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This week the University of Nairobi and UNICEF have announced a collaborative partnership to find sustainable and innovative homegrown solutions to the challenges faced by children, adolescents and youth in Kenya and for other marginalized communities around the world.

This groundbreaking partnership was officially launched during the signing ceremony of a MoU between the University and UNICEF. During the Ceremony, the University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Peter M. F. Mbithi, and UNICEF Kenya Acting Representative, Dr. Pirkko Heinonen, shared a joint commitment to lead their institutions in coming up with innovative ideas that address the bottlenecks and barriers faced by the children and adolescents from the most deprived and vulnerable communities.

Kenya MOU
The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Peter Mbithi and the Representative, UNICEF Kenya, Dr. Pirkko Heinonen, sign the MoU on Innovation to jointly work towards finding local solutions to address bottleneck and barriers faced by children, Adolescents and youth in Kenya. (Credit. Minu Limbu/UNICEF Kenya)

Eight out of ten children are deprived from access to basic services in Kenya especially in hard to reach areas,” said Dr. Heinonen. “Over 16 million children in Kenya do not have access to clean drinking water and sanitation, education, health, nutrition and shelter. The Government, public and private sectors, and academic institutions like the University of Nairobi must work together to make a change for those that need it most.”

The University of Nairobi is the largest and oldest university in Kenya with over 80,000 students. Most recently the university has identified research, innovation and technology as a pivotal part of their academic work. Mainstreaming innovations for youth and supporting youth-led innovation is critical especially since over half of the global population is under thirty. As the institutions that are training the next generation of leaders, researchers, designers, and policy-makers, universities are an essential part of this landscape.

Prof. Mbithi said, “We talk about innovation very often and somehow it is taken lightly. On the contrary we see it as a tedious process of accurately identifying problems and challenges in society, systematically creating solutions to those challenges and deploying the appropriate solutions that will have a meaningful impact on people and society. We also realize that we are much more effective when we work with partners on this journey.”

The Director of the University Computing for Development Lab, Dr. Tonny Omwansa and UNICEF Kenya Chief of Social Policy Mr. Ousmane Niang, jointly highlighted various initiatives the two institutions will collaborate in the next two years:

  1. Nairobi Innovation Week: A flagship yearly event initiated by the university in collaboration with partners to help grow and advocate for innovation from the Global South.
  2. Youth Engagement platform: Young people led program designed to empower adolescents and youth to speak out on issues that they care about in their communities, encouraging citizen-led development to create positive change.
  3. Data lab for children: One stop information shop on the status of children in Kenya in close coordination with the Government of Kenya and other relevant stakeholders.
  4. Nairobi Design Thinking School: Course designed to equip young entrepreneurs and innovators with the necessary skill sets to develop products and services based on the users need, including children. []
  5. Africa Technology and Innovation Accelerator: A multi-disciplinary technology accelerator that incubates technology driven startups for both early stage and growth stage. []

For more information on the partnership, please contact

  • Dr. Tonny Omwansa, Director of C4D Lab (Head of Innovation), University of Nairobi,
  • Minu Limbu, Information Management Specialist (Innovation Focal Point), UNICEF, Kenya,
  • Ousmane Niang, Chief of Social Policy, UNICEF Kenya,
Young Asian leaders apply human-centred design to the region's biggest youth challenges
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