Siemens Stiftung has established WE!Hub Victoria Ltd, Kenya. The social enterprise will work on innovative solutions related to drinking water and energy supply on the shores of Lake Victoria. In addition, newly-developed electric vehicles will be deployed for the first time in rural Africa. By utilizing social and ecological business models relating to e-mobility, the vehicles are intended to improve living conditions for locals, create jobs, and establish new economic opportunities.
The new brand is called “WeTu” – Swahili for “ours” – and has 14 employees at seven locations along Lake Victoria. Its core business is selling and distributing clean drinking water, the rental of specially designed solar lanterns for fishing, and delivering e-mobility solutions. This is supplemented with training and education on hygiene and health, accounting and business processes, and building and enhancing technical skills. WeTu’s goal is to generate enough income to sustain business operations and maintain technical facilities. Any additional profits remain within the company and will be put toward further expansion and increasing the positive social impact.
In the Lake Victoria region, just under 35 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water. Only 20 percent is connected to a central energy grid. Transporting people and goods is often a challenge in very rural areas. Another major hurdle facing the country is its high rate of youth unemployment: it currently stands at more than 20 percent, and an additional 800,000 graduates enter the labor market every year. However, startups and social enterprises are particularly effective at creating permanent jobs in these conditions and also ensure basic services are available in many aspects of everyday life.
Since its inception ten years ago, Siemens Stiftung has worked with startups that focus on development cooperation. These startups use simple technical solutions and sustainable, social business models to increase social opportunities at the local level. Over the years, Siemens Stiftung has also supported the establishment of social business incubators and makerspaces in various African countries. In the empowering people. Network, the foundation’s network of inventors and entrepreneurs, nearly 50 organizations have set up their headquarters on the African continent.
WeTu will be headquartered in the new LakeHub business incubator in Kisumu, the home of other local digital startups. Working with these organizations ensures digital applications for new business models will take root and grow.
Rolf Huber, Managing Director of Siemens Stiftung: “For years, African startups taking social entrepreneurial approaches have been driving economic, social, and ecological development in their countries. We are now joining them in East Africa. In turn, we’ll contribute the knowledge and expertise we gain working with WeTu to our global activities and networks.”
The new focus on electromobility will be accompanied by a German-Kenyan research partnership currently being established by the foundation.