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Andela country manager on the future of Kenyan technology space

Joshua Mwaniki, the country manager of Andela
Joshua Mwaniki, the country manager of Andela Kenya office. COURTESY ANDELA.  

A stuffed toy lion from Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO is pinned on a notice board right next to a birthday card.

“That is from my guys. They picked an animal representation of me as a lion,” the note reads.

It’s on Joshua Mwaniki, the country manager of Andela Kenya’s office.

Started in Nigeria, Andela has been identifying and training techies across the two countries and most recently, the company received $24 million (Sh2.4 billion) funding from Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.

Mr Mwaniki, a trained lawyer seems at home in the realm of techies that surround him, even the lingo seems to be on a different level.

He landed in technology by sheer chance. His passion was to be an influencer, initially as a lawyer and maybe somewhere down the line, a politician.

“I think I did law at a time when it was a dirty business, that was before the last chief justice. I did encounter a lot of corruption while I was doing my pupilage and I remember asking myself whether I was happy making my name by being corrupt. I thought to quit and get into business where I met the right people to drive me into technology and after two and a half years I was acquired by Naspers and the rest is history,” he explains.
The lawyer-turned-techie has had a passion for influential technologies.

‘‘Ever since I was a kid I always looked to things that influence us. If you thought of what to make a difference, where would you go? Politics is what made a difference and I think over time I found technology would be influential and that became a very big interest of mine.”

Joining Andela

“When I was doing consultancy with Andela and I saw how they mix both aspects, the technology and education bit, it is a social enterprise that has got two of the things that really intrigue me. It seemed a very good fit at the time. Andela had very smart people on the team. That has to be an ambition to work with very smart people which means my ability to learn and scale what I know is greater.”

A different kind of influence

“The problem is that in Europe they have lots of growth in the tech sector. There is a lot more growth and a lot less talent so when companies are starting, the challenge is getting the correct talent and left scrapping the bottom because all other guys have gone for better jobs.

When it comes to Africa. We do not have a lot of opportunity. For the longest time, the focus was a doctor, lawyer, engineer, architect and such things. The main problem is that we do not have highly skilled people.

Africa does not have opportunity so the idea was we have to upscale the best and brightest, plant them into these companies in need of talent and in the same way these guys are being upscaled, they will grow, they will become exposed to world class standards, they will get great networks and we can release them into the African market after a while.

We will have very talented developers engineers in Africa who are Africans solving problems for Africa. I think later on I found that education would be another big area because you cannot have a big impact unless education is given.”

On age

“You just cannot print it. All my guys will be laughing at it because I am ancient around here, so you cannot print it. Off the record.”

Thoughts on children

“One thing that will happen that I will be happy about. There is a great thing about bringing up someone that belongs to you that the government gives you permission to instill your own thoughts and values into and you can be like yes that is what I think and after all it was God’s first commandment.”

Coding…

“I am a lawyer not a coder. I don’t code. I am fascinated by business, trends and projecting trends. I have conversations that make people believe that I am someone who has coded but what I have done is taken time to understand the ecosystem that I exist in.”

Soccer

“I am a huge Liverpool fan. Trash-talking has begun in all channels that I belong to. There will be a lot of sad faces this season and I have begun researching on counselling centres I can refer my friends to.”

Fun

“That is a good word. I do love to travel to new places. I do not often to travel to the same place twice because I prefer to go to new locations. When I go to the same place twice, I know I am getting hooked.”

I just came back from Utah in US, it’s a place I would not just go, but when you do, it is a place you would want to return to. It is drop dead gorgeous. There are some spots you would definitely want to go back to.

The places I have gone back to are Franschhoek in Cape Town, a few times on holiday because it is definitely the most beautiful city on this continent and the pricing is not bad. I am not a big drinker so it not the wine that will take me there.

Excitement

“I will lie if I say I do not feel kind like excitement when I do new things. New things are my high. It is how I take my whisky.”

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