By Alex Kimutai
Innovation is somewhat a strange term to many Kenyans not because they are ignorant but because they hardly put it into practice. We a rather conservative society who are comfortable with established structures, rules and procedures. very few of us thinking think beyond normal and can come up with an idea however radical it is.
A 9-year-old boy though is challenging that myth. Stephen Wamukota with his rather small idea of inventing a wooden hand washing machine to safely wash our hands as prevention to tackle Covid 19 is making international headlines and to be honest I read his story in BBC and then Sky News. The humble boy hails from Mukwa in Kakamega county, western Kenya which has not reported a single case of Covid 19 but because of his ingenuity he has devise a better way to us wash our hands and keep the virus at bay and flatten the curve.
‘I now have two machines and I want to make more’ Stephen whose ambitions is to be an engineer told the BBC. This drive and vision is what has propelled him from a little known just ordinary young man to the international recognition and has even received the presidential award for this concept, Uzalendo awards in just recent Madaraka Day celebrations.
The international well known creative thinkers ranging from Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos had humble beginnings just like Stephen’s. Zuckerberg for example started building a chat application at age of 12 and that lead him to come up with Facebook which has morphed to an international powerful social network. Elon Musk on the other hand started a space company SpaceX, uncharted territories which even his friends had assured him of imminent failure but has successfully launched a space craft to the orbit in the past week. There are hundreds of stories and Stephen’s is no different and as a matter of fact Stephen is younger at his first discovery.
The idea of just hand-washing may look very common but the fact that no one else had come up with that idea sets the young boy apart from even those that are five times older. He has come up with a solution to a challenge we are facing of Covid 19 and this will challenge other Kenyans who are older than him to be innovative and use the situations they are in to come up with a viable solution.
We are living in extra ordinary times and thinkers and problem solvers are having a field day in this century. Google was barely a startup 20 years ago who just very few ambitions people having a radical idea but now Google is among top 10 companies in the world with largest workforce through the continent. Facebook 20 years ago was inexistent entity but right now is a force to reckon through the world. The bottom line is innovation is driving the world and Stephen Wamukota is exactly destined greater things if he gets the right path going forward.
Kenya’s innovation space has been reawakened by unlikely hero, a 9-year-old and I can bet that we can be seeing greater Kenyan solutions in coming future thanks to this small wooden hand washing machine.