Linking technology and creativity for employment and self-employment: African Knowledge Exchange’s Creative Media Venture


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Institution: Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GESCI)


The African Knowledge Exchange’s (AKE) Creative Media Venture (AKE III) grew out of two earlier AKE projects, which began the work of testing, refining and evolving a scalable model for digital skills and enterprise development in Kenya. It was championed by a team whose international community college experiences included the creation of the College of Creative Arts in Ireland. KE was run by the Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GESCI) in Kenya between 2012 and 2017, with the AKE III cycle occurring between January 2016 and June 2017.  AKE funding was primarily from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland (MFAF). 

The AKE III project focused on skills development and employment in the digitally-driven creative and cultural arena (animation, games design and apps development, music production) of DCM (Digital Creative Media). It combined high-level skills development with the development of entrepreneurial abilities, as well as the formation, in real time, of actual DCM start-ups. The aim was to ensure the transition from skills development to start-up creation through the support of industry, media experts and mentors and by providing a balance of tuition and mentorship in a fully-functional studio environment.  

Good Practice Approach

Various models and experiences informed AKE III including, “Living Lab” action research approach, thought colleagues, including specialists from the Dublin College of Creative Arts.   A call to action to the Kenyan arts, culture and ICT communities, including target employer businesses, and existing institutions and “hang-outs”, netted an appropriate assortment of amateur musicians, animators and programmers who were shortlisted on the basis of high interest levels, originality and creativity rather than of high marks or specific qualifications. 

The first part of the tracking and screening processes was a comprehensive and lengthy interview process which whittled the body of applicants down to the final 21. Further effort to ensure an acceptable gender balance was applied (9 of the 21 students selected were female).The development of a collaborative team-work and practice-based approach required the availability of appropriate and fully-fledged infrastructure and toolset for training and skilling to foster 21st Century skills. To this end, three interlinked digital studios were fully equipped and served as the learning spaces and as the cross-disciplinary progress assessment arenas for the duration of AKE III. GESCI further ensured that funding accommodated the provision of laptops for each student.

The aim was to develop and implement a flexible and relevant curriculum informed by continuous involvement of multi-stakeholder dialogues and contribution in the design, implementation, mentoring as well as monitoring and evaluation.

Key Results
  • 21 Kenyan youth (12 men, 9 women) participated in hard and soft skills training, in successful preparation for their on-going employment and self-employment in DCM industries.

  • Seven newly formed start-ups received seed funding, all are still functioning. The participants worked with industry experts relevant to the start-up to help develop their products/services.

  • Three local Kenyan tutors were trained and developed; they were exposed to training on modern pedagogical approaches and technologies and mentoring.

  • Communication and collaboration with various Kenyan stakeholders and government departments resulted in a policy forum which produced policy recommendations to sustain more conducive youth skilling and enterprise development.

  • The African Union Commission’s youth programme has endorsed AKE until 2020.

  • Three equipped studios now exist to incubate the next series of programmes.

Lessons Learnt (Success Factors & Challenges)

Key enablers included

  • Access to world-leading teachers and mentors in the DCM fields, and in the areas of cutting-edge pedagogics;

  • A credible and robust parent organisation to sell and steer the programme

  • Committed industry partners with a real stake in the constant improvement in the quality and quantity of staff and suppliers to the DCM heavy industries regionally and internationally, and who have witnessed the success of the project.

Key challenges experienced

  • Impact of the unpredictable shifts in the focus of critical funders

  • Managing pressure to institutionalise an initiative such as AKE III into a traditional TVET type vehicle, while maintaining a creative team and method

  • Maintaining the delicate balance between tutoring and mentorship, as well as between the soft and hard skill endowment processes.

  • Sustaining the attention and involvement of government ministries, industry partners and potential investors particularly when there is a hiatus between funding phases.

The project has understood the importance of:

  • National/regional policy support for cutting-edge and innovative training initiatives;

  • Establishing “centres of practice” rather than just classrooms.

  • Fundamental curricular reform in TVET to reflect the job market and the increasing importance and application of ICT in all jobs; and

  • Reaching out to the industrial and commercial community for their advice and contribution to current skills development.



  • Although entities such as the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) are keen to see the model scaled and re-implemented for refugee camps, for example, there is first the need to reconstruct and ensure a funding arrangement.


  • Once funding is secured, enablers and marketers established, then the way will be paved for reactivating and further improve the programme.




African Knowledge Exchange_Policy brief

Creative Digital Media_End of project report

Concept note_Digital creative_an integrated model for digitally driven skills development and start-ups