The new AKU-GSMC Media Innovation Center brings together great innovative minds and media professionals from East Africa who are leading change in their spheres of influence with the aim of supporting, training and incubating their big ideas into economically viable realities.

Funded by KfW as part of the Futures Project, the Innovation Centre aims to foster innovation and entrepreneurship to enhance media viability through a combination of research, training, mentorship, coaching, incubation/acceleration services and knowledge sharing. The Innovation Centre will be based in Nairobi, to provide space, time and support for concrete leading-edge innovation projects that strengthen Media Viability across the region.

The Innovation Center provides an innovative environment in which innovators-in-residence, will undergo a rigorous and immersive training programme that will familiarize them with principles of media viability, innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership. In essence, the Innovation Center is the crucible for the next generation of media entrepreneurs, where great ideas are turned into reality.

  1. Mission

To conduct research and training, carry out acceleration and outreach for all media and other stakeholders through partnerships.

  1. Vision

To support informed communities through viable media in East Africa.

The Innovation Center provides an innovative environment in which innovators-in-residence, will undergo a rigorous and immersive training programme that will familiarize them with principles of media viability, innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership.  Through a collaboration with our development partners Deutsche Welle Akademie, the media innovators will have the space, time and incubation support to steer their innovation projects to maturity.

  1. Accelerator Program

The Innovation Center offers startups accelerator support where innovators are taken through education, mentorship, and financing for a period of XX months. The accelerator experience is a process of intense, rapid, and immersive education aimed at accelerating the life cycle of young innovative companies, compressing years’ worth of learning-by-doing into just a few months. The Innovation Center will provide coaches and mentors that will help young innovators breathe life into their exiting idea(s)/companies.

  1. Innovator in Residence

The Innovator-in-Residence Program provides a valuable mentoring opportunity in developing and breathing to life new innovative ways. Through this program, selected experts from DW Akademie will guide early-stage innovations and work with innovators at the Innovation Center. The innovators-in-residence will form an ecosystem of innovators that will work closely with a network of trainers and coaches who will mentor them, teach and work alongside them to facilitate their exploration of new innovative projects. They will also collaborate with a team of marketing specialists and other organizations and institutions and leverage on these relationships to actualize their ideas. The program will take 6 months and once the idea is viable, they will receive a grant of $15,000.

 

  1. Shared Spaces
  2. Co-working
  • Africa Check

Africa Check is an independent, non-partisan organisation which assesses claims made in the public arena using journalistic skills and evidence drawn from the latest online tools, readers, public sources and experts, sorting fact from fiction and publishing the results. Africa Check has offices in four countries, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. Africa Check’s reports are published in English and French.

In 2017, Africa Check signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Dean of the Graduate School of Media and Communications of Aga Khan University. The MoU effectively makes the School the country host for Africa Check’s operations in Kenya. It is under this memorandum that Africa Check became the pioneer project at the Innovation Centre, set up by the Aga Khan University.

Hosted at the Innovation Center, Africa Check makes use of resources such as office space, internet services, video conferencing facilities, fully stocked library, video and photo shooting and editing equipment among other facilities at zero cost. For more information about Africa Check, visit www.africacheck.org

 

Njoki Chege – Director

Njoki Chege is the Director, Innovation Center, Aga Khan University. She is currently responsible for the launch of the new media Innovation Center which is geared towards enhancing media viability in East Africa. The Innovation Center is based in Nairobi, Kenya, and provides a co-working space, time and training for the next generation of media entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders.

She previously served as the Editor, Lifestyle-(Pishi) at Nation Media Group (NMG). At NMG, she was responsible for the commercial and strategic direction of Nation Lifestyle—an innovation project by NMG that seeks to provide lifestyle content to its global audience. Cumulatively, she has nine and a half years’ experience in the media industry, having worked for six years at Nation Media Group and three years at Standard Group Limited.

She is also a Ph.D. Candidate at Daystar University, Kenya. She received her M.A and Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Daystar University, Kenya in 2016 and 2012 respectively. She has previously taught graduate courses in new media as an adjunct lecturer at Daystar University School of Communication, Language & Performing Arts.

Chege’s research interests focus on media economics, media innovation and business models. She has presented her research in media economics in internationally acclaimed conferences such as the World Media Economics and Management Conference (WMEMC) and International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR).

 

Caleb Chuma – Communications Officer

Caleb Chuma is The Innovation Center’s Communications Officer responsible for planning, developing, implementing and evaluating communication plans to support the goals and priorities of The Innovation Center. Caleb previously worked in the Public Relations sector under communication agencies serving different corporate clientele in Finance, Insurance, Motor Industry, Fashion, Oil and Gas and Government.

Through his six years in PR agencies, Caleb gained experience in handling Crisis Communications, Media Relations, Internal Communications, Event Management, Stakeholder Management, Product PR, Sports Sponsorships and Content Development for corporate clients. He similarly managed client’s communications with their external and internal stakeholders through development of, and execution of, communications strategies. Through his tenure, Caleb won The PRSK Internal Communication Campaign of the Year 2018 among other awards like Employee of the Year and Positive Attitude of the Year in 2017. Caleb has a B.A in Public Relations and currently finalizing on his M.A in Corporate Communications at Daystar University.

Caleb, commonly known as ‘Manywele’ likes karaoke, coaching football teams, binge watching movies and other outdoor adventures.

Clare Boyani – Grants Administrator

Clare works to provide financial and administrative advice and support services to designated program staff. She will serve as liaison among GSMC, DWA and KfW interpreting both KfW and AKU requirements and policies, providing support to obtain newly available information on funding volume, timing of reports and compliance with regulatory and contractual requirements under the grant.

Prior to joining The Innovation Center, Clare worked for PwC Kenya where she was involved in projects and grant management for various donor funded projects in the Public and not for profit sectors. Her work has also involved providing mentorship and support to nascent organizations to improve efficiency and effectiveness of their operating systems. Clare holds a Master of Science in Economics and Finance from the University of Leeds and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Sociology from Egerton University.

Hesbon Hansen Owilla – Research Associate

Hesbon Hansen Owilla works at The Aga Khan University’s Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC) as the Research Associate. As part of the GSMC team at the Innovation Centre (Media Futures). Hesbon works with the team in implementing research on innovations and media viability in the current epoch of technological and disruptions. He has taught broadcast journalism, new media production, media studies and communication strategies for the last eight years and he is currently a PhD candidate whose research interest is in political communications and the nexus between media and democracy within the broader framework of the political economy.

Hesbon has a track record in mentoring young media trainees having taught at Daystar University and the United States International University – Kenya (USIU). At GSMC he is currently working with the graduate students in research clinics focused on designing and implementing both academic and applied media research that will address the contemporary issues in journalism and inform practical pedagogy and instructional materials in the training of journalism. Besides teaching and research Hesbon has worked as a consultant with a number of organizations such as Rococo PR and Media Ltd, Rift Gas and Kilambi Media. His key strength is in designing and implementing both legacy and social media advocacy campaigns for corporate image and brand building.

Hesbon Hansen Owilla is also a socioeconomic and current affairs analyst with a breadth of knowledge on issues and has contributed editorial opinions to Nation Media Group’s Nation Online platform and The Star newspaper in Kenya. He has also appeared on national television in Kenya and is a regular and permanent panelist on Inside Politics a socioeconomic and political talk show on KTN News.

  1. DW Akademie

DW Akademie strengthens the human right to freedom of expression. Together with our partners, we play a leading role in the development of free media systems, creating access to information, setting standards for education and independent journalism. DWA supports the development of independent, transparent media systems, quality journalism and media expertise. They help rebuild media in post-crisis and post-conflict environments and contribute internationally to the professional training of media workers. DWA will partner with GSMC to provide professional curriculum and expert training for innovators in East Africa looking to actualize their ideas for the media market.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the innovation center?    

Launched in 2019, The Innovation Centre, based in Nairobi was established under the Futures Project as a result of partnership between DW Akademie (DWA) and Graduate School of Media and Communication, Aga Khan University (GSMC, AKU). The Innovation center will be an innovation hub for media innovators who would like a space to develop their ideas into reality.

  1. What will its function be?

The center was set up to offer a hub for media practitioner, students and academicians to develop concrete leading edge innovation project(s) that will strengthen media viability across East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda). The Innovation Centre will provide support services such as acceleration and incubations services to galvanize media innovation in East Africa with a focus not just on creative content but on new sustainable business models for the future.

  1. Who is DW Akademie?

DW Akademie strengthens the human right to freedom of expression. Together with our partners, we play a leading role in the development of free media systems, creating access to information, setting standards for education and independent journalism.

  1. How can one join?

The Innovation Center calls out for submission annually of innovative ideas that require incubation or acceleration to the public. A committee will be formed and mandated to go through the submission after which the shortlisted candidates will be called to make a presentation to the panel to get an opportunity to go through the incubation period.

  1. What is the process before an idea is granted funds?

Once a team’s idea qualifies the vetting process, the team is provided for a space where they can develop the idea further through acceleration or incubation. The center will provide the team with state of the art tech equipment for practical works, coaching and mentorship by highly trained professionals from DW Akademie. The team will be trained in advancing their idea, how to actualize it, financial management, sustainability among other things. Once the idea grows its own wings, the team is allowed to go out and put it into practice with close supervision from the Innovation center.

  1. Who is your target audience?

We are targeting young professionals that own their own media houses, campus students with great ideas and practitioners who are in the industry.

  1. Like other innovation hubs, will there be a grant? If Yes/No, why?

Yes, there will be a grant of $ 15,000 for successful incubated ideas for the team closely monitored by the Innovation Center.

  1. How long will you incubate an idea?

Incubation varies depending on the idea at the table.

  1. Do you have any local partners?

Yes, we do. We are partnering with Communication Authority of Kenya in implementing this project. We are similarly looking at onboarding new partners from the media houses and local media based tertiary institutions.

  1. Who funds the project?

The project is funded by Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau under the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The funding was agreed upon by East African Community (EAC) and BMZ with Aga Khan University appointed as the implementing agency.

  1. How long is the project funded for?

The agreed timing of the project is four years.

  1. Where is the Innovation Center located?

The Innovation Center is located in Parklands, Peponi Rd, House No. 06.

Aga Khan University and DW Akademie Launch “The Futures Project”

The Aga Khan University has partnered with DW Akademie in a project that will evaluate if the media in East Africa stands a chance of surviving the digital revolution that has impacted consumer patterns.

The multi-year project dubbed Futures Project for Media Innovation and Sustainability in East Africa will be implemented by the Graduate School of Media and Communications and will work with most media houses in East Africa by promoting innovation, building knowledge, and strengthening the capacity of journalists and media institutions.

“This project is going to create the space for us to begin to think about the media as a business and journalism as a craft. It is going to enhance the professional capability of journalists and will create a pathway for new business models for media houses in the digital age,” said Dr Alex Awiti, Interim Dean at GSMC and Vice Provost, Aga Khan University, East Africa.

The project will also spur entrepreneurship as well as sharing knowledge, expertise and resources. “We believe that independent quality journalism is important but financing is an issue. It is very expensive and we have to find new models to finance businesses in the media sector to make sure that quality journalism can survive.” said DW Akademie Head, Carsten von Nahmen.

The project will be carried out in two phases – the establishment of an Innovation Centre in Nairobi led by Aga Khan University; and a Media Viability Network led by DW Akademie. The Centre will foster media innovation and entrepreneurship through research, mentorship and incubation services. Through the network, trainers and coaches will teach and work alongside small and medium-sized media outlets to build their capacity and facilitate exploration of new business models.

The project forms part of a financing and operating partnership between Aga Khan University (AKU), the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Deutsche Welle Academie (DWA), and Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW).

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