Moringa revisited: catching up with Audrey Cheng on the coding school’s international expansion


In this episode, I catch up with Audrey Cheng, the founder of Moringa School.

We first did an interview in October of 2016, and so it had been over 2.5 years since we last spoke.

The initial episode is called “Coding Schools”, and so be sure to scroll back through the archives to give it a listen, if you’re interested.

Moringa School is still going strong, and now has a presence in Rwanda, as well as having taught over 1,500 students.

The fundamentals remain the same – providing a relevant skill set to people entering the workforce in emerging markets – and we chat about how the company has evolved recently.

This includes expansion into different fields from just coding (such as data science), greater outreach (such as programmes for low-income students), partnerships they’ve brokered with international agencies, and how they are at the stage of codifying their culture for the next phase of expansion.

We did this interview in a hotel lobby and so at times, you might hear some background noise from other tables.

I hope, however, that this doesn’t detract from what is a very interesting interview from the founder of a company clearly on an upward trajectory.


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Sam:                                      00:00                     Intro.

Sam:                                      01:51                     Cool. So we’re here again with Audrey from Moringa School, Audrey welcome to the show.

Audrey:                                01:55                     Thank you.

Sam:                                      01:56                     So we initially did our first interview, was it nearly like two and a half years ago. It was about coding, well, coding schools and sort of talked about Moringafor those people who have not listened to the show, could you start with a brief summary of what moringa school is and, you know, what they do? What you do.

Audrey:                                02:14                     Yeah, absolutely. So Moringa school, we were founded in 2014 and we aim to be Africa’s leading workforce development platform. And so our big goal is to train 200,000 knowledge workers through marketship and education in emerging markets by 2030. And so we have a, it’s quite a big goal. And we’re excited to start moving there. The current courses that we offer now are a fulltime course in software development that currently has a 90% job placement rate. We’ve also just launched our second course in data science and looking at a number of other courses that are very relevant to the needs of employers and how we can get young people the skills they need in order to get those jobs.

Sam:                                      02:51                     Very good. Okay. Yeah. Cause I remember when we, when we first spoke you’d there was the, was Moringa school like core and prep?

Audrey:                                02:59                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      03:00                     So it’s the cool one. Is that, is that the one that’s still going?

Audrey:                                03:03                     Yeah. So actually now we have a pre prep of prep in a core.

Sam:                                      03:06                     A pre prep?

Audrey:                                03:07                     Yeah. So, so we brought it into access to our program for low income students. And so actually right now as part of our classes, 20% of our classes are made of low income students. And so the pre prep course is actually to get low income students up to speed on you know, basics of computers getting them, you know, started on software development. So by the time they enter into prep, they’re on the same level with the rest of our students.

Sam:                                      03:31                     And how many people have gone through Moringa now?

Audrey:                                03:34                     Right. So at this point, we’ve, we’ve had over 1500 students go through Moringa since we started our first class in January, 2015.

Sam:                                      03:41                     Does that mean roughly linear growth or has that, how has that looked over the years?

Audrey:                                03:45                     Yeah, so we’ve actually been doubling our total number of students each year.

Sam:                                      03:48                     And are they all, all these students going through in Nairobi?

Audrey:                                03:51                     So we have students in Nairobi and also now students in Kigali. And so we opened a campus in Rwanda last September. And so, you know, we’ve been enrolling a number of students out there. This year is around 150 to 200 students going through our, our pre-prep prep and core in Rwanda. Yeah.

Sam:                                      04:10                     Why did you chose Rwanda?

Audrey:                                04:10                     So Rwanda was an interesting opportunity that came up. We wanted to test how our school model with our systems and processes could scale into another country. And also we want us to understand the nuance of moving into another country. So in terms of building a team, in terms of scaling culture scaling our, our classroom, our TMS, our teachers, et cetera. And so Rwanda is obviously much closer to Kenya than let’s say as an example, like Ghana or Nigeria, et cetera. And so we wanted to start first with Rwanda, and we also had funding from GIZ and the Rwandan government and a lot of backing to move there. And so for us, in terms of financial risk, it was relatively low.

Sam:                                      04:49                     They’re making it easy.

Audrey:                                04:49                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      04:51                     Like, Rwanda is close, but Uganda is closer.

Audrey:                                04:54                     It is closer. But I guess for us is more of making sure that public sector was also very excited to bring us into, like in, so in Uganda, you know, we, we had a lot of interest from the private sector, from tech hubs, et cetera, and we actually ran a short pilot there last year. But we realized that you know, running a full program end to end in Kigali would really help us understand how we could scale into new markets.

Sam:                                      05:19                     So, what was the process like? You said that you had some help from the Rwandan government, like did you just send them an email and say we want to do this or like, how did that sort of happen?

Audrey:                                05:26                     Yeah, so, the writing, the Rwandan government actually had a delegation of just a lot of different players. So whether tech companies or of course public sector, come to Kenya and actually learn from the Nairobi tech ecosystem. And so as part of that process, a number of them came to Moringa school. And when that happened, I think they were, they’re a little bit blown away. They’re like, wow, you guys are training so many students, you have such great outcomes. What can we do to bring a program like this to Kigali? And so from that visit, you know, we had a lot of conversations with GIZ, with around the and then formalized the contract to move to Rwanda.

Sam:                                      06:00                     So what was the time between the delegates coming to Moringa in Nairobi and the office opening in Kigali?

Audrey:                                06:07                     Honestly, I would need to go back and check, but it was between three to six months.

Sam:                                      06:12                     Is that it? Really? The first paying customers were arriving on Moringa Kigali offices within three, six months of that first meeting?

Audrey:                                06:22                     Right, right. So actually the way that’s funded, cause I think Kigali that the nuance there is that we’re training especially low income women you know, through our program. And so I think that’s, that’s been a really interesting learning experience for us, is having full classes of either low income or middle income students and all women. Right. Which, which isn’t what we do in, in Nairobi. And so the program is actually being fully funded by GIZ. And also partially by the government.

Sam:                                      06:51                     Got it. Cause you didn’t need to worry about like marketing.

Audrey:                                06:54                     We still did. Yeah. We still did, in terms like finding quality students, but in terms of converting them to paying we didn’t have to worry about that in Rwanda.

Sam:                                      07:03                     Let me see, with a room full of only women, is, does like the teaching style change or do you have to like adapt any of the teaching methodology? Because compared to like if you have guys in the room.

Audrey:                                07:14                     Yeah, absolutely. I think I think culturally it was just very, you know, Rwanda is very different from Kenya, right? I think when people think East Africa, a lot of them, like lump it together, but actually in terms of,you know, confidence levels, soft skills, what we realized was that the students that we were training in Rwanda, they actually needed a lot more, you know, confidence training, a lot more presentation, skill training, et cetera, more than our Kenyan students. And so, you know, we had to reshape our, our content, our curriculum for that. Right? Because we knew that when we talked to employers, sorry, employers always expect a certain level of communication skills, teamwork, presentation. And so we needed to bulk our content in Rwanda too, you know, grow to reflect that more and take out some of the technical content.

Sam:                                      07:56                     I see. Okay. So is it the, so terms of, like, so a cultural difference you’re saying between Rwandan people and Kenyan people is that. Rwandan people generally less confident? Is that right?

Audrey:                                08:07                     So I wouldn’t generalize, mostly like the population that we were serving. And maybe because there are, at least for first-class or primarily low income, it did make it that, you know, we had to do a lot more of like confidence training. Right? So even the example I would give us in our access program in Nairobi, we also have to do some of that confidence building, you know, imposter syndrome, et cetera. But to do that instead of 20%, we’re doing that 100%. I think we did have to rethink the way that we’re working with students. The other thing is also language barrier. And so a lot of students were speaking French or Kinyarwandan and you know to work professionally. Like they would have to speak English. And so our tech, our teachers, our team members in Rwanda had to spend a lot of time making sure students were, you know, even interacting with each other in English as opposed to in French or Kinyarwandan.

Sam:                                      08:54                     Wow, okay. And the, cause the business model is, at least it was, two and a half years ago, was you would get the, you get payment for doing the training and then you had, the big sell was you then place people into, into jobs. With the Rwanda operation. Was that also going into Rwandan companies? So people, people were being employed into Rwandan companies, these big companies, small companies. What were the graduates from Moringa Kigali going into?

Audrey:                                09:23                     Yeah, absolutely. So there were, there are a number of you know, private tech companies in Kigali. Again, not as many as there are in Nairobi. I think public sector so government, is actually a big employer. There’s also a number of like software development shops. So, you know, these software deployment shops from Europe that were actually opening up offices to create more opportunity for young people in Rwanda. And so, you know, we’ve had a number of them also.

Sam:                                      09:49                     We say software development shop that’s kind of like they’re outsourcing.

Audrey:                                09:53                     Exactly.

Sam:                                      09:53                     Okay.

Audrey:                                09:54                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      09:54                     Cool. And so, you’re able to, so people who go through Moringa, Kigali can then feed into, they can then get employed by one of these software shop, software development shops. Are there many of them?

Audrey:                                10:06                     I think it’s definitely growing. I think the, the one thing with Rwanda that’s quite impressive is I think the president has done a really great job, you know, drawing up interests to Rwanda. And so I think because of that, you know, I think there is interest. People are excited to invest, but they just need to see the talent first.

Sam:                                      10:22                     Got it. Okay. And so your, that’s what you’re providing. So you’re fitting into the big picture.

Audrey:                                10:26                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      10:28                     Do you have plans to go to other countries?

Audrey:                                10:30                     Yeah. So I mean, we are doing a lot of like strategic work right now, so it’s exploring our options. So exploring, do we want to go deeper in Kenya? Do we want to expand regionally or into other countries outside of East Africa? And so we’re, we’re in the process of finalizing on that right now.

Sam:                                      10:47                     You don’t have to divulge trade secrets, but I mean, how do you sort of think about this? How do you think, cause this thing’s quite an interesting problem like you’ve, you know, you’ve got set up in one place. How do you think about the next country to go to? Like, did you have any sort of rules of thumb or ways in which you think about it?

Audrey:                                11:00                     Yeah, for sure. I mean, there’s always, like a lot, like certain factors that we look at, right? So it’s either, you know, middle-class you know, like number of students who can actually pay for our program. It’s the level of education that they have. Right? So like the input of their skills into our program. And when they graduate you know, are we actually able to get them into jobs? Right. So what does job market look like? We have we look a lot at regulations around accreditation, how easy or hard is it to run our program in that country? We look a lot at, you know, the partners that are on the ground, and again, like the opportunities that come out from those partners as well. And so the, there’s a number of different factors that we, that we look at to explore this. I mean we look at other things like corruption levels, you know, and kind of pulling all these different factors so that we can pull levers to understand which countries we should really be moving into.

Sam:                                      11:48                     Very cool. Alright. So I remember when we spoke last time you said that the Kenyan government didn’t really know how to define you, didn’t really know how to like just because you weren’t quite higher education company, but they weren’t quite sure quite what box to put you in. Now, have you had any sort of, any developments of that in terms of being able to, for regulators to understand, okay, Moringa are X and therefore we need to have better regulations for them?

Audrey:                                12:13                     Yeah, absolutely. So Moringa school, we are registered under TVET which is the technical and vocational education training authority. And so TVET is kind of the, I guess the body that, that probably in other countries we’re also looking to, to get accreditation from.

Sam:                                      12:30                     Okay. And what do they, what do they need to do in order to accredit you?

Audrey:                                12:34                     Yeah. So they look at our space, right? So making sure our spaces actually meets their, their rules and regulations. They credit our contents, our courses, and also our teachers as well.

Sam:                                      12:46                     How do they accredit your courses? Do they have technical experts who say this is a good way of learning how yo code?

Audrey:                                12:54                     Yeah, so I guess I mean, you can get accredited through a number, number of different channels. Either the government can accredit you themselves or you can get accredited through one of the like one of the big technology companies, right? So Google, Microsoft, IBM, they all have certain courses that have already gone through the accreditation process in Kenya and gotten approval, right? So if you get approval or accreditation by one of those partners like that could also go through and last one is by like more accrediting bodies like Pearson. And so, you know, like there are number of different ways and it depends on, you know, strategically which direction people want to head in.

Sam:                                      13:26                     Right, and which way did you go?

Audrey:                                13:28                     Through, corporates.

Sam:                                      13:30                     Through corporates.

Audrey:                                13:30                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      13:31                     Very cool. Alright. When we sat last you, were saying that you’re about to pack up for a bit and go to the U S and Europe, to raise some money you said up to that point, you were only being self funded. And this was like the time to think about getting that taking the, expanding that, accelerating the growth of the company. How did that trip go and how did, sort of the funding situation go?

Audrey:                                13:53                     Yeah, absolutely. So something that’s actually quite interesting at Moringa is that technically up until now, we’re still bootstrapped. So we were actually in the process of closing around now, so like very soon, so it should be this month. But I think that’s actually been a really good experience for us because I think when, when there are certain constraints around how we spend money, we’re actually a lot more thoughtful about what we spend money on. I think that discipline within our team, within our finance team, within like the rest of the team of do we actually need to be spending this money? Will it generate a certain level of ROY? And what are we committing to, you know, what goals are we committing to actually hit versus what are we experimenting on? Right? So I think we, we’ve been really disciplined on, you know, how are we allocating resources? And really questioning whether or not we need the people or we need to spend money in certain ways. And so I think that’s quite good for us. Cause even as we bring in external money, we’re still gonna have that discipline. Right. So it means that, you know, no matter whose money we’re spending, whether it’s ours or investors, we’re, we’re still able to be really thoughtful in the way that we grow and who we need on our team.

Sam:                                      14:53                     Oh. So all this last few years has been self-funded. That’s very cool. How big is the team now?

Audrey:                                15:02                     Oh man. We’re about 95 right now. And by end of the year we’ll be around 120.

Sam:                                      15:08                     Okay. Ninety five is made up roughly of what?

Audrey:                                15:11                     So we have a number of teachers. So I think our classroom team is our biggest team. And we have our learning team, of course our backend office support of finance, HR people tech. We also have our marketing team of course our Kenyan country team, which includes our space operations, you know, admissions. And then our employer relations team that works with employers and make sure that we’re actually able to get people into jobs.

Sam:                                      15:36                     Nice. And which is the most difficult to hire for, out of those?

Audrey:                                15:41                     So actually currently we are building out a product team. So I can, I can speak on the hard hires right now. But I think product is very hard to hire for. Because I think in this market, you know, I think a lot of people might call themselves product managers, but in terms of what they actually do, they might actually be more like project management. And so I think as we’re looking for like true product managers that, that’s been quite hard for us to find.

Sam:                                      16:05                     How do you differentiate between project management and product management?

Audrey:                                16:09                     So project management is more of like managing the work plan, right? So, so the product manager, managers thinking more about the roadmap. So the strategy of the product, right? Where is it heading? What problem is it solving? What opportunities are there? So it’s, so it’s almost like the mini CEO, like for that product. So like thinking about end to end of, from, you know, marketing to admissions to classroom.

Sam:                                      16:29                     And for you, the product is just the Moringa experience or do you subdivide into like, I don’t know, take a science course or…

Audrey:                                16:36                     Exactly. Yeah. So our staff engineering course will be one product like data science would be another.

Sam:                                      16:41                     Okay, cool. Nice. so 95 people on payroll? Self funded, that’s pretty cool. Yeah. Nice. So when you look at, you say looking to take on external investors, what’s that gonna look like? Are they going to be based in East Africa or are they going to be international? What’s, what’s the sort of view and what, how have you joined to think about the types of people you want on board?

Audrey:                                17:06                     Yeah. So for this round we paid a lot of attention to investors who have like quite a strong reputation here among entrepreneurs. And so, you know, I think definitely entrepreneur friendly investors are really important. So people who are really willing to, you know, be curious, ask questions and back us right. Especially when times are potentially hard. So that was really important to us. You know, investors that have experience investing here in Kenya and East Africa, et cetera. And can really add a lot of value to us. So that, that’s primarily what we were looking for. Yeah. We also brought in there’s an investor we brought in from the U S as well called Entangled group and so Entangled, they’re like an education venture builder and they also invest in education companies around the world. And so they’re, you know, thought leaders in education, you know, they have Michael Horn as one of their partners who founded that, the concept of blended learning. And so people who are just like very, very sharp in the education field who can again add a lot of direct value to the work that we’re doing.

Sam:                                      18:03                     Yeah. That’s fantastic. That’s very good. And then the idea is with this money you can then go and expand to either new markets or new markets, whether they be new countries or deeper and wider in Kenya. Very cool. How’s the, how’d you feel the company’s changed in the last like two and a half years. What bits have stayed the same about Moringa and what bits have changed in terms of, let’s call it like the internal culture?

Audrey:                                18:33                     Yeah, so I think what stayed the same, I mean, I, I think, you know, I was reading this article that like 70% of a company’s culture is a reflection of the founder. And so I think I’ve noticed also that as, as I’ve kind of matured in some of my thinking, like, so has the way that we work in the company. And so I think, you know, that’s probably something that’s changed. I think what’s stayed consistent is, you know, I’m a huge believer of having a lot of humility and empathy, especially in the workplace, right? Cause I think a lot of times, especially when we’re stressed, we’re really quick to judge and say, Oh, you know, like this person is not doing their work or, you know, they’re wrong, or, you know, just, you know, like moving quick to judgments. But I think really trying to instill this culture of seeking to understand but before we judge. And so I think that that’s something that’s been really important to me is that, you know, we’re always learning, right? Like I feel like I’m learning all the time and I can’t imagine how much everyone at the moringa team is learning all the time. And so I think it’s just a constant reminder that, you know, it’s okay to fail, but let’s, let’s, you know, even this idea of failure is a little bit silly to me. It’s more of like, like what are we learning? Right? And how do we add more to our repository of what we’ve learned? And so I think that that’s been big, cause I’m really big on this, like constantly like asking people, what are you learning today? Like, you know, what’s, you know, like from that, you know, what are we going to try next time? Right. So there’s just, just, just like staying curious. I think for me it’s also making sure that like, everyone’s still like having fun, like enjoying their work. Like feeling motivated. And so in the last a couple months, I think we’ve been able to spend a lot of, a lot more time like really solidifying our culture. You know, cause I think up until a certain point in terms of the number of people you have on the team, you know, like the culture is quite organic, you know, everyone adds to the culture. It’s really exciting. But at the stage that we’re at now, I’m also really clear that if we don’t almost like codify our culture you know, it won’t be clear to people how do they actually interact, right? How do they show up to work? Right? What are the ways of working ways of interacting with each other against our values and our culture. And so, you know, we’ve been spending more time like building a culture champions group at Moringa school really piloting that, getting that off the ground and making sure that people all across the team like buy into our culture and understand what it is. And so it’s definitely still a work in progress. We’re not there yet, but I think it’s just being more intentional about just documenting and putting these things.

Sam:                                      20:52                     Okay. So what’s that, what’s that been like? So, you now have like a vision statement that you’ve, I forget what the words are, but you know, you’ve got like a big vision statement and you’ve got like, I dont know, here’s the five pieces that fit into our culture like that, How does that sort of practically, let’s say I was, and you can even like twist it a bit. So you can say this in an idealized world, if I was in an ideal world going to join Moringa, what would I sort of, what would be part of my welcome back? How would I be onboarded on say, the company?

Audrey:                                21:24                     Yeah, absolutely. So a lot of what we look for within our team members is alignment to our values. And so right now we have six values. And so our values include, you know, collaboration, bold, humility accountability, growth mindset, and fun, right? And so I think when we run interviews, especially our culture interviews with candidates, we look a lot at, you know, is this someone that we think can actually fit well into those values, right. And it doesn’t mean that like, that, you know, when we meet this person we think that, you know, like, like we’re the same person cause we actually were really big on diversity and making sure that our team, you know, has many different vantage points, like very many different perspectives. But I think there’s a core set of roles like that which are values that everyone needs to kind of hold true to. And soI think that’s really big for us. And then when people get onboarded you know, we’re, we’re actually revamping our onboarding system this quarter. So making sure that we’re able to explain to new team members, like, again, how do our values show up like how do we work together like with those values and what are the artifacts that we see around the company, even what we visually see that remind us of our culture. Right. How do we celebrate successes, you know, and so I think a lot of that is, it’s a work in progress for us.

Sam:                                      22:32                     Yeah. Does that mean you’re going to have a document which says when someone does something good, this is what, would we buy them a cake or like, yeah. How do you sort of document celebrating success?

Audrey:                                22:43                     Yeah. So we essentially have like a work plan right now that our culture champions have come up with. And again, this is a group of individuals at Moringa school that are really passionate about culture and maintaining our culture at scale. And so they’re coming together as essentially build out like a roadmap for like, how do we actually think about our culture? How do we codify our culture for the next three to six months? And so, I mean, it’s kind of up to that, right? If they feel like, you know, for everyone to really understand our culture, we need to codify it to that detail, then yeah, that’s something that we can test and see. Does that work? Is that too, too prescriptive? Do we need to open it up a bit more. But I think a lot of it will just be experimentation and trial and error.

Sam:                                      23:20                     Okay, cool. One thing I had recently was a way to gauge company culture is to ask employees what happens at Moringa that would not happen at, I don’t know. What happens at Moringa that would not happen at other, other companies, I mean so for you, what do you think happens at Moringa that wouldn’t happen at other companies?

Audrey:                                23:41                     That’s a good question. I think I’m, I’m very biased. I would love to ask team members that. Yeah. Cause I think I might have one vantage point where, for example, I think something at Moringa that I hear quite often from new team members think sometimes I say it with a little bit of surprise is, you know the, like when they walk around the office, they don’t know who the CEO is. They don’t know who the directors are or who the frontline team members are. That we actually are all extremely collaborative. And because we’re so collaborative, like when we hit a certain milestone or a certain success, we all feel it, right? It’s not like, Oh, that team has succeeded, good job them. But it’s like, no, we collectively work together to make that happen. And so I think that’s something that, that we value a lot is not you know, not like this typical Kenyan company that’s very hierarchical, but how do we really just celebrate as a community the work that we’ve been doing,

Sam:                                      24:32                     Is that a conscious effort? Or was that just sort of naturally the way, if we’re saying that 70% of the culture is from the founder, is that just naturally the way you work or have you been quite conscious of this is something I need to be doing?

Audrey:                                24:43                     No, I think it is something that I am very I’ve been cognizant of since starting wearing the school because I think, you know, I’ve had experiences working for other companies where I felt really demoralized because, you know, I thought like, I have all these ideas and I have these things that I really think will like push the company forward, but it didn’t feel like anyone was listening to me. Right. And it didn’t. And I was always very frustrated cause I felt like, look, I’m talking to the customers all day or I’m, you know, I feel like I have really great insights, but the people at the top like just weren’t listening or weren’t hearing anything I was saying. And so I think by going through that, through that experience and feeling that myself, I realized like when starting Moringa school that I want to make sure that no matter how big we get, right, we always remain grounded, right? We can always be excited by new ideas, but we have to have enough empathy and we need to stay grounded. And so whether that means we’re, you know, directors, managers, right? To members that are far away from, like, from our students are spending X percentage of their time with our students and X percent of their time with our staff in general. Right? So it’s not just running from meeting to meeting, but how do we actually be more intentional about spending time with people in the frontline, right. People who are really talking to the students, all the time and employers and actually talking to the students themselves. Right. To see are we actually making an impact? You know, what else can we change to make their experience better?

Sam:                                      25:57                     Very cool. Nice. And if you look back over the last few years, have there been any sort of like significant events or things where you’re like, boom, that’s a game-changer or something where it’s just like you sort of, you know, you might be going months and months and things are generally improving, but then something happens and that’s just like next level, are any of those good?

Audrey:                                26:20                     Yeah. I think it’s funny. I think in the earlier days, those were things that were more like trying than anything else in terms of, you know, how much do I really like want this and why am I doing this? I think especially the first few years, and I think also around the time when we talked last I had a lot of questions in 2015, 2016 so our first few years, on, you know, are we actually going to survive as an organization, you know? Does our business model make sense? Is there enough demand for what we do? But a big pivotal point happened in August of 2016 when we moved from what I would consider Moringa 1.0 to Moringa 2.0, and so we, you know, spent a lot of time like rethinking our classroom model, right? So who are our teachers? How do we ensure that we have market driven content? Are we actually getting students you know, to a certain level of quality so that they’re able to, to graduate and get high quality jobs. And so when we kind of like asked ourselves those questions, went back down to first principles we revamped our whole teaching system. And so I think that was a huge game changer for the organization, because we were teaching more effectively, it wasn’t as expensive as it was before and it was also way more scalable. And so, you know, that was real, very clear proof from 2016 to 2017 and then 2018 when we ran our classes in different countries around the world to test how well does this education model scale and realized that was actually very, very scalable. And so I think that was, you know, it gave us, it was a huge confidence boost. I think this year, just recently we launched a partnership with Mastercard foundation. And I think that was also a, like quite a big confidence boost to the organization just in the sense where, you know, Mastercard, they really only work with companies that they feel like have scaled and will scale like very significantly. And for us, that felt good to know that, you know, we have this big dream and also other people believe in it and are willing to support our work.

Sam:                                      28:06                     Talk to me a bit about this partnership then. So you said like where did it come from? What’s the goal? Like shared vision, all that sort of stuff.

Audrey:                                28:13                     Yeah, so Mastercard foundation, they have a strategy called Young Africa Works that’s aiming to get 5 million young people in Kenya in the next five years into dignified employment.

Sam:                                      28:23                     So 5 million young people in Kenya. That’s quite a lot. That’s like, how many young people are there in Kenya in the next five years?

Audrey:                                28:30                     They’re many. Many more than that.

Sam:                                      28:32                     But no, but not like loads more, isn’t that, is that like 20%, I’m trying to think if you had, if you tell me in the next five years, what’s the population in Kenya, like 50 million? Yeah, I don’t know, if you say 5 million. And if you count young as what, what’s the definition of young?

Audrey:                                28:49                     Young is, I think it’s, so I’ve seen many different definitions, but I think their definition is 18 and 35

Sam:                                      28:54                     That’s fine. Okay. Alright. Anyway, I’m just saying like that’s a stretch target. Alright. So 5 million young people in five years into dignified employment. How do they define dignified?

Audrey:                                29:07                     So they have a very particular definition. I have to go back and look at it, but it’s like dignified, fulfilling employment, right? So it’s not just work that is very repetitive that that doesn’t feel like the young person is able to grow and really, you know, grow within the, like their career. So.

Sam:                                      29:22                     Okay.

Audrey:                                29:22                     Yeah.

Sam:                                      29:22                     Cool. And why did Mastercard foundation want to do this?

Audrey:                                29:25                     Yeah, so they last year and the year before, they spent a lot of time kind of reviewing like what their next second would look like. Right? So like, you know building a new strategy and I think over time as they, you know, since the time that they were started, they’ve always been really big on education, so they’ve always funded a lot of scholarships. So they’ve been a huge proponent on education. But what they realized was that, you know, just education in and of itself isn’t enough, right? You have to be thinking of of the supply side, the linkage, and also the, the demand side. Right. And really kind of investing in the whole ecosystem. And when they were thinking about this or I mean, you know, everyone’s talking about how the populations across the content are just growing rapidly every single year, right? Like massive, massive populations. But then the question is like, where are these young people going to go? And are the current systems actually well equipped with both quality and access, right? Is education high quality enough that young people are able to get the skills that they need in order to get into the jobs? Right. Right. Now the overwhelming opinion is no. Right. And the, and the second question is around access, right? So in Kenya for example, this year only 13% of secondary school students who passed the KCSE were able to get a spot in public university.

Sam:                                      30:31                     Really?

Audrey:                                30:33                     Yeah. So that’s 87% of students who don’t have that access, right. And so that number just keeps rolling over every single year because the demand is quite high, but the number of spots is quite low. And actually, even once, when those students get into university, it takes five years on average for them to get a full time job afterwards. Right. And so that speaks about the access side and also the quality side. And so I think, you know, we just need to fundamentally rethink education and training and skills development in Kenya and across the continent if we actually want to get these young people the skills that they need to succeed and to build their economies ultimately.

Sam:                                      31:05                     Yeah. Wow. Okay. So they come to you and they’ve said, we think Moringa can pipe out this bottle. Have you had some, like maybe not commit, but what was your pitch to them as this, why, what was your pitch to them as to why you fit into that picture and have you had to commit to say, we’ll put X number of people from Moringa school or whatever?

Audrey:                                31:24                     Yeah. So I think for us we were really aligned with them because, you know, for us, all the skills that we teach our kind of skills for today and skills for the future, right? So they’re not skills that will be automated in this next generation. The skills that every person, whether they’re in Kenya or around the world, need in order to compete globally. And so I think Mastercard foundation, they were excited about that. They’re excited about our track record, about our success today, in terms of getting young people into jobs. And to be honest in the education space, there haven’t been that many programs that have reached a certain level of skill and also certain level of quality as well. And so I think, you know, we were able to prove that in the last couple of years, you know, we had focused and made sure that this program can actually scale and that we’re ready for that next step. And so I think, you know, when they saw that they were excited to say, okay, great. You know, we see that you’ve proven yourself the last couple years and that you have a clear plan for where the next couple of years is going and we want to support you to scale up.

Sam:                                      32:17                     Okay, cool. And so, they just said, here’s some money, no strings attached or does it come with some conditions or like what does it even look like?

Audrey:                                32:26                     Yeah. Yes. So, I mean there’s definitely conditions. So you know, they gave some like technical assistance for, you know, certain areas around like research and development, right. For product development, et cetera. Investing in our teachers or our teacher training. So how do we really think about you know, our teachers at scale, so when we’re potentially in other markets or we’re in different products, how do we think of scaling up our teachers? And so I think that was a big yeah, a big conversation we had with them. A good amount of our partnership also is on scholarships. So with, for low income students, how do we, again, like keep to our 20% of all classes are low income.

Sam:                                      33:02                     Very cool. Nice. Have there been any standout graduates from Moringa school you can think of?

Audrey:                                33:09                     Yeah. 100%. Yeah. We have actually quite a lot. It was actually earlier this year when I, was going into, you know, a few conferences and I kept running into our graduates. Which is really crazy. And so even for example I went to South Africa to speak at this like women in tech conference earlier this year. And actually one of our graduates was there as well speaking on stage. Right. And she’s talking about like very technical topics, you know, went over my head. I was like, Oh my God. And you know, I was blown away. Right. And there’s this other graduate that I met I went to Harvard this year, earlier in the year to speak at the Harvard Africa business conference, and, you know, I was also there to like meet people, recruit, et cetera. And it was super interesting cause you know, I was like talking to one potential candidate. And I had, you know, like all of a sudden this person came up to me is like, hey, like are you Audrey from Moringa? And, you know, I was like yes, you know, like a little bit surprised. And he ended up telling me, you know, I, you know, I went to Moringa school, actually I’m Kenyan, you know, I went to Moringa school. And from Moringa school I realized that, you know, software engineering, computer sciences is something I really want to pursue. And so he ended up, you know, applying to Harvard and he got in and now he’s an undergrad at Harvard. Yeah. So we just heard some like really wild stories recently. And it just, you know, also those really incredible stories of, you know, both low income students getting really great jobs. Some of our students are senior enough in their companies that they’re coming back to Moringa to actually hire more graduates. And so, you know, we’re really seeing a ripple effect for our work.

Sam:                                      34:41                     That sounds fantastic. Great. So we’ll sort of finish up now, but if we were to be chatting again in another three years, what do you think we’ll be talking about when it comes to Moringa?

Audrey:                                34:53                     That’s a good question. I think hopefully what we’re talking about is how do you go from, how do you actually scale from your core? Right? Cause I think right now we have a proven you know, product service, which is our software engineering course. And we just launched our data science course, which is going really well. But how do you actually scale up from your court, right? How do you go into new courses? How do you go into new markets? What do you have to think about? How do you resource yourself and really prepare yourself for scale and how do you know when you’re actually ready? And so I think we’re asking ourselves a lot of these questions now and creating like really strong and thoughtful plans on how we actually get to scale. And so I’m hoping in three years we’re actually able to look back and reflect on, you know, what did we learn in that process, now that we’re in potentially, you know, multiple courses, multiple markets, multiple offerings for our students. You know, like where do we go from there.

Sam:                                      35:44                     Fantastic and again, people can find out more at moringaschool.Com?

Audrey:                                35:47                     Yes.

Sam:                                      35:48                     All that sort of stuff. Fantastic. Cool. Well Audrey, thanks so much.

Audrey:                                35:51                     Thank you.


Relocating top African software developers to European tech teams, with Caspar Coding


An interesting heuristic you can think about when considering companies operating in East Africa is where the demand comes from.

There are lots of businesses you can see where the product or service is developed in the region and ultimately is consumed in East Africa.

Through the lens of this podcast, just look to some recent episodes on Tissue PaperBottled Water Franchises, and Surveys.

Whilst there is certainly a strategy in serving the growing local market, there is certainly a limitation on its size.

There’s a whole different set of companies, operating from East Africa but whose end customer is outside the region.

Caspar Coding is one of them.

They work with European clients to place East African senior software developers directly in their teams.

It’s one area where there’s a huge imbalance. In Western Europe alone there are 5 million openings for senior software developer jobs and lacks the supply of local talent to fill them.

Caspar started off solving this with developers working remotely but now relocate ambitious developers directly to the European country.

Sebastiaan, the CEO, is Dutch and so the early clients have been from there.

This is a really great episode that touches on various themes in the region, such as demographics, finding product-market fit, and ultimately the power of gaining a modern skillset to grow your career.


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Dutch digital nomad

Did marketing automation for a FinTech company, then built a startup called [Tempr] until he lost interest/ challenge.

What struck me about Kenya?

1. Demographics: so many young people
2. English: everyone speaks it
3. Time difference: very similar to Europe

The company has evolved

Started off as building remote teams for tech teams, however, pivoted into relocating developers directly into relocating experienced developers directly into European tech teams.

NGOs train people in tech

Caspar doesn’t focus on generating the skills (there are enough doing that). Instead, it’s about connecting experienced developers with end roles.

Working remotely didn’t work out

Experienced developers were used to working remotely. They were often tasked with bug fixing/ testing which was further from the cutting edge of innovation that they could do. There were also instances of developers being oversold.

Focus group is mid-20s

Not people with families. Instead, those who have a couple of years experience but are at the limits of what Nairobi can offer.

Incentivize people to return

The idea is that with experience, people will then return with more knowledge to start their own work back in Kenya. The finder’s fee for the placing a developer would become the seed funding for their idea.

Who is the buyer?

Remote teams: CTO/ co-founder. Relocation: still figuring it out!

Caspar represents the developer community

There’s a huge demand for senior software developers, but Europe can’t supply it. Caspar helps with unlocking this pool of talent in East Africa.

Why is it called Caspar Coding?

The name of the brother of my co-founder. It was originally InterCode but there’s a company in Kenya called that already.

Corporates are into outsourcing already

The tech teams often work with firms in India etc. Though they’re struggling to compete with innovate startups taking a more agile approach.

Adopting the Spotify agile approach

Caspar’s client (ING Bank) is adopting a more modern approach. More information here

A Dutch candy is our secret weapon

Stroopwafels“Would you like to come to the land of this candy?”

Key lesson

Remote work? Experienced developers have more growth opportunities from relocating to the Netherlands.

Key insight

Western Europe has 5 million job openings for senior software developers. We have to think about where this is going to come from.

Links etc

LinkedIn: Sebastiaan Tan
Access their Telegram group for the developers through their Instagram:

The Economist’s Africa editor compares East Africa’s development with the rest of the continent


In this episode I speak with Jonathan Rosenthal, the Africa Editor of The Economist.

Our paths crossed when I was back in London for a few weeks, and so we took the opportunity to meet, and speak about some of the continent wide trends which he’s seeing, from the vantage point of running the Africa desk for the magazine.

Most episodes you’ll have listened to on the show will delve into a particular aspect of running a company in East Africa. Teasing out the specifics of why a certain business decision has been made or not, or trends that are present within a particular industry niche.

This episode is slightly different.

Jonathan and I take a much broader look at Africa’s development through the lens of, say, government debt ratios and currency reserves.

Whilst this might seem a bit lofty, I’d encourage you to stick with it.

In listening to the other episodes you will (I hope) get an understanding of the micro level of business in the region.

To get a fuller picture requires, I believe, to understand the larger macro factors at play in the story of development.

One such example of this is the government policy of raising debt from local banks.  Because the interest rates they offer are so high, it distorts the incentives for banks to lend to local businesses. As such, this macro level effect of “crowding out” the private sector trickles down to the suppression
of local businesses looking for capital to grow.

There are also references to the macro trends that can come from the innovation of rooftop solar systems. If you’d like to learn more on this, be sure to check out the Distributed Economy episode with Conrad Whitaker from Azuri Technologies.

The interview took place at The Economist HQ in London which, helpfully, has a recording studio of its own. If you’re interested in hearing more from The Economist, be sure to check out their regular podcasts which feature updates, insights and in-depth interviews that expand on their stories.


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Former banking editor of The Economist

The editor was looking at more of a business/ finance angle rather than just people looking at dangerous war zones.

Africa is skewed by South Africa and Nigeria

The simple dissection of those two main economies with the rest of the continent is a way to identify growth patterns.  The price of oil is a big determinant of the West African economy.

Debt in East Africa

There is an interesting relationship between investment and taking on debt. If it goes towards productive use: great,  though some of the growth seems to be from unsustainable government spending.

Distressful levels of debt?

Public Debt: GDP. How much have government entities borrowed as a percentage of what you earn. Africa has what seem to be relatively modest levels (50%) compared to an international level (80-100%).

Interest rates are higher locally

This often means that the government is paying back a higher percentage of the (low) tax revenues that they generate which becomes a significant burden.

Problem: governments raise local currency

This comes from local banks. The T-Bill rate that I can get from the government is really good, and so why should I take on the risk of lending to local governments?

Result: local banks channels savings to the government which means that local businesses aren’t able to get

Suppression of domestic business growth

This is the result of incentives at play, and relatively shallow capital markets, which means that new companies have difficulty to grow.

Financial repression

This is a way out of the cycle: capping the amount of government debt local institutions can hold to force them to get their money out into the economy.

Intra-Africa trade is low

Difficult to measure, but the value of trade between nations is internationally very low. There are still non-tariff barriers.

Slow ports drives up costs

The inefficiency of containers sitting idle, the higher the cost, the less internationally competitive it becomes.

Africa missed out on textiles labour

There’s a path dependency in that a number of, say, textiles factories have set up in China, and so it’s less likely to move elsewhere. This is now moving.

The race against the machine

Can Africa industrialise before robots outstrip unskilled labour?  Some tasks are complex for machines to do still, and still expensive, and so the economics are still compelling to hire local labour.

African Central Banks have done very well

By and large there has been a professionalisation of financial discipline which has translated through to low and stable inflation.

Ideological opposition

To privatising aspects of institutions. Some believe in the China model of it being state led rather than profiteering private companies. The Economist is, as a general stance, in favour of the capitalist approach.

Lessons & Insights

Best bang for buck? Reduce the influence of a predatory state. i.e. instigate competitive, privately-owned port operators

Insight: “Africa missed the escalator of the original boom in textiles”

Opportunity: “Countries need to build stuff to grow (rather than relying on a service economy)”

Links etc.

Jonathan on Twitter:

The Economist Radio:

Dream. Grow. Be Found. How Fuzu equips thousands of Kenyans for the workplace, with Jussi Hinkkanen


The demography in East Africa dictates that tens of millions of people will be entering the job market in the coming years

There is not only a challenge of creating jobs, but also guiding individuals on a path of what they want to do.

People typically lack the career counselling framework from, say, their families, especially for roles such as “digital marketing manager”.

Jussi is building Fuzu – a platform to guide people through their careers.

We discuss growing a company with a base in both Finland and Kenya,
how Fuzu categorises their type of job seeker and the challenges of bringing a disruptive business model to a traditional market.

Jussi also has probably the best rationale I’ve heard around the role of “for profit” and “not-for-profit” organisations in solving large scale social problems in developing markets, something I’ve always struggled to grapple with myself. It comes in at around 12 minutes.

For now though, I hope you enjoy the episode.


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Here are some of the key quotes:

“Youth unemployment is a massive challenge”

From my 13 years at Nokia in emerging markets this became very clear.

“The old tools don’t work”

We need to make something more exciting and more practical for the millions of people in Africa pouring into the job market.

“Finding your way”

Fuzu is for people to understand where they want to go with their careers. People don’t typically have career guidance.

“Fuzu is a fully online experience”

1) Platform for dreaming 2) Platform for growth 3) Platform to be found

“Career employability platform”

Is how we (try to) summarise what we do in a sentence

“Community is growing”

We have around 200,000 users and are growing at about 10% a week

“We’re agnostic”

Fuzu uses machine learning to segment the user base and then speak to them in a relevant manner. We have 7 segments.

“Fully automated experience”

By automatically directing people through their career using data and machines, we can do it at scale.

“None of the segments are large enough”

And so we decided to go after all seven from the start. We can then create a platform with which to flow content through.

“To tackle a significant social challenge – be a business…”

The challenge with non-profit approach is that there’s not a fundamental innovation loop which results in a mediocre platform. We could have got millions and millions in funding had we been “not-for-profit”.

“… however NGOs have benefits too”

Especially when it comes to playing to their strengths, especially with regard having deep networks and an understanding of the social problems.

“120 million people”

Will be entering the market in Africa between 2010-2020. By 2035 it will be the largest jobs market in the world and so something needs to be done.

“We’re two-sided”

Job seekers have a freemium model, and then for the employers have a fully paid service.

“To disrupt, you are competing with conventions”

Fuzu are going up against the classifieds businesses and traditional recruiters. It takes employers some time to warm up to the idea.

“We can find you the needle in the haystack”

Much faster. We can match it with the best talent once you launch a campaign, as well as doing active “head hunting”.

“We combine the strengths of Kenya and Finland”

The R&D team sit in Finland as they have a lot of experience. On the ground in Kenya we do content and marketing. We’ll look to move the R&D team to Kenya as people get more familiar with software like Ruby on Rails.

“Pretty easy on the jobseeker side”

People understand job platforms – our barrier to growth is that people need to invest time in writing their story, like with LinkedIn.

“Similar to LinkedIn”

The white-collar workforce are on LinkedIn in Kenya, but the platform has been slow on the education side of things.

“Inertia in the B2B market”

How to build trust and sell innovation to the businesses took longer than expected, getting back-end tools in place might have been a good idea.

“Plan your market entry”

Fuzu won the award for best entry with a tiny budget, in part through partnering with 16 tier one employers.

“I wouldn’t be happy with < 25 million users”

A platform like this works at scale and so in 5 years time I would hope we would be pan-African with many active users.

“Fuzu means…”

Self-made success in Swahili. I know right, a four letter word for quite a specific concept..!

Social Media Follows etc.

Website:  Fuzu
Facebook:  Fuzu 
Twitter: Fuzu

Paying for textbooks by the page: how Kytabu is disrupting Kenyan education, with Tonee Ndungu


The main way that students learn how to pass an exam is by reading from a textbook.

Traditionally, this has been built on the premise of publishers printing physical copies,
distributing to schools and taking cash payments.

This all comes at a cost, which is prohibitively high for a lot of schoolchildren in East Africa.

Tonee and I spend this episode discussing Kytabu.

They’ve turned the model on its head by digitising the content of these publishers, and allowing students and teachers
to access what they want, when they want it,
renting chapters from a book at a few US cents per day, paid for with mobile money

We also discuss how a lot of Kytabu’s employees are still at university, other trends that Tonee sees in the East African EdTech space and how a different interpretation of doughnut can completely undermine attempts from abroad to distribute educational content

It’s a great example of using scalable technology to disrupt an industry, and so I hope you enjoy


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Here are some of the key quotes:

“Kytabu is an EdTech application”

We’ve taken the entire curriculum that a student needs to pass Kenyan examinations, put it on a mobile application, and rent it out using mobile money.

“It’s being used everywhere”

We’ve never done a national launch, but it’s grown organically and is being used beyond just Nairobi

“15,000 users”

Is the current number on the app. Our potential comes in being able to get it into schools more. There are 8 million schoolkids in Kenya, so the potential is there.

“Supplementary education”

This is the main demand we find for Kytabu: students who are studying in school, and want additional resource when they’re revising.

“On the app, it’s the same content that’s in textbooks”

All of the content which is on Kytabu comes directly from Kenyan textbook publishers. This means that it fits directly with the curriculum.


It’s a smartphone application which somewhat reduces the app’s reach, but we’ve still found that enough people have mobile devices to use it.

“You now don’t need to buy a whole textbook”

Because the book is stored in the Kytabu app, it means that people can just rent it for a day/ week/ term rather than have to find the cash to buy a book which could get lost.

“Around a shilling (1 USD cent) per day”

It’s super affordable and can be lower. We’re seeing schoolkids spending around 7-10 shillings a week to access the content that they need.

“It doesn’t sound like a lot…”

But for the publishers, it makes sense. This is a scalable way in which to distribute their content, and incurs almost zero costs compared to the printing, distribution and piracy costs that come with physical textbooks.

“Schoolchildren use it for revision”

We use students using content for 85% of their curriculum. Our assumption is that they have the other 15% in hardcopy”

“Teachers use it in class”

They download everything for a whole term in the subject. We can see each week when they are using the content, and so can work out what they’re teaching and when. They’re spending $2-4/ month for all of their content needs.

“We need all subjects”

It only really makes sense for us to get everything at once, rather than focusing on just specific subjects (such as Science rather than Maths). Teachers are looking for very specific books, rather than just “a science textbook.

“Only 16% of Kenyans have access to a book”

Not all of the books, not some of the books, but just one book. And so by being able to rent them through a digital platform it hugely improves the accessibility.

“The publishers have been great”

They understand how digital is the future and how they need to embrace it. Kenya’s largest publisher lost millions on piracy last year, and so it’s compelling for them to work with Kytabu.

“Kytabu works for them”

It doesn’t really make sense for them to build their own platform. Students are interested in content from different publishers. Textbook publishers are in the content production industry, not really making a digital platform.


That’s the sell we have with publishers. Publishers come to us now – it’s a compelling sell now that we have the relationships with the publishers.

“A lot of interest in video”

This is one of the main trends that I’m seeing in Kenyan EdTech, along with an increase in teacher generated content. Another is parents buying tablets for their kids to use in school.

“Kytabu is completely Kenyan”

The whole team is Kenyan. Without myself and the CEO, the average age is 22. The majority are still at university, who manage their time between studies and working at Kytabu.

“Education is big, but slow”

The main surprise is the scepticism around new educational tools.

“Traditional donor money goes to non-thoughtful programmes”

Programmes that look to spend money to send stuff out to rural communities often miss the local context. The stories need to be local otherwise they won’t be adopted or understood.

“We want video to be more than entertainment”

We want Kytabu to start using video into the learning experience, such as taking museum experiences and bring it to the classroom. We also want to define what Kenyan content can be.

“Kytabu means book”

In 69 languages. Crazy, right.

Social Media Follows etc.

Website : Kytabu
Facebook : Kytabu
Twitter : Kytabu

No need for uni. Moringa School’s world class coding school in Kenya, with Audrey Cheng


Most business is about matching demand with supply.

From her work as a Venture Capitalist talking to businesses about what would help them grow, Audrey found that resoundingly the answer was “tech talent”.

Investigating the options available to students wanting to learn these skills, she found they were sub par.

Moringa School is addressing the need by providing world class education in how to build apps at an affordable cost.

We discuss the innovative teaching methodologies that they adopt, ways of breaching the skills gap in Kenya, and prospects for taking these vocational based higher education alternatives across the continent and into different skills.

Our interview was on the balcony outside of their office and so it gets a little windy at times, but either way, I hope you enjoy.


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Here are some of the key quotes:

“We have a 95% job placement rate”

Graduates from our school go into working on coding jobs across the continent.

“There’s huge demand”

Growing companies are all looking for talent, however it just wasn’t around. Audrey looked into how computer science education could be improved and started Moringa.

“We use a ‘flip classroom’ model”

Students are put in charge of what they need to know. We also use other group learning techniques based on neurological insights to give the best possible learning experience.

“Our students come from various sources”

Some from High School. Some from college. Some on a career break. A lot are seeing it as a good investment in order to then get a job.

“It’s extremely affordable”

The same price as a semester at a traditional college (around $350)

“We work backwards from the skills employers want”

This means that it becomes easy for people to slot into tech teams at the companies, as they have learnt all of the relevant skills to hit the ground running.

“The program is different to the US/ Europe”

Critical thinking isn’t taught in schools, which is much more based on regurgitation. Moringa teaches creative thinking through introducing mental frameworks for how to approach problems.

“Interview skills are also taught”

Such as communication, feedback and basically instilling confidence that people can prosper in the workplace.

“Self teaching is good, but not great”

Most developers who are working already taught themselves from the internet. This means they are susceptible to picking up bad practices.

“The Moringa course comes from the US”

We partner with a couple of courses which are highly rated internationally, and then adapt the content accordingly at Moringa.

“We make money through school fees”

This is our primary revenue stream. In time we might look to expand this out in other ways, such as getting people from the UK/ US to learn to code in Kenya and see the tech scene there.

“It’s beyond coding”

The trend that we’re seeing from the World Economic Forum and other industry experts is how to make higher education more linked to relevant employment skills and not just a piece of paper.

“West Africa is next”

In 3 years we want to have a presence in another location, and also be offering lessons in another type of skill.

“Moringa is a herb”

It’s like a superfood. We view what we do as medicine for the pain in society (education)

“There was some resistance”

Mainly from parents who were wondering whether this was a good investment for their kids. Now we’re beginning to prove the value of the education, it’s getting easier.

“We want to build a hacker house”

Right now people are coming from different countries/ cities, finding accommodation and then coming to school. We eventually want to build a dormitory/ community around working and living together.

“Some people see schools as a good business”

And so the government are wanting to keep checks that Moringa are acting properly. Having a Board member who was the ex-ICT Minister for the Kenyan government helps.

“We’re going to raise money!”

In early 2017 I’m off to the US and Europe to get our first bit of outside investment into the company. We’re wanting to meet the demand which raising investment can facilitate.

Social Media Follows etc.

Epicodus: programming programme

Hack Reactor: coding bootcamp

Moringa plant

First Round Capital: Audrey’s ideal investor

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative


Twitter: Moringa School

How Living Labs teaches entrepreneurship to rural Tanzanians, with Victoria John


Education is something which a lot of people are hungry for.

Living Lab is a non-profit organisation in Tanzania that looks to empower people in low income communities
through giving training in entrepreneurship and leadership

In this interview, Victoria and I discuss the demographics of their participants, the logistics around organising rural education programmes and why liquid soap production is a popular business idea


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Here are some of the key quotes:

“We help people in entrepreneurship and leadership”

Living Lab is a non-profit organisation that works with low income people across Tanzania.

“Training program”

We help people go through different training regimes so that they have skills to act upon their ideas that they have.

“18-29 is the typical age”

It varies, but most people undertaking this part-time training program are in this age range.

“Most people are risk averse”

Lots of people do things that are similar to each other, often for fear of doing something different. The most popular are liquid soap and computer training.

“People have to start from zero”

In beginning the program people have to come up with an idea that they can start with no money. Such as turning water bottles into dustbins.

“No beef”

Living Lab is in partnership with the Finnish government. As far as I’m aware Tanzania and Finland get on well!

“Commitment is the key”

You need to be really committed in order to help change someone. Else failure is at your doorstep.

“People are tired of doing the same thing every day”

We find that the demand for coming on the course is huge. People really want the chance to improve their lives.

“Lessons take place in town”

So it’s easy for people to take the bus into the town and are then able to come to us.

“How to come up with an idea”

This is the most important skill that I want people to understand. We use a number of tools to help with idea generation.

“A dress out of paper”

We gave our students a piece of paper to come up with an idea. One of them came back wearing it as a dress.

“Our own businesses”

Cover the costs of Living Labs. For example, I run a dry cleaning business that helps to keep Living Labs operational.

“Just make it clean!”

Is the best advice I can give for running a dry cleaning business.

Social Media Follows etc.

Website: Living Lab

Lotus Flower idea generation

Facebook: Mbeya Lab

Twitter: Mbeya Lab