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Kenyan gov't sets up $39 million venture capital fund

By Rebecca Wanjiku, IDG News Service
September 15, 2008 10:40 AM ET

IDG News Service - The Kenyan government has established a US$39 million venture capital fund to support innovative technology projects under the Ministry of Industrialization.

The government has contributed $25 million, while $14 million is drawn from private investors in Kenya, South Africa, the U.S. and the U.K., said John Lonyangapuo, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Industrialization.

The fund will seek to implement innovative projects that have stagnated due to lack of capital, Lonyangapuo said. The ministry is inviting engineers and computer scientists to forward business plans for projects that can improve various aspects of life, he added.

The ministry will work closely with the National Jua Kali Association, which has a database of all innovative projects in the informal sector.

"Venture capital is the missing link between the economics of innovation and the art of inventing," said Paul Kukubo, Kenya ICT Board CEO. "However, the starting point for innovation is not economics and money, but excitement about creativity."

The venture capital fund will complement efforts by the Innovators Fund, which was established to support projects by engineering students.

"There are so many innovative projects that students develop every year, and they die the same year," said Tony Lukano, an engineering student at the University of Nairobi. "We want to see how students can start running projects while still at the university."

Kevit Desai, a member of the Kenya ICT Board and convener of the annual Engineering Students' Exhibition, noted that government leaders must apply stronger leadership to innovation, as Kenya cannot afford to rely on old production technologies in the global competition race.

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