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The Entrepreneur

Former World Bank Contractor Making Waves as a Fashionista



Chebet Mutai- Waza Wazi

“ Your purpose is your endgame. That is your legacy. So if you start working on your purpose you are building your legacy every day. Ease is a greater threat to your progress than hardship. So keep going. Keep working, until you win,” says Chebet Mutai.

Chebet Mutai is the owner of WazaWazi fashion house, a 10-year-old Kenyan company that specializes in manufacturing high-end leather products. In May 2012, she bootstrapped her venture by selling a personal car and including dipping her savings.

“ I had about Ksh 500000 ($4,326.38) and I had a partner who bought the machinery and that is how I started. In the first three months of manufacturing, life was hard. Not even my friends inquired what I was doing and that is when I learned that the life of an entrepreneur can be lonely,” says Chebet.
Enter Sukhdev Kavr Mahajan, 80, a faithful client of WazaWazi a Swahili name cobbled up of two words, which combined mean
‘open-minded’. The lady who is long on the tooth is a ’fastidious client with deep pockets to boot.

And for your information, she’s the proprietor of the premier Mada Group of Hotels, which have a footprint within the three East Africa States of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

“ I began doing business in Kenya in 1972,” says Mahajan in her office cum shop based in Valley Arcade, a Nairobi suburb frequented by well-heeled individuals “ and to be honest the products of WazaWazi are exceptionally crafted. And the leather is genuine and smells natural,” she adds.


Coincidentally WazaWazi also has a shopping outlet here. To market, it’s products WazaWazi uses social media but disproportionately word of mouth does the trick. The company purchases its leather exclusively from one of the 16 tanneries found in Kenya.

Kenya is home to the third largest livestock population in Africa and leather, represents a potential area for sustainable economic growth and employment. Reportedly the leather sector in Kenya contributes 0.3 percent
to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Isaac Noor, CEO of the Kenya Leather Development Council (KLDC), an 11-year-old State Corporation established to enhance
the local leather industry told Bird that Kenya exports 90 per cent of its leather in raw form (semi-processed wet blue) while only 10
percent is exported as finished products.

The leather industry is estimated to be worth Sh15 trillion ($150 billion) across the globe. With Africa commanding only
four percent. Kenya commands less than one percent equivalent to Sh21 billion (US$ 181,739,506).

To date, Chebet routinely attends trade fairs in the fashion capitals of the world including in Hong Kong, Frankfurt Las Vegas, and New York cities.
Certainly, a precocious entrepreneur Chebet’s article of faith in business genuflects towards manufacturing quality goods believing that with the passage of time, ‘ a personal angel’ arguably weighs in leading to a sizable footfall into a business.


“ Quality is a way of life. It’s not a thing you do in the end. It’s something you do every step of the way,” says this former alumna of Kenyatta University (KU), a local institution, where she studied French and Economics. She names her leather bags after people who have influenced her kaleidoscopically and conspicuously for now they all
happen to be Africans.

waza wazi

Kwena and Kwena Large

Presently she gloats about three particular leather bags including the ‘Kittony Bag’ dedicated to Kenyan female veteran politician Zipporah Kittony, the Makosewe bag dedicated to late Kenyan media personality Grace Makosewe, the Luoch dedicated to Connie Aluoch a Kenyan stylist, and the Wangari Ladies Work Tote Bag, allotted to the late Nobel Prize laureate, Prof Wangari Maathai.

It turns out Chebet’s entrepreneurial journey was spurred by an altruistic sense of self-guilt borne from working for the World Bank beginning in 2006 after the completion of her undergraduate studies. After working at the Bretton Woods institution for three years she came face-to-face with her eureka moment.

After flying around sub-Saharan Africa as a development consultant, Chebet realized problems ravaging the continent were homogeneously similar regardless of what country one was referring to. From hindsight, it did not make sense then, for this present-day 38-year-old peripatetic merchant, for a work-related flight to cost an estimated $ 5000, and when you include logistical and administrative charges the figure would almost double.

“ The cost of logistics and administration were higher than the impact of what we were doing as agents of development. So I thought ‘ ok what I need to do is come up with a business that would allow me to create jobs for the scourge of unemployment was and continues to be a big problem in the continent.

And since I loved clothes and fashion importing handbags from Dubai, I thought let me start a fashion business and create employment and that’s why I began this business.” Unemployment in sub-Saharan Africa stands at around 6%, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). But most of the work available is unskilled or low-skilled, in part because the region has the world’s lowest levels of access to higher education.


So, although many Africans are employed, 70 % of Sub-Saharan Africa’s workforce is vulnerable, says the ILO. The global average for vulnerable occupations is 46 %. According to ILO Business leaders in 22 out of 34, sub-Saharan African countries told the World Economic Forum three years
ago that unemployment and underemployment were there
most pressing concerns.

And as is often said, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. To date, Chebet has employed 16 people in her factory. “ I made a conscious decision that as African people we must stop theorizing about the change that is required for evidently poverty is ubiquitously present and as individuals, we must
step up to ameliorate the depressing situation. For it’s only then that we shall be able as a continent to lift more people out of poverty,” says Chebet.

Evelyn Ndelio, 50 is a quintessential employee of WazaWazi and belongs to the ethnocentrism-leaning Massai community of Kenya. “ Chebet sent emissaries to our village in our ancestral Kajiado County, seeking women who were conversant with beading. And 10 of us volunteered to come to Nairobi to work for her.

Since then our lives have greatly improved for we are paid a reasonable monthly wage, a phenomenon that was rare in the past,” says Ndelio, dressed in a colourful loincloth dress. The array of leather goods manufactured in Chebet’s factory located within the verdant gated grounds of Jamhuri Show Ground here in Nairobi include leather backpacks, change purses, clutch bags, laptop or tablet leather cases beaded leather belts, jackets, and so on all targeting a discerning global clientele.

“ When I began the business, the local banking ecosystem was averse to loaning monies to budding entrepreneurs with solid business ideas but were lacking tangible assets to act as collateral,” says Chebet whose parents were typical civil servants working in Nakuru, Kenya’s fourth largest city, located 158 Km North West of Nairobi, the Capital.


To date, however, the local banking industry has undergone a seismic change that has witnessed lenders increasingly backing ideas with financial outlays even in instances where a putative entrepreneur is lacking a collateral asset. While the Kenya Government has identified the leather sector as one of the flagship projects for realizing its manufacturing sector targets under Kenya Vision 2030, a policy paper that targets to make the country into a newly industrialized middle-income country by 2030.

By Anne Ndung’u for Bird News Agency



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The Entrepreneur

Morris Mbetsa: The Kenyan Serial Techpreneur Breaking Boundaries With New Innovations



Morris Mbetsa

Mbetsa, who made headlines in 2018 with a prototype for Africa’s first human-carrying drone, is now on a mission to build the largest IoT service platform in the continent and has set up a factory to mass-produce tech sensors and devices.

By Anne Ndungu/bird story agency

At 32 years, Morris Mbetsa is on a mission to disrupt the tech industry. He is well known for creating Africa’s first human-carrying drone, and through his company Numeral IoT, has helped clients from across Africa in developing prototypes for their product ideas, manufacturing, and bring the product to market.

A Mandela Washington fellow, he was offered a three-month scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, where he received training in aeronautical engineering. After his fellowship, he interned with the technology giant IBM and returned to Kenya, where he was employed by Microsoft but resigned after ‘feeling underutilized’.

In this conversation, he talks about his entrepreneurial journey, his company’s innovations and his soon-to-be-announced merger with a global tech brand.

In 2018, you made history when you created and unveiled Africa’s first passenger drone. How was the innovation received, and how is it faring in the marketplace today?

The development of the drone taxi was met with excitement and concern from regulatory authorities and the public. On the one hand, our drone offered a range of exciting possibilities for enhancing efficiency and improving access to critical services like logistics where traditional infrastructure was lacking. On the other hand, there were concerns about safety, privacy, and potential misuse of this technology.

The project was a labour of love inspired by a desire to better the lives of African people.


As I started the project, I quickly realised it would require far more funds than anticipated. As a result, I was constrained to fund the project through small grants and well-wishers.

We pitched the project to a couple of investors, but it was deemed too risky and ahead of time. While the investors were impressed with the project’s potential, they did not believe it was a sound investment.

We couldn’t continue with the project without additional investors, prompting me to transition my focus to more practical devices that could be monetised.

What led you on this path of technology innovation?

Since I was a child, I have always had an interest in this field. I’m fascinated by electronics’ inner workings and enjoy tinkering with them. I then realised that most of the hardware we use in Africa is imported from other countries and not always designed with the African market in mind.

This sparked a fire in me to establish a factory where I could manufacture critical electronics and make them available to the African masses. By doing so, we will be able to bridge the digital divide and provide more people with access to modern technology that will help them improve their lives.


That’s why in 2019, I formed my company Numeral IOT. Numeral, suggests a focus on numbers, which are fundamental to binary computer languages, and reflects the digital nature of our company and IoT, showing our involvement in the Internet of Things.

Our company offers services to clients from Tanzania, Liberia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. We have a global perspective and are not geographically restricted.

By incorporating IoT into standard hardware, we create innovative products that are more intelligent, connected, and better suited to meet the needs of the African market.

Before setting up the company, you travelled to China for specialised training. What did you learn from there that has proved useful in your entrepreneurial career so far?

I observed firsthand how the tech factories operated and the manufacturing process worked. One thing that struck me was that most factory workers were low-skilled labourers whose jobs didn’t require traditional school knowledge. This inspired me to work with my African people, even those with little education and provide employment opportunities for them.

I also made valuable connections with chip and component suppliers, who are crucial for our manufacturing. These connections have been beneficial in securing the necessary supplies and components for our manufacturing operations.


To date, what products has your company innovated and which one is your signature innovation?

Our company has produced several products, including speed governors, trackers, smart home devices such as smart bulbs and locks, security, and game-changing smart meters for gas, water, and electricity.

The Smart meters are revolutionary and unique in their features and capabilities. They offer solutions that are not available on the market and have opened doors for our company.

Due to our local manufacturing and the unique features of our smart meters, we have received significant interest and partnership opportunities from all over Africa.

What is the process of coming up with a new product at Numeral IOT?

Our research and development process is tailored to the scope, budget, and level of complexity of each project. Our team approaches research and development in a flexible and adaptable manner.

We base our decisions on large-order demands. We prioritise, however, understanding the needs and pain points of industry clients and organisations. Before producing a working prototype, the RND process typically takes at least three months. We take a systematic and thorough approach to R&D, critical for ensuring the final solution’s quality and feasibility.


What new product are you working on currently?

Our team is working on large-scale projects ranging from the LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) to solar industries. This project is related to developing solutions that combine these two energy sources to create more efficient and sustainable energy solutions for disadvantaged communities.

We are also in advanced talks to partner with a global tech firm. I can’t get into the details because the process is ongoing, but all I can only say is to be on the lookout for the name Spearhead.Inc.

Where do you see your company in the next five years?

Morris Mbetsa

Morris Mbetsa at his factory

To become one of, if not the largest electronics manufacturer in Africa, with a strong focus on IoT technology. We envision having one of the continent’s biggest IoT platforms, enabling Africans to get analytics on their connected devices at meagre costs.

This is an important goal that could significantly impact the development and adoption of IoT technology in Africa. We plan to accelerate the transition by having factories across the continent and investing in infrastructure and resources.

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The Entrepreneur

Jennifer Barassa:Top Kenyan Adman Who Began a Continental Company with Ksh 30



Jennifer Barasa
Jennifer Barassa

“My personal mantra is to work hard, work hard, work hard,work hard. Hard work never killed anyone. In all things have faith,” says Jennifer Nafula Barassa, Chief Executive 

Officer of Top Image Africa Ltd a 27-year-old advertising boutique with a footprint in 10 African countries.

Incidentally, Jennifer’s exploits in the marketing world have been enviable and the Kenyan society has taken note and somewhat reciprocated accordingly.

In 2011 for example she was appointed Chair of the all-important Board of the Constituency Development Board, clearly affirming her deftness in the sensitive area of corporate governance.

She has also sat on the Boards of several generic organizations amongst them the Kenya National Chambers of Commerce &Industry (KNCC&I) and has been a trustee of the College of Insurance.

In addition, she has sat on the Board of the Business Advocacy Fund for the Danish Embassy and Chandaria School of Business – United States International University ( USIU) Business Advisory Board.


According to a 2021 Board Diversity and Inclusion Survey report    Kenya’s gender diversity in the boardroom stood at 36 % in 2021 compared to the global average of 3 %.

And this East African nation could achieve gender parity in corporate boardroom representation by 2030, according to the report. 

Across the world, European-based countries lead the pack beginning with Norway at 39%, Finland at 30%, France at 26%, Germany and the United Kingdom at 17%, Australia at 15%, Spain at 13%, United States at 12%, Mexico at 6%, Japan and South Korea at 2%.

In Africa, women occupy only 12 % of corporate board seats according to the African Development Bank with Kenya leading, at 36 %.

Jennifer says for those women wishing to join boards it is very crucial for them to network

“Networking is very important, you must be great or good in what you do because your expertise and experience will be needed in solving both problems and adding value. You also need to be visible in society,” says Jennifer. 


Without a doubt, Jennifer ought to be applauded for daring to live her life on her terms at a time when patriarchalism held sway in the corporate world. If one were in search of a trailblazer, Jennifer is the true deal.

For a woman who is now 70 years old, time surely does fly fast. 

Embodying a tenacious spirit, Jennifer arguably bootstrapped her present envious life by daring to confront her straitened circumstances that were then ubiquitous in the famously forbidding hood of Eastlands, Nairobi, in Maringo Estate, Block E1.

“I come from a large family. My father was polygamous, but we were happy…. “Oh, those were the days when milk would be dropped at the doorstep by a milkman. The milk was in a classic glass bottle and covered with foil at the top. Those were the days when Elliot was the only brand of bread. We were lucky my father would afford such basics,” she reportedly told  the Standard newspaper

Today hardly anyone can associate her with her proletariat roots now that the so-called leafy suburbs in Nairobi’s caprice ecosystem have since become her stomping grounds.


But a sneak preview of her formal schooling will attest that Jennifer partially owes her success in the business world to her cerebral inclination.

Initiated formal schooling at public schools found in Nairobi including  Dr. Kraft Primary School (1960 – 1967) then moved to Ngara Girls for her O-Levels (1968 to 1971) where she ended up becoming the Head Girl then relocating to  Asumbi Girls (1972 to 1973) in South Nyanza for her A-Levels where her leadership skills c saw her tapped to become  Deputy Head of School, Jennifer it seemed was destined to be a leader.

 In 1974, she joined Kenyatta University, then a constituent college affiliated with the University of Nairobi for a bachelor’s degree in Education, which she completed in 1977.

Her first stop as a trained teacher was Lenana School where she taught English and Literature becoming the first African woman ever to tutor at the school.

 “Fortunately, I did not face any challenges. Being the first African woman to teach at Lenana School I was very welcomed by both male teachers and students. I had been interviewed by the Director of Education at the time Mr. James Kamunge at the Ministry of Education and I assured him that I was not going to have any problems teaching at Lenana School. I was fresh from the university and the school community felt that I had brought a fresh breath of air into the school being young and a woman,” Jennifer says.


Her ambitious nature would not allow her to teach for more than two years

 “I wanted to make more money, and I started applying for jobs. This was in 1979 when former President Daniel arap Moi decreed that companies increase their workforce by 10%. I got a job as a sales representative at Kodak and nobody could understand why I would leave a noble and flourishing teaching career to sell films in the street,” she remembers.

But her critics were quieted six months later after she got promoted to a marketing education co-coordinator, subsequently seeing her buy  her first car.

“At Kodak there was a lot of excitement by both colleagues and traders and I was appreciated by both.In fact, my boss then Mr. Neil Grenfel was so happy with my performance. I had been

recruited by Hawkins and Associates,  and they wanted to request them if they could find another Jennifer Barassa to join their Sales and Marketing department. I was a darling of both,” says Jennifer.

Customers and bosses alike seemingly went gaga with her

 Five years into the industry she parachuted upstairs becoming an accounts manager, after which she moved to Boots Pharmaceuticals, currently Beta HealthCare International to become the sales manager.


“ Networking is very important, you must be great or good in what you do because your expertise and experience will be needed in solving both problems and adding value,” says Jennifer. 

She then went along to work for various other blue-chip companies amongst them Johnson and Johnson (1989), Sterling Health (now GSK), and McCann Erickson (1994), all at the managerial level until she chose the road to entrepreneurship. 

“There was a lot of office politics in the organization (McCann Erickson) so I opted out.

Secondly, for many years, many of my friends encouraged me to get into business as they felt I had the PR  skills and innate acumen of being an entrepreneur,” says Jennifer.

Often in the land of the living, one is inadvertently influenced by a person to discover their earthly purpose and in the case of Jennifer, it was one Pamela Odede back in 1960. 


“Pamela’s family lived in the neighborhood. In 1960, Pamela arrived in Kenya from the USA. She was this tall beauty from the USA, driving a yellow Volkswagen car. That car is still etched in my mind to date,”  a smitten Jennifer reportedly told the Standard Newspaper.

Jennifer’s inquisitive nature got the better of her and she dared to ask her mother if one day, she would drive a car like that, the local newspaper reported.

“My mother told me; ‘Of course, you can!’ All I had to do was study hard,” the Standard reported her saying.

In hindsight, when parents affirm their children, they act as enablers, triggering a belief-in-my-self-attitude among children with arguably Jennifer being a quintessential by-product of this parental nurturing. 

In 1995, she launched Top Image, beginning as a promotion agency. 


So what’s the story behind Top Image

“I started it in my living room in Hurlingham. It was a one-woman show, but thanks to my networking, doors started opening,” says Jennifer.

One year later she opened an office around Nairobi’s Wilson Airport neighborhood with a single staff member who doubled up as a receptionist and secretary. For your INFO, Top Image was launched with Ksh 30. That’s right 30 bucks. 

“There were no computers back then. Therefore I wrote a handwritten proposal, which I paid Ksh 10 to be typed, and made two copies for Ksh20,” she recalls.

 Top Image started by merchandising for Kenya Breweries (now East African Breweries) and Total Motor Show before it took up below-the-line advertising. When Top Image first moved to the Wilson Airport offices back in 1996, Jennifer and her secretary waited for one, two, or three weeks before receiving a business call.

 But Jennifer persevered. And as a consequence of her doggedness, the company made its first Ksh One million in its first year of operation. 


Today, the company has branches in Cote D’Ivoire Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania Uganda, and is currently eyeing Zimbabwe. 

The client portfolio of Top Image reads like who is who in the market for it includes Safaricom, Bidco Africa, Samsung, Google, Visa, MTN, and so on.

Due to Top Image living up to its name, the brand has scooped various awards including being named in the Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies Survey in the 2008/2009 financial year.

As more and more people opt to engage in personal business they find themselves conflicted when faced with the choice of either leaving employment to engage in entrepreneurship or sticking to their jobs with many having the fear of the unknown.

As Candice Carpenter, founder of,  once said, “If you are committed to creating value and if you aren’t afraid of hard times; obstacles become utterly unimportant,” a truism that seemingly defines Jennifers’ entrepreneurial road. 


“ Entrepreneurship is daunting but one should make sure they have a solid business plan and are prepared to go through the cycle of ups and downs that is associated with the business. The area of mentorship is also of great importance. People need to hear success stories firsthand. Starting a business is not easy but the benefits outweigh those of being employed.

I encourage people who want to start a business to attend entrepreneurship classes in the generic Business Schools that are available in the country now. Finally, I also encourage women who are already in business to join business associations that provide women entrepreneurs mentorship programs such as the Association of Women Business Owners (KAWBO) and the Federation of Woman Entrepreneurs Association(FEWA) among others,” Jennifer advice women wishing to get into entrepreneurship.

Jennifer believes that for one to become a successful entrepreneur they need to be risk takers, optimistic, strong-willed, and passionate about what they are engaged in, and yes be a leader in the ecosystem they are operating in.

Meanwhile, the lowdown qualities of being dishonest, of entertaining procrastination, of being lazy, indecisive, and unfocused often derail a person’s road to success, says Jennifer.

Currently, there is a popular notion that advertising agencies have formed cartels that control the advertising budgets of corporate players, a feeling shared by Jennifer who possesses 38- years of experience in sales, marketing, and advertising.


“This is true for particularly above-the-line Advertising and not far below Line Advertising.

You find that a big percentage of the major international brands are controlled from the headquarters and there is always an alignment with agencies that are international or Pan African,” says Jennifer.

 She believes very strongly that there is an opportunity and a niche for smaller boutique agencies.

“ My challenge to smaller boutique agencies is to focus on two main things: creativity and client satisfaction. Word of mouth does amazing things! Large agencies have their challenges; so smaller agencies need to capitalize on this.” 

And one must also remember, says Jennifer, that it’s not only corporate players that have large advertising budgets.

“For Below the Line advertising, this is controlled at the national level because they deal with both national and local problems and offer local and national solutions,” says Jennifer.


So what makes one a great marketer?

“Marketing is a science one must learn or practice. However, you need both marketing and creative skills to become an excellent marketer. And one can easily get both through education, experience, and exposure,” says Jennifer.

She says that “ there has been an increase in a briefcase – fly-by-the night experiential agencies that offer services at a very low cost, are unprofessional, are corrupt and do not add value to the campaign.

“ Sadly, there is very little creativity but lots of copy-paste strategies. Creativity costs money and when there is a slowdown in the economy the first thing most companies chop is their marketing and advertising spend.” 

With a very lucrative career spanning more than 38 years who does she count as her preeminent mentor as she sits in the corner office of the head office located at Fortis Towers, Westlands- Nairobi?

“My mother, because she taught me the virtues of integrity and hard work. Mrs. Mary Okello is the first woman banker in Kenya and the founder of KWFT and Makini Schools.

Mrs. Pamela Mboya, was the first highly educated woman I came across when I was a younger girl. Finally Oprah Winfrey, the richest black woman in the world.”





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The Entrepreneur

Kenya’s Top innovator Creates First USB Cable Disrupting Foreign Domination



Anthony Muthungu with his team

Anthony Muthungu, 29, has inadvertently and indelibly inked his name to the hallowed corridors of Kenya’s manufacturing terrain after becoming the first Kenyan to manufacture USB cables, disrupting aeon years of a monopolistic chokehold enjoyed by foreign firms in the sector.

This milestone by a vicenarian is understandable when it’s borne that Kenya bears the enviable moniker of being Africa’s “Silicon Savannah,” including being the second-best innovation hub in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Global Innovation Index (2021) report with South Africa heading the pack.

“ India, Kenya, the Republic of Moldova, and Viet Nam hold the record for overperforming on innovation relative to their level of development for the 11th year in a row,” partially reads the report.

Muthungu, a computer engineering degree holder from Zetech University – a local institution whose innate genesis also can be traced to a daring local entrepreneur– has arguably become the first African drawn from within the East and Central Africa region to manufacture USB cables – that from a quality point of view – can stand toe to toe with their imported peers.

To prove his burgeoning outlier pedigree this pathfinder was in 2019 feted as being one of the top 40 entrepreneurs in Kenya aged below 40 by the local Business Daily newspaper brand. 

Two years later he was shortlisted for the Kenya-South Africa Chamber of Business award, a continental jamboree that shines the spotlight on entrepreneurial excellence.


According to the Association of Countrywide Innovation Hubs- a Kenyan focal point representing 17 counties out of a possible 47 whose objective is to support and build sustainable businesses and startups across Kenyan counties, Kenyan tech

start-ups topped the continent as they raised an impressive Ksh 21.4 Billion (US$ 177,593,359.14) of funding in 2020, underlining the alluring nature for local companies to thrive.

This level of funding is attributable to a socio-professional environment that is conducive to work notwithstanding Kenya’s unregulated start-up ecosystem.

Whereas countries like South Africa, Tunisia, Senegal, and Nigeria have pegged regulatory policies to govern start-ups, Kenya has no government policy that caters to the sector.

Anthony Muthungu at his work station

Anthony Muthungu with his team at TOTOSCI Holdings

But in 2021 the country took baby steps towards reorganizing the sector by sponsoring a start-Up Bill, 2021 which seeks to govern the interactions and relationships between start-ups, the government, investors, incubators, and ultimately consumers.

“Efforts have been made to create an enabling environment for local innovation to thrive. For instance, through the Science, Technology, and Innovation Act, of 2013 the Kenya National Innovation Agency ( KeNIA) was established to coordinate innovation efforts in the country. 


Some include offering linkages to investors, creating and disseminating guidelines on commercialization, among other roles,” says George Masila, communications manager, KeNIA.

Based in Kirinyaga County, a rural and agricultural-rich enclave found in Central Kenya, 136 km South of Nairobi, Muthungu’s two-year-old TOTOSCI holdings limited, which produces

between 300 to 500 USB cables daily, owes its existence to an unlikely occurrence.

In 2020 after completion of an undergrad degree, he opted to pursue an entrepreneurial career rather than seek formal employment believing fortune favored the brave and registered TotoSci Academy – a mobile school that taught science, technology, engineering, and arts to children aged between 4-17 years.

The name TotoSci is derived from two words -Toto stands for a child in the Kiswahili dialect, the highly spoken language within the East Africa region, while Sci is an abbreviation for Science.


And as is normal in the capricious world of entrepreneurship the school was shuttered after the global Covid-19 epidemic set foot in Kenya on 12 March 2020.

Housebound and with no work to do, his restless entrepreneurial spirit stirred him to design a ventilator. Then one day while transferring research data from his phone to a laptop he hit a snag.

“ At my house, I had six USB cables and none was working. I thought I was probably jinxed. But coincidentally I discovered my friends too were facing a similar challenge. I then opted to buy their faulty cables at Ksh10 (US $ 0.083) per piece and within a fortnight I had 7,000 cables, which I dismantled hoping to discover what the problem was. What I discovered was the USBs were of low quality,” says Muthungu who initially wanted to become an army officer.

“ If you ask me why I wanted to join the army, I cannot tell you why. Even when I was already engaged in innovation, I tried three times before giving up in 2013, 2014, and 2015. In all of these competitions, running was a problem, because l was always among the last. In 2014, I placed 129 out of 142,” says Muthungu.

Meanwhile, as is routinely taught in business school, opportunities often creep in during crises as Muthungu discovered with the USB fiasco.


“I documented each of the 7,000 USB cables and I identified the problem and decided to fill the gap and decided to build something that is ten times better than what was already in the market,” says Muthungu.

Unfortunately, even though the USB cables have to date received approval from including the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), a 48-year-old government organization that ascertains local products comply with international standards, and the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency (KEPROBA), the Kenyan market is seemingly oblivious to the quality of the product.

“It’s probably a colonial mentality hangover where the locals think anything made in Kenya is inferior to imports while others think I should sell the item cheaply because it’s locally made,” says Muthungu who invested an estimated Ksh 3 million ($ 24,916.94), monies he had been loaned by a friend to begin the company that relies heavily on social media to market itself.

A TotoSci-manufactured USB cable retails for between Ksh 135 ($1.12) to Ksh 200 ($1.66), prices that compete favorably with imported contraptions found on the Kenyan street.

Currently, the company has employed five people directly – all engineers -with an additional 20 indirectly on the supply chain, says Muthungu who complains of a need to tame the high tax regime that defines the local market that disadvantages upstarts.


The machines he uses in the factory are imported from India and China.

Admitting that doing business is not for the faint-hearted, Muthungu says he’s into entrepreneurship for the long haul.

“I am a dyed-in-the-wool industrialist and even if I was making Ksh1($ 0.0083) profit per USB cable and I sold say to one million people, I would make a tidy profit of Ksh 1 million ( $8,305.65 ) and despite the inimical environment that is Compounded by high taxation I know no situation is permanent.

This calling is not for everyone. When I sought to find if anyone in Africa was involved in manufacturing USB cables so that we could compare notes I pulled a blank,” says Muthungu.

In  2023 TOTOSCI holdings limited hopes to begin producing mobile phone accessories with the end goal of eventually assembling mobile phones by 2025.




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