Angaza Elimu, the name of Kiko Muuo’s business, is Swahili for ‘illuminated education’. It’s a very fitting name to what the business does: it highlights the gaps in the Kenyan education system, and comes up with enlightened solutions to the identified problems.
Kiko and Angaza Elimu have just been awarded the hugely prestigious and rigorously competitive up to USD 100K UNICEF Innovation Fund. But Kiko’s journey towards this moment started in primary school. On our call, Kiko talked a lot about the state of the Kenyan state education system, particularly the overcrowded classrooms, the expensive textbooks and the consequent lack of individualised instruction. After finishing primary school, he moved to the city for high school where the differences in schooling, between what he had previously experienced and what he was experiencing then, were like heaven and earth. Never forgetting his experiences, and with his love for tech growing with each day, Kiko decided to do something about it. In his final year he built a simple assessment platform where students could access revision materials, which he piloted in his own primary school. This was in 2017. A year later, in April 2018, he launched his first eLearning product. Two years after that, he became a UNICEF Innovation Fund awardee.
What seems to have played a significant role in Kiko’s success, is that he is extremely perceptive and looks to understand the entire context of the social issue he is addressing. This is evident in how he talks about his eLearning platform. Alongside the direct support it offers the students, a key part of its aim is the relief it offers the teachers and parents. The real-time analytics help the teachers to personalise the learning for their students, and the platform also removes the expensive cost of textbooks for the parents. However, Kiko recognises that while internet connectivity around Kenya is pretty good, the cost of accessing the internet is still quite high – so his team are now looking to develop offline tools that relieve the financial burden even further.
While the eLearning platform is based around Kenya’s national curriculum, Angaza Elimu’s second product is a STEM programme designed with various other developers, and focuses on robotics, coding, programming and other technology-based skills – a much more vocational endeavour, and one Kiko is equally passionate about. Kiko himself says that these tools are very necessary for those who might want to pursue their own innovative ideas and become entrepreneurs. His approach is holistic and is rooted in his deep desire to improve the lot of many people in his own country. The early market testing of both products has had good traction, with 9,000 active users on the eLearning platform and 14,000 students trained in the STEM programme. His experience with the former has helped with the necessary, COVID-induced move online of the latter.
“I keep my network very close” says Kiko during our call. This stems from his awareness that it takes a team to make a success out of a business – similarly to how it proverbially takes a village to raise a child. We talk about his time as a Yunus & Youth Fellow, and he is very grateful that the Fellowship addressed his main need at the time, which was how to market and launch a product. As part of the fellowship he was paired with Citigroup mentors, Stella Mwangi from Nairobi and Robert Skenes from New York City, that allowed him to get the first professional advice on marketing, branding and business planning to identify the business needs of Angaza Elimu. Kiko was also connected to Tenne Mattan from Tel Aviv, a third mentor specialized in education data mining, with his guidance Kiko and the team started building an adaptive e-learning platform. All this background work, new insights and precise guidance led to a significant growth spike in 2019, which has continued ever since. Kiko’s impression is that it is really beneficial to apply for the Fellowship at an early stage, since this knowledge helped him develop a more long-term plan.
A result of this business development was his decision to apply for the UNICEF Innovation Fund. It’s a very rigorous selection process, and one which forced Kiko to define his wants and needs for the business at each stage of the application. He is now talking about scaling his product, perhaps exporting it to other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and fine-tuning the AI and his business plan. He says himself that adapting content is much easier than setting up from zero – so the potential change Angaza Elimu can bring is even greater than he himself might have initially hoped.
Towards the end of the conversation Kiko laughs that his dreams are coming through at a very early stage and that he has achieved a lot in a very short space of time. He knows that he didn’t do any of this by himself, but it is clear that his admirable humbleness sits alongside a great passion and dedication to his work. At some point he slips in that Angaza Elimu is his first business and the first time he has held the role of CEO – it would surprise no one to if there were other ideas brewing in Kiko’s head, but it is also evident that Angaza Elimu is his main focus and he will take it to its full potential before moving on. Watch this space.