Kenyan tech entrepreneurs star in Janek Stroisch's .co.ke
"My perception of Kenya isnât representative of everybody in Kenya, but hopefully itâs a sign of whatâs to come," says Janek Stroisch of his series on Kenyan tech entrepreneurs, .co.ke
Internet penetration in Kenya has grown so rapidly over the past decade that the country has been dubbed the âSilicon Savannahâ. In 2009, a submarine fibre optic cable linking Mombasa to the rest of the world was launched, and construction of âKenya Vision 2030â is now underway â" a Â£11.2bn, 5000-acre technology city expected to create around 60,000 jobs in the IT sector.
Household tech names such as Google, Intel, Microsoft, Nokia, and Vodafone all have a presence in Kenya and, says 27-year-old German photographer Janek Stroisch, âyoung entrepreneurs are seizing this opportunity as a chance to make changeâ. âHundreds of youths have used the internet to launch start-up companies to try to create jobs for themselves,â he adds, âbecause sadly there arenât enough to go around.â
Unemployment is a major challenge for young Kenyans, with youth unemployment estimated to be as high as 35%, and approximately 800,000 new workers entering the labour market every year. But, as the Munich-based photographer points out, Kenyaâs relatively fast broadband connection has offered an alternative, and his project .co.ke â" named after Kenyaâs domain name â" includes images of 10 young tech business owners.
Heâs photographed Roy Mwangi, for example, who at 26 is the founder of AB3D â" a manufacturer that creates 3D printers out of electronic waste for schools, universities, and hospitals. âAB3D is very cost-effective; itâs a great example of people creating the best out of what theyâve got,â says Stroisch. âRoy, along with everybody else I met, has incredible self-determination; it was very important to me to make thi s come across in my images.â
Workshop of the startup AB3D. The startup produces 3D printers, which consist of about 30% electronic waste. From the series .co.ke Â© Janek Stroisch
3D printer manufactured by the startup AB3D. From the series .co.ke Â© Janek Stroisch
Shot with flash, his series is a deliberate attempt to update Western perceptions of Kenya, and also captures the Western influences that have been encouraged along by the internet boom. Technology has had a major impact in Kenyan society, he says, âwith citizens no longer just being seen as victims, but also consumersâ.
Stroisch first visited Kenya in 2016 for 10 days, but says he âtotally failedâ on this trip. âI was trying to contrast the subject of poverty and moder n technology, but I soon found out that they intertwine,â he explains. âMy first trip acted as a visual exploration to understand the effect that broadband has had on the country; none of the pictures I took then are used today.â
In 2017, funded by a scholarship from Kartographen-Mercator, he went back for two months and got to know some of the young entrepreneurs and their communities. âI came to realise that they were young people like me, who have aspirations just like I do,â he says. âI know that my perception of Kenya isnât representative of everybody in Kenya, but hopefully itâs a sign of whatâs to come.â
https://janekstroisch.de/ .co.ke will be shown at Visa Pour LâImage photography festival in Perpignan in September, alongside work by seven other photographers from Stroischâs photojournalism and documentary photography course at University of Applied Arts and Sciences in Hanover. Stoisch plans to go back to Kenya later this year to exten d the project www.visapourlimage.com/en
At a Nairobi blogger community meeting. From the series .co.ke Â© Janek Stroisch
Saturday evening in Nairobi: Three Kenyans founding a coding school, because the Facebook Foundationâs coding school Andela is âtoo low quality and outdatedâ. From the series .co.ke Â© Janek Stroisch
3D printed prosthesis in the rental workshop Gearbox. From the series .co.ke Â© Janek Stroisch
Side table of the workshop Gearbox, at which startups can rent space and tools. From the series .co.ke Â© Janek Stroisch
Employee of the BRCK, one of Nairobiâs leading startups. They are active in the field of social innovation and e.g. produce solar powered routers to connect rural areas to the Internet. From the series .co.ke Â© Janek Stroisch
Classroom of the programming school Nairobits. The school in Nairobi offers programming lessons, mainly for young adults from less privileged neighborhoods. From the series .co.ke Â© Janek Stroisch
Nairobits student Hashim is looking over the Central Business District in Nairobi for the first time. From the series .co.ke Â© Janek StroischSource: Google News Kenya | Netizen 24 Kenya