PIVOT East is Back!


March 5, 2019

Pivot East, our premier East Africa entrepreneurs program is back for its 6th year!

The PIVOT EAST is a program of targeted entrepreneurial workshops, pitching competition and conference for entrepreneurs leveraging technology to provide products or services to customers,  and business advisory sessions. It culminates in the top 25 East Africa startups pitching to investors and partners at a finalists conference. Apart from developers and entrepreneurs, typical audiences at the event include investors, corporate executives, government officials, Hub Managers, SME enablers, representatives of development organizations and academia. Pivot Alumni received over $200K from iHub and gone to raise $50M from external investors in the past 5 years.

In 2016, Pivot East took a 2-year break. During this time we have refined the program to ensure maximum value for entrepreneurs at all stages of this program and maximum value for investors and partners. We have also increased opportunities from the public, the private sector and other SME enablers to be a part of the program.

During these two years we have worked with our entrepreneurs to refine key elements of their business models and given some of them opportunities in our six-month accelerator, Traction Camp. Entrepreneurs have also had access to our community space, mentorship support and opportunities shared with us from other partners and ecosystem players.

Over the past 2 years, we have researched, refined, asked,  listened and learned a lot from our alumni, partners and the community. We are ready for the next phase of the PIVOT EAST. We are ready to support and provided a much-needed launchpad and platform for East Africa Startups.

“We’re excited to bring back Pivot East having incorporated invaluable learning on content and structure. Moving forward, learning will be a key component of Pivot East to ensure that the program remains relevant, exciting and impactful for the ecosystem” Nekesa Were, iHub Managing Director

We are delighted to announce that we will have PIVOT East in 2019 with the call for applications opening on 11th March 2019 and the startups pitching competition and conference event happening on 27th June, 2019.

This year’s applicants both in the software and hardware space can apply to participate in the competition in these five categories:-

  1. Finance – including digital or mobile payments, banking, insurance, cryptocurrencies, e-commerce etc.
  2. Enterprise – including ERP Systems, CRMs, Recruiting platforms, value chain management, marketing, production,  etc.
  3. Entertainment – including gaming, social networking, e-magazines, music, video, photography etc.
  4. Social Impact – including education, agriculture, health, governance, and other social development themes.
  5. Utilities – A catch-all category including applications for enhancing the usability and versatility of technology etc

In the previous years, Pivot East has received support from more than 30 organizations both in cash and in kind. Some of these sponsors are: Samsung, Omidyar Network, NESC, Co-op  Bank, inMobi, Mercy Corps, Kenya ICT Board, Safaricom, Qualcomm, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Nokia, CGAP, Accion, BlackBerry, OLX, Eskimi, Uganda Communications Commission, MTN Uganda, NITA-UG, World Bank( infoDev), Chase Bank, Motorola Solutions , Intel, Facebook, Making All Voices Count, Chase Bank, Homeboyz Foundation among others

We have worked with over 150 startups across East Africa. Some Pivot alumni are; Eneza Education, Totohealth, Mfarm, Kopokopo, Ma3Route, Ma3Racer, Lipisha,, Hehe Ltd, Ensibuuko, Ubongo Kids to mention a few. Over 3,000 people have attended PIVOT East events across the region, Including over 120 investors.

For more information email us on [email protected]

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"Hello, World!"

Tech Trend

December 16, 2015

Another year is almost gone, a lot has happened in the tech-world; amazing solutions/ breakthroughs, businesses have been established, startups created and a whole lot of programming languages born. Innovation is indeed the catalyst to growth of any emerging economies through the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets.

A “Hello, World!” program is a computer program that outputs “Hello, World!” It’s a very simple program in most programming languages, it is often used to illustrate to beginner  programmers the basic syntax for constructing a working program.

We are definitely living in interesting times seeing tech evolve everyday to offer us better, easier and simpler ways to perform our tasks. A few years ago it was the ‘e-kitus’, then came the ‘m-kitus’ and now we are living in the age of ‘smart-kitus’, each of them we have enjoyed in a span of very few years. They say software is to tech while blood is to humans; “Hello, World!” therefore is the beginning of a new world of opportunities and endless possibilities. In the same wavelength, President Obama enthused everyone by writing code during the Hour of Code campaign.
Having held TechTrend, a tech focused meetup for 2 years now, I am definitely convinced that there’s too much technology to talk about.  Having done this for a while, it feels like we haven’t even scratched the surface. In fact, one of the most frequent comment is that the older generation in Kenya can hardly put up with technology. They actually still do fear it and would prefer old ways of doing stuff deeming them safer. Innovation is a daily affair, there is so much R&D going on around the world and too many innovative ideas are being born daily. Diverse developers sitting in the iHub and m:lab East Africa spaces try out different emerging programming languages, coming up with what may be the next big thing. An example this year is Shop Officer – a platform that enables businesses to track their sales and manage reward programs for their customers easily – which was first presented at the NFC  TechTrend meetup by @techytimo, and has made him visit Nigeria and the Hague amidst winning prizes.
8 years ago, while choosing which course I would pursue in campus I found it funny that Maseno University would integrate IT regardless of the course one was taking. A few years ago a friend of mine who was pursuing Bachelors in Education at the University, was asking me about HTML code and I was quite impressed. With the different trends in technology should the government focus on teaching basic IT and programming to all and sundry?
The tech-scene in Kenya has grown to form biz-tech clusters (interconnected business that support each other)  These clusters are considered to increase the productivity with which companies can compete in a global economy. Start-ups depend on telcos for services, on incubation hubs and tech spaces for networking, services pegged on payment gateways that integrate Kenyan solutions and many other ways. These have catapulted the tech-scene so much that most of the businesses in focus during the mid-year Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya were tech-related. On a personal note it has made working at Bishop Magua building such a great opportunity because I often rubbed shoulders (along the corridors, lifts or stairs) with some of the best in the tech-field in Kenya.
After recently reading ‘Start-up Nation’ by Senor Dan I am beginning to understand the importance of tech-startups in the growing of an economy. Since it birth in 1947 till now, Israel has enjoyed growth due to focus on tech innovation and it is amazing how most of the visitors at m:lab East Africa always talk of their visits around the world, but mostly Silicon Valley. Kenya having been mentioned as an investment hub by Business Daily, part of the emerging business world by Fortune has much to do with recent efforts by the government to accelerate ICT, infrastructure and wooing investors.  
I once had a debate with someone who said we are too focused on tech startups while there are diverse industries out there. I agree, but having been fortunate to see businesses like KopoKopo and Eneza Education begin with  few founders to tens of employees (many of them not developers) proves that it’s not about tech, it’s about building sustainable solutions that create employment for all. A good product will require more salesmen than core developers in order to get its name out there, will require human resource personnel and administrators to deal with office issues, will need accountants to keep up with KRA and its tax requirements, and so on.


  • Should the government do more to help IT thrive in Kenya?
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  • Should we see a dedicated fund for IT startups and more recognition of their potential to change Kenya?
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  • Should more people be introduced to programming at an earlier age in order to tap talent from a tender age?

Well these are the thoughts running in my mind as we all seek for a better sustainable Kenya in the next years.

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Is there a case for developers to embrace local Hosting?


November 2, 2015

October’s session of the #TechTrend was facilitated by Angani Ltd.  discussing whether there’s a case for devs to embrace local hosting.
Angani is Kenya’s first company dedicated exclusively to the provision of Public Cloud Services offering services to the entire Eastern, Central and Southern African Market. With its significant investment in infrastructure, Angani has virtualized this infrastructure and leases it out to you at a reduced rate, It takes away the expense and headache of having to maintain your own IT infrastructure in-house. No more worrying about hardware procurement, power, cooling, upgrading, scheduled maintenance.


Waikwa | Angani Ltd

The main topics of discussion centered around Market Overview, Opportunity in Local Hosting and Platform as a Service for Developers. Angani has managed to bring forward a wide range of solutions that cut across from enterprise to developers. Starting from 1st October 2015 they slashed VM prices by up to 65% making life easier for developers as well as startups as there is a clear, reliable monthly bill that they get similar or even lower compared global players.
Angani’s low latency cloud infrastructure also ensures that the developer gets great service and that the customer they are serving has a great experience as a result.
Angani is therefore continuing to build context for Africa allowing sufficient local capacity  for devs. With a recent study showing that only 10% of Kenya’s most popular content is hosted within Africa, it’s about time we thought of content hosting as some kind of international trade policy by embracing local solutions.

Below is a list of Angani’s solutions that businesses can leverage on:


  1. Virtual Machines: Angani has rolled out extensive infrastructure in terms of servers, storage and network capacity, which we lease to businesses at an affordable fee.
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  3. Angani Virtual Office:The Angani Virtual Office is the best tool to manage all your communication needs.
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  5. Angani Vault: The Angani VAULT provides fast, reliable and secure backup for all your personal and business data. The servers are accessible via multiple fast 1Gbps connections, and can store enormous amounts of data.
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  7. Angani PABX: The Angani PABX servers sit in reliable redundant data datacenters, with high-speed dedicated connections to telecom providers. Businesses therefore do not need to invest in buying their own PABX equipment.
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  9. Angani VMware vCloud Air: Angani has partnered with VMware to provide a vCloud Air Network facility in Nairobi, Kenya. This allows users to use the Angani infrastructure to augment their already existing VMware infrastructure.

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Invitation to TechTrend: 'Local Hosting Environment' by Angani Limited

Tech Trend, Workshops

October 19, 2015

Theme: Local Hosting Environment – Is there a case for developers to embrace local Hosting; Synergies and Growth Opportunities for Local Developers.

Angani is Kenya’s first company dedicated exclusively to the provision of Public Cloud Services offering services to the entire Eastern, Central and Southern African Market. With its significant investment in infrastructure, Angani has virtualized this infrastructure and leases it out to you at a reduced rate, we take away the expense and headache of having to maintain your own IT infrastructure in-house. No more worrying about hardware procurement, power, cooling, upgrading, scheduled maintenance

Come and lets discuss:


  • Market Overview
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  • Opportunity in Local Hosting
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  • How being part of the Angani ecosystem can help you increase your revenue.
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  • Angani’s role in helping you rapidly increase your turn around time to market
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  • How to scope and price the opportunities.
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  • Growth Opportunities for Developers
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  • Platform as a Service for Developers
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  • Pricing and volume discounts.

All developers are invited. Register here.
Attending participants stand a chance to win FREE VM Ware.
Date:  29th October 2015
Time: 5.15 – 7.00pm
Venue: m: lab East Africa

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NFC: Can this technology be used to build a viable business in Kenya? (Part 2)

Tech Trend, Workshops

September 14, 2015

In June this year we had part 1 of NFC technology during #TechTrend discussion centered mainly on ‘tap to pay’ and why it did not pick up well in the matatu industry in Nairobi.
We set-up part 2 of the discussion on  NFC technology application focussing in loyalty and payments beyond use in the matatus.
Big players in the industry as well as startups are continually centering their businesses around this technology. Over the past few months we have seen a few big players leveraging on the technology notably; Google: Android Pay, Apple: Apple Pay  and Samsung: Samsung Pay. You can find summarised details on the above developments on this blog.

Near field communication (NFC) is a technology that enables smartphones and other devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching the devices together or bringing them into proximity to a distance of typically 10 cm or less.

We kicked off with the question whether Africa is ready for NFC. There were several opinions to this question. First it was noted that NFC is a worldwide trend not only unique to Africa. It might kick-off in a great way once people get accustomed to its use. It’s however only accessible to cluster of people who may afford phones that are NFC enabled.  A lot of people are still skeptical about using cards. There are however trends that are arising that people use a sticker behind their phones, wristbands and other wearables.
The other obstacle to the uptake of the technology is the uptake of POS systems to include NFC technology on a wider scale. Infact one of the developers noted that whilst rolling out his solution there was the need of a NFC reader to connect to a computer which proved cumbersome to one of his clients.
The ‘developer problem’ also arose. This is where enthusiastic developers are rolling out products but they end up pushing the technology instead of solution. The potential users therefore end up scared by use of terms like “Tap to Pay”, “NFC enabled” just to name a few, which they easily argue that it’s not secure since if anyone picks their card they can easily “tap” out all the money. This is also a major reason why card payments on matatu has not picked up at large scale even though high interest rates being charged to the matatu owners was also another reason.
Card Planet Solutions (incubated at m:lab East Africa) who recently launched their product Paykind; gave their experiences over the years and advised startups to partner with banks for legal purposes and to watch out for stakeholder problems e.g  under 18’s  having ‘bank’ accounts. This was after Lipacard did their great presentation showing their cashless wallet for students for different learning institutions.
Shopofficer a Mobile CRM for SMEs (Still at beta stage) also did their presentation showing how they integrate NFC technologies to offer loyalties solution to merchants. Using NFC is a new approach compared to barcodes or QR readers. One of the challenges noted with implementing the same platform for different merchants was the different views of the value of money amongst the stakeholders. e.g When a lady spends 500 at a salon it can be equated at 5 points while the same amount might be 0.5 points at a high-end cafe.

Watch out for the last (Part 3) NFC -Technology Techtrend in November as we plan to focus on home automation.

#NFC #TechTrend in attendance @sammasinde @MuhadiRodgers @alf_deetacs @drizzentic @vic_tua @shopofficer @harunm28 @agayanoic @STLmagana @mukira_g @eriqmonte @robert_oigo @lincxrossef @mikekivuva
Posted by m:lab East Africa on Thursday, September 10, 2015


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PIVOT East 2015 Semi-finalists Announced


June 4, 2015

PIVOT East, a startups competition geared towards nurturing the growing ICT talent in East Africa, has unveiled semifinalist for this year’s competition. The competition opened the call for applications in April 2015 with startups from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia applying through an online portal ( This year also saw startups from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Burundi and Israel applying to join the competition.
The criteria used by the judges helped to evaluate the startups’ purported customer pain, opportunity and customer segments, the solution and its fit to the problem, the revenue model, and analysis of the competitive landscape. Other selection criteria items helped to evaluate the calibre of the team and the startups’ focus to grow into sustainable enterprises. These included the team composition and commitment, current market traction, and projections for milestones and key metrics.
PIVOT East aims at facilitate discovery and nurturing of the next wave of high potential mobile innovations into sustainable businesses. It is more than a competition – its a holistic platform for mobile startups organizational development and business model refinement. The competition is organised by m:lab East Africa – a consortium comprising iHub, eMobilis and University of Nairobi. This year’s finalists conference will be held on the 22nd July in Nairobi, Kenya. The venue will be communicated at a later date.
The competition, in it’s fifth edition this year, will have some significant changes in the structure and the focus of the event. When PIVOT started in 2011, it was an app developer competition. It has since grown to a startups pitching event, with an aim of exposing East Africa startups to Investors, corporates, researcher, development agency and the public. The event also provides startups with a platform to meet, share and network with fellow East Africa entrepreneurs.The event’s prize money structure has evolved over the years from grants, to grant and investment. This year the competition will emphasize for competitors to persuade active investors to provide funding.
A big thank you to our judges who took time out of their busy schedule to evaluate the startups. Now without further ado, HERE are the semifinalists of PIVOT East 2015. Congratulations to all the semifinalist.

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{RECAP} Can NFC technology be used to build a viable business product in Kenya?

Tech Trend, Workshops

June 2, 2015

Since the offset of NFC technology, several companies and startups have centered their businesses around this technology. We set-up this month’s #TechTrend Thursday edition to discuss NFC technology and its viability. Near field communication (NFC) is a technology that enables smartphones and other devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching the devices together or bringing them into proximity to a distance of typically 10 cm or less.

#TechTrend Thursday an m:lab East Africa initiative that focuses on technology trends in the mobile developer world and mentoring sessions for upcoming mobile developers by incubated startups, individuals or established tech companies.

Several presumptions guarded the discussion:


  1. Why is it that most startups/companies that use NFC technology have been forced to change their business model especially in Kenya?
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  3. Does NFC technology have potential to disrupt economies like GSM or the internet; that have changed how the world does things or will just be another file sharing technology like its similar counterpart bluetooth?

Is NFC the next disruptive technology in Kenya or just a file-sharing utility? This was perhaps the most questionable presumption. Startups changing their business model; big industry players seem to struggle, was this a fair presumption or a myopic view of the capability of the technology?
In Kenya, one of the major ways people have interacted with the technology was in the introduction of cashless fare since the announcement mid last year after the partnership of the government and the matatu owners association (MOA). BebaPay (partnership with Google) was the first to get into the space followed by others like my1963, Equity Card, KCB Card among others. BebaPay however backed down a few years ago leaving the several banks and Safaricom to take-up the battle for the market share.
Its however been notable that the partnerships made between the players as well as the approach been taken involves combination of several technologies to make it work.This has been done in various ways like integration with MPESA, introduction of chipped NFC card, partnership with MasterCard and VISA for pre-paid cards including others. In my opinion however the uptake has not been as envisioned by the various players in the industry. So what went wrong?
Well, apart from file-transfer and money transactions, the technology has far more uses that have proved successful in other parts of the world other than what we seem to use it for here in Kenya. In London for example, the transport sector widely uses the technology.
Some of the universal uses of the technology include: purchase of items e.g.  Passbook on the iPhone and Google Wallet , inventory, retail, access control, smart posters, and other utility operations such as sensing and storing digital data. In attendance was a student from KEMU and Strathmore who shared how they use NFC enabled cards for access control at the gate, library or dining hall.
Different suggestions pointed out that the matatu industry, as much as the potential was great, was the wrong go-to market to introduce the technology. Some of the general factors include fear that came about with ‘tapping’ to pay; as well as different socio-economic problems like touts syphoning money from the matatu owners and corruption.
Security has also been one of the greatest challenges when it comes to uptake of the technology, but has been countered by adding layers of security through apps that allow authentication.
In regards to Kenyan startups using the technology, it was true that they have been forced to change their business models so as not to totally depend on NFC technology. Most startups however are still in the pilot stage and we can’t therefore downplay the technology as a whole.
NFC readers that can print out receipts are also quite expensive for many startups who would wish to role out on wide-scale. The startups were also challenged not to limit themselves to NFC on cards but also think of ordinary forms of things we carry daily like wristbands, keyholders and stickers e.t.c.
One of the startups also pointed out that NFC technology is not a ready-to-use technology and therefore costly to hire programmers to build a stable solution/product.

#TechTrend Thursdays May Edition attendees discussing:Can NFC technology be used to build a viable business product in Kenya?
Posted by m:lab East Africa on Friday, May 29, 2015

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NFC: Can this technology be used to build a viable business in Kenya?

Tech Trend, Workshops

May 22, 2015

“Economies around the world are either factor driven, efficiency driven or innovation driven ”as derived from
Since the offset of NFC technology several companies & startups have centered their businesses around this technology in Kenya. Card PlanetGigwapi, Buymore BebaPay (exited a few months ago), my1963, including others.

Near field communication (NFC) is a set of ideas and technology that enables smartphones and other devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching the devices together or bringing them into proximity to a distance of typically 10 cm or less.

The companies & startups that have based their business model on the technology have had several challenges due to limitations of the technology as well as the Kenyan mentality regarding how the technology is being rolled out.
mlab_logo_simpleCan this technology be used to build a viable business in Kenya? Come, lets discuss this topic on the May edition of TechTrend.
Venue: mlab East Africa
Time: 5.15 – 6.30 pm
Date: 28th May 2015
Click here to register

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Mobile Testing room statistics Q1 | 2015

Mobile Testing

May 13, 2015

m:lab East Africa Testing room has been offering testing services to developers, consistently opening its doors to mobile and web application developers who visit to test their applications. The facility is well stocked with a wide range of devices bearing different hardware configurations and operating systems.
The facility aims to efficiently serve the techies who access the space to develop quality tested applications with fair rates. The space is not only limited to developers but even corporates and companies who wish to test their applications before releasing to the market.
The available platforms are; Bada, Android, iOS, Blackberry, Symbian, and Windows phone. Testing data is recorded to monitor the facility’s usage and to give statistical feedback to the community. These statistics can be used to evaluate popular target markets based on platform that most developers test on, availability of developers based on the number of developers who develop for a certain platform among other statistical inferences that can be extrapolated from the data.
For the first quarter of 2015 the key points that stand out are:


  • Number of devices available for testing: 141
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  • Cumulative number of in-facility testing testing hours – 2207 ( 37hrs in Q1 – 2015 )
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  • Cumulative Number of overnight lending days for devices – 1544 ( 155 total overnight days in Q1 – 2015 )


| Create infographics

Compiled by: Marvin Collins and Martin Agaya

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Open discussion: PHP Raw vs PHP Frameworks

Tech Trend, Workshops

March 27, 2015

This month’s edition of #TechTrend Thursdays took a different approach where everyone was a key discussant on the topic above.
In June of 1995, Rasmus Lerdorf released the source code for PHP Tools to the public, which allowed developers to use it as they saw fit. Twenty years later, PHP has really grown to have a great market share in the web. Its used by some of the most common CMS like Joomla and WordPress, and by some of the most common frameworks.
However, there have been several debates as to whether PHP Raw/ Custom PHP is actually better than using PHP frameworks or viceversa.

Why Raw PHP is better than a Framework


  • It’s faster as it doesn’t have the framework library overhead
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  • You’re not bound by someone else’s rules or concepts
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  • You can add in as many or as few 3rd party libraries as you choose
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  • You can write to your own standard
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  • You can license it as you choose
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  • You build your own philosophy of the project
Advantages of frameworks


  • Less Duplication of Code
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  • Clear & Thorough Documentation
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  • Built-in Libraries and Helpers
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  • Easy Error Handling
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  • Security and Encryption
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  • It comes pre – loaded with different very useful classes

#TechTrend Thursdays is an m:lab East Africa initiative that focuses on technology trends in the mobile developer world and mentoring sessions for upcoming mobile developers by incubated startups, individuals or established tech companies.

 The following were the key discussion points:


  • Frameworks have bugs and most of the time unnecessary overcomplicated, we roughly get to use only 10% – 15% of their features.
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  • It takes less time to do a project while using framework
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  • There too many frameworks and each has its own strengths hence still takes time to learn them
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  • Is anyone building on raw php actually building his own custom framework?
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  • Is it true you can’t actually claim to be a guru if you don’t know how to code raw?

Different lines of thought were raised by some of the best developers in the ecosystem.Two main points that came out boldly were that:


  • Even though coding raw gives you a sense of control and code philosophy that you understand and is suited for your needs, a problem arises when someone else has to join in the project because of the learning curve involved.
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  • Even though there many frameworks, each with its own strenght and weakness; their code is contributed by the best minds in the world and hence could be way superior to a custom made framework.

We also go to know of some projects in the ecosystem that the public can use and contribute code to:
 Michael Pedersen | PesaPi –
Kago Kagichiri | USSD –

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