Young people in Kenya are coming up with innovations that address challenges facing the common man. 25 year old Purity Gakuo manufactures and distributes solar-powered freezers to local fishermen in Kenya. The freezers solve the problem of electricity shortages significantly reducing fishermen’s post-harvest losses. According to summit22, 45% of fish harvest is lost before its sold or safely consumed.
Here is her story as told by WoK.
Purity Gakuo was born in 1997 in Mombasa, a community where most people depend on fishing. Growing up in that background, she saw firsthand the huge post-harvest losses fishermen suffered due to lack of access to affordable cold-storage equipment. She attended the University of Nairobi in 2018 where she pursued Entrepreneurship and Small Business Operations. She was to later on join the Nairobi Institute of Business Studies in 2019 to pursue Hospitality Administration and Management. In August 2022 she joined Honoris United Universities to pursue Business Administration and Management.
Gakuo began her career journey in January 2017 volunteering as a Social worker at Kennedy School. Five months later she joined NUPOLA as a Community Engagement officer, serving in the position up to December 2017. In January 2018 she joined Tekizo Africa Limited as an Operations Project Manager and later as an intern at Hotel Royal Court. She quit her job to establish Kuza Coolers.
Establishing Kuza Coolers Limited
In July 2021, Purity partnered with her friend Dennis Onkangi to establish Kuza Coolers Limited – an Agri-tech start up based in Mombasa that seeks to provide a storage alternative for the fishermen’s post harvests. Dennis is a computer science graduate from Rongo University and the two had met in an Agricultural Society of Kenya exhibition event. The two built a bond over the idea and in 2020, they were able to raise a capital of Sh250,000 through bootstrapping and crowd funding. They then founded Kuza Freezers with the aim of empowering rural communities through providing affordable solar-powered freezers.
“To bridge this cold-chain gap, our company manufactures low-cost, pay-as-you-go solar-powered freezers that improve livelihoods of the rural fishermen and women fish farmers by reducing post-harvest losses and enabling them to achieve economic resilience,” revealed Dennis during a past interview with Nation.
The Kuza Freezers
The duo manufacture the freezers using at least 80 percent locally sourced materials. The freezer is powered by direct current (DC) 12V solar and has a temperature range of between 10 to 20 degrees Celsius. The freezer comes with a free clean lighting packing including three bulbs that can be used as a source of lighting. The Kuza freezer has been incubated by accelerators such as Kenya Climate and Somo Africa who support them through business mentorship and coaching.
The solar-powered freezer consists of a patented cooling unit technology made up of high power compressor unit and a body mounted condensing unit that operates on a 300W solar cells which are installed in a position where it can access the sun. There are IoT sensors which ensure the system functions well and they can also track its location, power status and temperature from their application – Kuza Mobile App. Fishermen are required to pay Ksh15,000 deposit followed by a daily instalment of Ksh250 for 15 months after which they fully own the freezers. The company has reached out to over 250 local fisher vendors and created over 260 direct and indirect jobs in manufacturing, community development, aquaculture and distribution.
Their unique product has received global recognition including having emerged second in the African Continental Free Trade Area Caravan Prize in 2021, winning the Best Solar power solution in the BlueInvest event held in Seychelles and Best food security solution in the Connected Summit 2022. On October 18th 2020, Purity Gakuo won the Global Young Entrepreneur of the Year and the Business for Good awards in the Global Youth Entrepreneurship Summit held in Hague, Netherlands. Gakuo garnered over 33 percent of the total 8,000 votes cast to win the grand prize of Ksh 1.2 million. Following the win, she was admitted into the Youth Business International (YBI) and secured a place in the YBI Hall of Fame.