Kenyan food activist Wawira Njiru named among top young world leaders

Wawira Njiru

Ms Wawira Njiru, the founder of Food for Education. 

Photo credit: Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • Ms Njiru told the Nation she was excited to join the programme, hoping it will elevate her cause to the world stage.
  • Food for Education, a non-profit organisation, supplies healthy meals to public primary school children.

A Kenyan activist famed for supplying affordable meals to children has been named among top Young Global Leaders by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Ms Wawira Njiru, the founder of Food for Education, was this week selected among 112 most promising young leaders aged 30 to 40, committed to improving the state of the world and whose activities are having an impact on society.

Those picked are involved in a range of activities, including fighting for equality, inclusivity in medical research as well as access to affordable, safe and nutritious food.

Ms Njiru – who was in 2018 listed among the Top 40 Under 40 Women by the Business Daily – told the Nation that she is excited to be named as a Young Global Leader and hopes the development would elevate her cause in the world.

“Child hunger is an issue affecting millions. Many are going to school hungry,” she said.

Ms Njiru and the 10 other Young Global Leaders from Africa will also benefit from a fellowship supported by the Aliko Dangote Foundation, named after the Nigerian billionaire businessman and philanthropist.

Some of those previously named on the World Economic Forum’s list have risen to be heads of state, Nobel Prize recipients, Pulitzer prize winners and chief executives.

Quality, nutritious meals

Ms Njiru said the opportunity would help shed more light on the important work Food for Education is doing using technology, smart logistics and operations to deliver quality and nutritious meals to more than 30,000 children daily.

“This recognition brings us closer to realising our goal of reaching 1,000,000 schoolchildren a day with nutritious meals and advocacy to ensure that none has to learn while hungry. It highlights the need to continue feeding the future of Africa,” she said.

Food for Education, a non-profit organisation, supplies meals to public primary schools in Nairobi, Kiambu and Mombasa counties.

Launched in 2012, it has supported at least 500,000 children using a central kitchen that distributes food to 25 schools in urban and per-urban areas of the three regions.

Using data on need and latest technology, parents pay Sh15 through wristbands linked to mobile money payment service.

Eligible pupils then wear the wristbands and ‘Tap2Eat’.

The transaction often lasts less than five seconds, saving the children the need to run home for lunch or eat unhealthy processed foods.

Meals sourced locally

The average number of children supported by the programme is 33,000. Ms Njiru says the meals are sourced locally.

The 2021 Young Global Leaders list includes fellows from 56 countries, including 11 from Africa.

The Young Global Leaders programme includes executive education courses, expeditions and opportunities to collaborate and test ideas among a trusted network of peers.

For Ms Njiru and others from the continent, the World Economic Forum said the aim of the fellowship supported by the Aliko Dangote Foundation is “to increase the quality and quantity” of young African leaders by supporting their enterprises or non-profit ventures.

Ms Mariah Levin, the Head of the Forum’s Young Global Leaders said the new group includes “thoughtful and courageous leaders who will shape a more sustainable and inclusive post-pandemic era”.

The Young Global Leaders was founded in 2005 by Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum “to create a world where leaders take responsibility for a sustainable future while meeting increasingly complex and interrelated challenges”.

1,400 beneficiaries

The scheme has benefited 1,400 entrepreneurs, political leaders, researchers and campaigners across the world, including Kenya’s filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu.

Ms Njiru’s selection adds to her many accolades.

She is a Ford Foundation Global Fellow, was the youngest recipient of the University of South Australia’s alumni award 2017 and was also granted the 2018 Rainer Arnhold Fellow.

She has won the Builders of Africa Award 2018 and the Global Citizen Youth Leadership Prize in 2018 by tech systems firm Cisco.