OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Kakuma Ventures: Storage, Supply, Distribution and Entrepreneurship at the Kakuma Refugee Camp

We are building and financing the storage, supply, and distribution of basic living necessities for the poorest in Kakuma.

Photo of Kurt Davis
19 15

Written by

*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

1. Vincent cannot find drinking water. 2. Vincent’s friend tells him about Kakuma Ventures. Vincent visits KV mini-store, takes business skills training, gets a loan from KV for a water filtration device. 3. Vincent sets up a water filtration depot near his family. He starts selling water to his local community and commences his own business. 4. As Vincent’s water filtration depot grows in popularity, he pays back a % of the revenues to KV. Vincent's business grows and offers vegetables next.

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

Food rations are being cut, financing for the camp is lacking, there is no storage infrastructure for basic living supplies, and there is no clear path to a sustainable economy. These issues are causing a hostile living environment in Kakuma which is leading to starvation and suicide. Our idea is leveraging Kukuma’s people and culture while empowering these same people to participate in the marketplace and build a better future that is sustainable. Sources: Donor countries fail to meet their financial obligations to the WFP.( Organizations like AAH who have traditionally helped entrepreneurs want to work together with them on this. ( Suicides increase as the hope for a better future diminishes. (

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

Kakuma gets supplies from Kitale and Nairobi, taking 18-24 hours by car. The government restricts refugees from movement outside the camp, making it hard for them to get access to supplies. The only stores in the area are funded by local Kenyans who collude to keep profits high. There is little opportunity and no financing for new entrepreneurs. The economic ecosystem is currently stimulated by government agencies who pay for work at a rate of $30-$70/month. We supply goods and create liquidity.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

We are changing Kakuma’s ecosystem by creating competition in the market. Building a warehouse will increase supplies and create an alternative way to purchase necessities. Then, we will stimulate economic activity through micro-financing entrepreneurs. We are creating a new economic paradigm in Kakuma by creating a competitive marketplace that will shift the supply curve, thus decreasing prices in the market, and creating velocity and liquidity of capital, thus increasing purchasing power.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

The community will get access to clean water, fresh vegetables, and stored grains/flour. We will build a warehouse in the Kakuma 1 region, fully stocked with these items. As we expand, we will create small stores throughout Kakuma 1. We aim to build the warehouse in 2-3 months and then create small stores in Kakuma 1 in half a year. The goal is to sustain through profits. We will invest the profits back into Kakuma Ventures and loan money to entrepreneurs paid back by profit-share.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

We interviewed tens of beneficiaries and several entrepreneurs. They responded positively to the idea of accessible food and water, especially an uninterrupted flow of supplies (storage for future consumption) in reference to the seasonal volatility of price and quality preservation. They often go through periods of starvation - we can solve this with a proper warehouse. Our goal is to create a fully functional and scalable warehouse that can store food and supplies. This is essential to our entire endeavor. Entrepreneurs are excited by the idea for several reasons: 1) they all stressed the need for proper business skills training, which is something we are going to continue, 2) they get access to resources to start their business, 3) they receive capital to launch their businesses - we learned they can launch their businesses from $250-$500. If successful, this will create an inclusive business environment.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

The goal of this grant is to build infrastructure in Kakuma 1 within 12 months. Month 1-2: Nairobi - Kakuma planning period. Implementation Schedule, Architectural help. Month 3-6: Purchase & Building of initial warehouse and stores. We will also buy delivery/transport vehicles at this time including motorcycles, pick-up trucks, and a refigerated truck. Month 6: Begin fundraising that additional $50k. Month 6-8: Purchase of water filtration, food storage bins, and hermetic bags. Start delivery of food from Kitale/Nairobi. Month 9-10: Implement lending system / acct Month 11-12: Operating, financial review Year 2: Raise $200k to repeat this process throughout Kakuma. Year 3: Raise $2-3M to build a logistics template. Visit refugee camps around the world and implement in other places.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

Innocent is our CEO and will lead a team of entrepreneurs in Kakuma. We will hire three full-time members for the team to help us build out the warehouse. Kurt and Clarence will visit Kakuma the first month to prepare, budget, and begin execution of the first warehouse. Thereafter, Kurt will visit every half year, possibly more.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

Funds of $30,000 will support the complete build-out of the warehouse, including refrigeration, water filtration, and solar-power energy. Then, we will supply the warehouse with food using bins, hermetic bags, and filtration products from Chep, Lifestraw, and Zerofly. Additional funds of $20,000 will help us to roll out 4-5 mini-stores in Kakuma 1. We will also be able to begin lending to entrepreneurs with about $1k per entrepreneur to start.

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

1. Should we set-up an entity in the USA to support this initiative by sending money to Kenya? It seems that US investors would prefer to invest in 501c3 2. What are the best ways to track and share budgets with investors? 3. What experiences do your experts have in micro-lending for entrepreneurs and reasonable profits shares?

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

I think the biggest areas we have focused on is the ability to build and control the first warehouse and solidifying safe transport of goods. We realize that the warehouse must be powered, safe, and have cooling systems. The next biggest concern is transport from the cities to the camp. We will have to consider a refrigerated truck that could be costly up to $15k. Otherwise, we would consider delivering perishables in phase 2. The goal is to build a warehouse and 2 functioning mini-marts with the $50k. Within the camp, we will ensure safety of delivery by hiring local ambassadors for each camp affiliation to communicate the need to work together on these projects. Then, we will hire nationalities from each camp. That said, there is a pretty fluid mix in Kakuma of people working together. I was actually delighted when I saw this.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

With the launch of the new website, I have started fundraising for our initial $50-$100k. We have finalized an investment memorandum for raising our initial $50k. We have received verbal commitment of at least $10k from the non-profit arm of ( and should we receive this grant, I think we can raise from individual donors in the Bay Area. We have identified new infrastructure and technology companies to help us with the micro-financing and auditing system for lending such as, and We have also identified providers who can help with infrastructure like and Both are now working in Nairobi and have the perfect facility that we can replicate. We are also researching basic curriculums for entrepreneurship with companies like Vilcap and We have had early discussion with other funding institutions like UN WFP and AAHI We are searching for more foundations focused on refugee support. We recently got in touch with UNHCR Head of Sub Office Kakuma, Sukru Cansizoglu, and shared with him our application and expressed our need to get their support to this project. He was very enthusiastic and shared this link with us that is a recent study of by IFC and pointed out that we need this support ( ). To make sure we have government support, we met Albert Lopeyoke who is the protection officer at the department of the refugee affair and camp management. He also expressed that the government is very supportive of refugee initiatives like ours. For reference, we have two main UN agencies on the ground who will support us: UNHCR (Head of Sub Office Kakuma, Sukru Cansizoglu) and UNWFP (Voucher Program - Market Development and Monitoring Officer, Bedan Mwangi). There is also the Government of Kenya through the department of refugee affair and the county government (Government protection officer, Albert Lopeyoke).

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

- Newly identified partners for infrastructure and technology - New local support from government and community - Identified funders to get to our $50k - We have identified how to spend the initial $50k and what we will accomplish

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

“The efficiency of our supply chain is often literally a matter of life and death to the refugees and families we serve, so any improvements we can make could have a massive impact,” said Vicente Escribano, UNHCR’s head of Supply Management Logistic Service. In Kakuma Refugee Camp, there is no proper setup for broad distribution of products and services. Insects penetrate bags damaging the food and harsh weather spoils perishables like vegetables. Access to safe drinking water is limited to either expensive bottled water or pumped water that is often too salty or contaminated for drinking. We are building a storage, supply, and distribution business for access to necessities. First, we will build infrastructure - create a warehouse as a main storage facility. We will create small hubs in the refugee camp that will have clean water facilities (filters and cooling), bins for perishables, and hermetic bags for beans and grains. These centers will be run and financed by our team and our entrepreneurs. Additionally, we will operate a logistics business with a truck (city to city) and motorcycles for delivery. In order to scale, we empower locals by financing them to build out and operate parts of the hub. By providing them with an initial capital investment/loan for the supplies such as the water filters, vegetable bins, refrigeration, hermetic bags, and motorcycles for delivery, they can start their own business. We will recoup that over time and increase investment provided the entrepreneur pays back within our time frame. We will own the core storage infrastructure and rent out what is inside. Empowering the locals is a key to our success. We have been working on this project for over one year and have several projects running including a water filtration business and the motorcycle delivery component. Our next step is to build the warehouse and hubs.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our focus is on Region 1 of Kakuma Refugee Camp - where 40% of residents live. Most people in refugee camps have been affected by conflict before they reach the camps. Many of these are youth (8-15) who wander into the camp without family. Others are single mothers who have no support. Worse, kids (2-8) are left to fend for themselves. The center will provide for all, but we plan to focus our services to those who are the poorest. When rations are given by AID organizations, they are often neglected. We can solve this in a few ways: 1) empowering women and single mothers as entrepreneurs, 2) making sure the hubs are servicing the youth first, 3) re-investing profits back to the children. After we build a template in Kakuma, we will expand to other refugee camps in neighboring regions. Then, we can connect refugee camps via a major warehouse that sits in Kitale or a city in the middle.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

There are two ways people receive food in the refugee camp: 1) AID organizations distribute rations monthly, 2) a few people within the camp receive financial assistance from family or friends, and they set up small shops and price for those who can afford it. Our vision is to create a scalable platform so that products can reach anyone anywhere. Through scale, the price of goods will decrease and accessibility will increase. We are also financing local entrepreneurs to operate businesses within the hubs. We will provide entrepreneurs with initial capital investment/loan for the start-up supplies such as the water filters or vegetable bins. We will recoup that over time and increase investment provided the entrepreneur pays back. Another unique advantage is that we combine Western business expertise with a diverse group who represent all countries within the camp. Kurt, Innocent, and Kakuma Ventures team have been working together for 12 months.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

We are building a platform that will give refugees better access to food, water, and necessary supplies, while also empowering entrepreneurs to build and sustain businesses that benefit everyone's lives. Learn more at

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

In 2017, I (Kurt) traveled to 20 countries in Africa. I taught entrepreneurship at tech accelerators, built farms and water wells, and visited the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Innocent organized 120 people to whom I taught a 3-day seminar on entrepreneurship. Their desire to create businesses and prosperity for all was inspiring. I was impressed by each's intelligence and ambition. They asked for financial help. We concluded to raise money together, create business and share profit. Then, KV was born.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

We build prosperity, peace, and the planet. Our goal is to build sustainable prosperity by creating an economic ecosystem in the refugee camp. Building the infrastructure solves a basic need for storage. Then, we empower individuals by providing them with supplies and loans. Economic prosperity will create a more peaceful environment within the camp. Tension occurs in the camp because of two reasons: 1) lack of food and 2) hostility between nationalities and tribes in the camp. Our venture includes all nationalities. By working together and including everyone, this will create bonds amongst the groups. Over time, business will create a common framework for them to work together. By doing this, relationships will enhance. Further, to scale our efforts, we will use recyclable goods (water filtration and reusable bins/bags/bottles/buckets). We will use energy efficient technologies such as solar power for electricity. This is inevitable when building companies in a desert on the equator.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

We have identified organizations above and constantly work with others in the community. In Kakuma, the policy-makers are officials from the Government of Kenya (i.e. the Camp manager, District Commissioner, police and chief of certain groups). We have a built a relationship and they have expressed their willingness to support us. We also plan to work with community leaders, religious leaders, and community-based organization such as soccer clubs or children's clubs by educating them about our project. They not only serve as a platform to market for customers but also to communicate KV values to the entire camp. The goal is to work together and expand. There are many humanitarian agencies such as WFP, UN, US/UKAID and more who we continually educate about our initiative at KV. If we raise funds and further our efforts, we believe we can get more support from them. As we grow they will take notice. After all, we do solve their problems of logistics and distribution from ground-up

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Our community has people who have skills and knowledge from colleges or previous working environments. Displaced people are often those who are the scholars of a society. We are finding these people and including them as leaders of the KV team. And yes, they are ready and willing to work. Our team at KV has representation from all the countries in the camp. This gives us the ability to build throughout the camp quickly, have diversity of thought, and maintain peace as we expand with inclusivity.

Geographic Focus

Kakuma Refugee Camp, Northern Kenya

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The goal of this grant is to build infrastructure in Kakuma 1 within 12 months. Month 1-2: Nairobi - Kakuma planning period. Implementation Schedule, Architectural help. Month 3-6: Purchase & Building of initial warehouse and stores. Month 6: Begin fundraising that additional $50k. Month 6-8: Purchase of water filtration, food storage bins, and hermetic bags. Start delivery of food from Kitale/Nairobi. Month 9-10: Implement lending system / acct Month 11-12: Operating, financial review

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

If Yes, how has project idea changed, grown, or evolved since last year? (2,000 characters)


Attachments (1)

Investment Memorandum - KV.pdf

Investment Memorandum for Kakuma Ventures


Join the conversation:

Photo of Richard Seshie

Good stuff Kurt, you may want to have a look at this opportunity

Photo of Innocent N. Tshilombo

Hello again Richard, thank you for sharing the link with us. We really appreciated.

View all comments