plans – complete with financial plans. The group selected a few winners based on the need and reasonable capital requirements. It became obvious to all that most of these businesses needed little startup capital. Some could be funded with no startup capital, others from $500 to $1000. We brainstormed ways to raise money. They could

1) pull capital amongst themselves as a group loans mechanisms;

2) ask other small store owners for loans;

3) raise from some NGOs;

4) online funding.

Per 4, Kurt could raise money from outside by launching a website and online funding page. What was most intriguing to was that everyone wanted capital raising to be a legitimate business lending / investing operation – no handouts. They will repay the investments so that they would receive larger investment in the future. They just wanted to be business people and earn their living. So the commitment to start a fund, a venture capital fund that will seed these businesses. All were excited. That was the birth of Kakuma Ventures –  the first venture capital fund focused on financing businesses started for and by displaced people.