Sankalp Africa Awards: Kenyan startups dominate in sustainable innovation

Sankalp Africa Awards

Sankalp Africa Awards 2024 winners from Left: Sachin Hanwate, CEO at Agroshas Uganda (Ecosystem Prize), Claire Sands Baker Co-founder & Director at Toothpick Company Ltd (Winner), Victoria Mabel Sackey, Operations & Business Manager at
MedTrack Technologies Limited (2nd runner-up), and Francis Nderitu, MD at KeepITCool (1st Runner-up).

Photo credit: Pool

Kenyan startups dominated the Sankalp Africa Awards 2024, winning two top awards and showcasing the country's leading role in driving sustainable development through innovation.

The awards, held at the 11th Sankalp Africa Summit in Nairobi, recognised outstanding African companies that are tackling social and environmental challenges through business solutions.

Kenyan Toothpick Company Ltd, led by co-founder and director Claire Sands Baker, emerged as the overall winner. Their innovative solution replaces harmful chemical pesticides with a safer, more affordable and effective bio-herbicide. This not only improves food security for farmers but also disrupts the multi-billion-dollar synthetic chemical weed control industry by offering a more sustainable alternative.

Praising the award as an opportunity to showcase an innovation in weed management, Baker said: "We are proud of our strong ability to work with farmers on the ground. We are proud of our ability to work with farmers on the ground to move from a super-high-tech innovation to something that can benefit Kenyan and African farmers as a whole.

Keep IT Cool, another Kenyan innovator, was the first runner-up. The company provides smallholder fish farmers in East Africa with end-to-end cold chain logistics solutions. These include portable, solar-powered refrigeration units and transport services that enable farmers to extend the shelf-life of their catch and access wider markets. This not only increases their income but also reduces food spoilage, a common challenge in the sector.

Keep It Cool founder Francis Nderitu said the recognition encourages his team to keep going. We are committed to improving our services and products for our communities with even more enthusiasm and purpose," he told the Daily Nation.

While Kenya took centre stage, the Sankalp Africa Awards celebrated innovation across the continent. The ceremony attracted participants from a wide range of countries. Notably, MedTrack, a Ghanaian healthcare company, secured second place for its work in streamlining access to patient information. Agrosahas International Private Ltd. from Uganda emerged as the winner of the Ecosystem Award, demonstrating the impact of technology-driven solutions in the agricultural sector.

The Summit reflected this diversity, with 7 of the 11 finalists being Kenyan companies tackling challenges in areas as diverse as food security, water conservation and renewable energy. This not only underscores Kenya's position as a leader in sustainable innovation but also highlights the burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit across Africa, paving the way for a more sustainable future for the continent.

 The Summit, hosted by Aavishkaar Group and Intellecap on 28-29 February, brought together over 1,500 stakeholders from around the world, including investors, policymakers and social change agents. The event featured over 200 speakers and 35 sessions on various aspects of sustainable development, attracting participants from over 60 countries.

While the awards ceremony recognised the achievements of select companies, the overall focus remained on fostering a thriving ecosystem for impactful businesses across Africa.

"This summit focuses on bringing together capital, knowledge, networks and technology between entrepreneurs, global thought leaders, leading foundations and socially conscious companies, among others, to drive a sustainable and inclusive agenda for Africa." Vikas Bali, CEO, Intellecap said during the event.

The Sankalp Forum led the event with its extensive network and resources to connect entrepreneurs with investors, policy makers and other key stakeholders. This collaborative approach is critical to accelerating progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which address global challenges such as poverty, hunger and climate change.

As a launch pad for innovative solutions, the event fosters collaboration between different stakeholders. It creates a platform for knowledge sharing, investment opportunities and mentorship, empowering African entrepreneurs to scale their businesses and contribute meaningfully to a sustainable future for the continent and the world.