Julia Tran

Reporting back from the Kenyan Development Network Consortium

The Kenyan Development Network Consortium held a ?co-creation? workshop on Friday and Saturday, April 7-8, in Washington DC. (KDNC was founded by Macharia Waruingi, a long-time member of NextBillion.) Participants were mostly members of the Kenyan diaspora, working professionals with a passionate interest in bringing development benefits to Kenya through private sector vehicles. The event’s agenda focused on the health, agriculture, housing and ICT sectors, and appropriately drew attendees whose careers were in these fields.

Dr. Wilson Endege, a biotechnology researcher at the Harvard Institute of Proteomics, and Sam Njoroge, a Manufacturing Engineer of medical devices at MEDEFAB, discussed the possibility of establishing in-country manufacturing facilities for basic drugs and devices. The workshop was attended by several highly experienced ICT professionals and entrepreneurs who discussed ideas to bring connectivity to Kenya. Present were Joseph Manthi, CEO of Wanza Technologies; William S. Odongo, President of TKN Global Spectrum, a company specializing in management information systems (MIS) applications; and Peter S. Maina, President and COO of GeoNet (satellite-enabled low cost, high speed Internet and telephony).

The workshop nurtured a growing realization that among the participants, there was enough experience, expertise, and social network capital to accomplish the ambitious objectives under discussion. Saturday’s session ran four hours over the intended end time, and taking a Saturday meeting four hours over usually indicates that serious planning is underfoot. In case you?re looking to do business in Kenya, KDNC is a great networking platform and potentially a conduit to investment money, i.e., an effective channel for resources critical in bringing a business idea to fruition. They are a fun group of people, to boot.

Diasporic community members are often overlooked as potential partners by other major players in the development sphere, e.g., aid agencies and contractors, governments, and development banks, though the World Bank had hosted KDNC’s Friday session. Perhaps there are too few organizations like KDNC to raise the profile of immigrants working to improve their home countries through enterprise development. Do you know of organizations similar to KDNC? Are you thinking of establishing such an organization within your own community?