For Paul Akwabi, children can be taught to be innovative as early as at the age of nine.
This dream started when he was on a trip in Europe, where he met a nine-year-old techie who challenged him on some aspects of technology.
“I was very much concerned why a little kid in Europe understood technology much better than me. I realized the children in Europe, India and USA have technology clubs and academies,” Mr Akwabi says.
From then, he was fascinated by how children can appreciate the importance of learning technology. He started researching on the contents which the children were taught in these countries. To his surprise he found out that some children knew much about software development and some had even customised them for varied purposes.
African children can be taught to do this as well, he told himself. This is how the 28-year- old techie founded the Tech Kidz Africa, where he is the director. Through the club dubbed Swahilipot hub, he conducts private coaching on various concepts of technology.
The club based in Mombasa began with five children and one laptop last year. After extensive advertising and referrals, the platform currently has a total of 50 young innovators aged between nine and 17.
“Through the training, we realised that it is easy for the children to come up with new innovative ideas and present them,” he says.
In March last year, he held the Tech Kids expo where the children showcased their innovations and were given some gift hampers to motivate them to continue using technology in a constructive way.
Mr Akwabi’s efforts to impart children with tech skills have not gone unnoticed. Global Social Ventures, an organisation encouraging innovative solutions to societal problems, selected the club among top 10 in Africa.d.
“We were ranked position three in Africa as an enterprise that is imparting a lot of knowledge in the education sector,” he says.
The club also participated in “Make it in Africa” competition and out of 600 applicants, the platform was selected among the top 30.
Mr Akwabi went to Germany in June this year after Tech Kidz Africa was ranked among top five innovative projects in another global contest.
Through his efforts, many children have been able to create application that solves issues in various fields including communication, security, entertainment in our country.
“My student, a 12-year-old created an app for a company that sells cars and the firm paid him,” Mr Akwabi proudly reveals.
The innovator calls on the government to recognise such platforms and give them the necessary support.
“We are organising for exchange programmes with other countries. It is high time our government believed in us and supported us mostly in getting the equipment because they are very expensive,” the techie says.
Mr Akwabi adds that the club is looking forward to having more partners and sponsors who will support the young innovators to show to the world their ideas.
“I am looking forward to have a technology academy for children aged between seven and 17. We aim to empower future innovations to help solve some of the challenges we are facing in our country. Also we hope to stretch our wings to different parts of the country,” Mr Akwabi notes.
Despite all his achievements, it is surprising that Mr Akwabi, who was brought up in Mumias, Kakamega County, was not a technology enthusiast from the beginning.
After completing his secondary education, he met a friend who promised to get him a job in the army as a cadet officer. This was his dream job.
However fate had other things in store for him. As Mr Akwabi waited to grab that the job opportunity in the army, he joined the Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) in 2011 to pursue a course in Information Technology (IT).
Fortunately or unfortunately, his friend did not secure a chance for him in the armed forces.
“This meant a lot of hustle for me. I felt like all my dreams were shattered but I knew I had to complete my studies. School fees was a major challenge as well because I came from a humble background,” Mr Akwabi reminisces.
However, it didn’t take long for him to discover his innovative side. In his first year at the college, together with a friend, they successfully created a mobile application that digitised TUM’s student handbook.
“This was my first step in the world of innovation. I later came up with an application that helped track ships in the ocean,” he says.
“I assisted and mentored my colleagues in college to build their projects as I continued researching on the content to teach children technology.”
From hindsight, failure to clinch the cadet job was a blessing in disguise for him. He has travelled all over the world to work on various projects and building various apps. In 2012, he won an award in the category of the best innovation in ICT and entrepreneurship in Kenya.