The journey to implementing a code of conduct that will see the shift to a healthy ‘Ecosystem’ marked its first day at the CODE OF CONDUCT launch meeting organized by ASSEK on 25/02/2021.
A great milestone for Kenya’s eco-system was marked when Kenya’s Ministry of ICT and the ICT Norway, a public sector organization that links the Norwegian ICT and startup sectors, signed an MOU establishing an innovative partnership between the two countries. This led to talks, with the Ministry of International Development, in Norway that led to the birth of ASSEK. An organization founded with the sole purpose of having one voice for all organizations supporting the development and growth of startups and SMEs.
The steady growth of ASSEK, through increased memberships, from Kenyan start-up enablers ie; business hubs, co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators; in an indicator of the organization’s benefits to the ecosystem. ASSEK, with data insights from the pool of stakeholders, has taken the initiative to build a code of conduct that will govern engagements within the system.
The code of conduct aims to create an enabling environment, built around trust. This will not only encourage collaboration from within but also protect start-ups from ‘predator like’ deals from investors.
“Shared values are the foundational values that the ecosystem aspires to abide in. In all forms & facets of stakeholders’ engagement with the innovation ecosystem. Our values are Integrity, Honesty, Inclusivity and Trust”Jonas Tesfu, CEO Pangea Accelerator
The increase of system players has led to growth within the system. However, it raises concern in that without a framework to govern new entries, what appears to be growth could be the very reason the system crumbles. Competition, just like in any other field, is beneficial to the system. It should not however lead to a cut-throat environment creating hostility, as it will only make the system players more vulnerable. It is crucial for all HUBs under ASSEK to take ownership of the guidelines and the implementation process. This will ensure the knowledge trickles down to the start-ups, employees, and all other parties they engage with.
Implementing the code of conduct begins with the simplicity of the document to the reader, ownership from all stakeholders & cascading it to entrepreneurs & employees.
“The code of conduct should be incorporated in organizational handbooks as a guide from the get-go”– Ann Ichungwa
Besides this, it builds a framework around addressing the problem of value-proposition within key- players in the eco-system. Joint efforts towards addressing this will in-turn build respect within the system, that both members & outsiders will acknowledge.
“What value can be articulated? What value can be felt? As an ecosystem, we need to define the value. After that, we need to define the guidelines to make it work for everyone to make it more sustainable. I think the countrywide hubs are best positioned to democratize opportunities for the youth.”– Nekesa, Afrilabs
Increased collaboration, boosted by the code of conduct, will see the rise of a pool of accessible knowledge around the system. Quite often, insights from data; locally collected; are used in foreign countries, yet remain unattainable to the local stakeholders. With the rise in the commercialization of data, and with murky prices to it, it has become even more difficult for the system to make great leaps from data insights.
“Not sharing, makes the ecosystem small. I see a big need for more collaboration in so many areas. Just look at data and challenges in sharing data. I usually say that most data about Kenya is owned by foreigners. This needs to change”– Anne Salim, Policy manager at ASSEK
With almost every county now being represented in the eco-systems, increased knowledge of similar structures will no- doubt lead to a rise in innovation hubs. Educating local communities & Education Institutes on the opportunities and benefits of the innovation hubs will be more impactful at more focused scales.
‘We have to be innovative and think differently as the ecosystem is bigger than just Nairobi. At EldoHub, we see value in cooperation and creating win-win structures.”– Chepkemoi Magdalene, EldoHub, Eldoret
Collaborations with universities, which have a great pool of talent, have exposed the Kenyan youth to plenty of opportunities within the system. With the code of conduct put in place, the willingness of the youth, to come forward and share innovative ideas will increase.
“The Code of conduct should be the guiding framework for the various stakeholders within the Kenyan innovation ecosystem. Ensuring engagement is arm’s length, fair and just.”– Bernard Chiira
Trust, partnerships, fair- play, access to information, accountability & collective responsibility are all aspects of the eco-system, that stakeholders have been yearning for. These being the key- values the code of conduct has been built around, we believe that stakeholders will not only embrace it but also make it a personal responsibility to ensure it governs all interactions within the system.
“In as much as we are competing for the same resources & networks, it is essential to have an environment built around trust and fairness for all parties/stakeholders to thrive in”– Anne Lawi, VICE CHAIRPERSON ASSEK
The real test of time is to see how this will be implemented by ASSEK, its immediate value and the repercussions on those that do not comply.