Photograph — linkedIn

HOCO, an innovative startup which seeks to produce sustainable construction materials made from coconut waste, has emerged winner of the Africa Basque Challenge (ABC) in Bilbao, Basque County, Spain. The Basque-African challenge is aimed towards finding and developing socio-business initiatives that promote the development of rural communities and contribute to reducing inequalities in Kenya and Euskadi.

The program which seeks to encourage young entrepreneurs to launch their project in Africa, had entrepreneurs pitch their innovations in front of a jury composed of investors and as well as entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs, who chose the winning startups. HOCO’s winning team emerged winner out of the eleven teams made up of 47 Basque-African entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 45, and where 70 percent of the participants were under 25 years old.

The selected teams had previously met in a boot camp in Kenya last November, where they had workshops, talks and visits to companies of interest in the digital and agroindustrial field. The training on how to develop financial/business plans was to prepare them for the challenge and develop their ideas.

HOCO’s team comprised of Gaston Okamika, entrepreneur – Friday Roseline, social worker – Shelia Koech, environmental scientist – Alba Resano, entrepreneur – Pol Molas, architect. They were awarded 6,000 Euros of funding and six months of mentoring to help them bring their idea to life.

Sharing her experience about taking part in the Challenge, Kenya’s Sheila Koech stated that ABC has been an eye opener for her. She explained that their exceptional team spirit contributed greatly towards their success. “Going forward our teamwork will be stronger than before. I now believe that with determination and hard work everything is possible. Our multicultural and multidisciplinary background will go a long way in defining our objective. I am proud to be part of ABC,” she said.

Friday Roseline, also from Kenya added, “We are honoured to receive the prize, the journey was not easy, starting from the moment when the project was only a small idea until today much work has been done. Challenges also arose but working together as a team transformed the idea into reality.

“Participating in the ABC has allowed us to meet and build something incredible to make a change. From now on, we have a commitment with ourselves and Kenyan society to make this happen,” Alba Resano from the winning team from Spain added

In line with the objective of the program, the best four chosen startups were projected to get a total cash prize of 15,000 Euros. The three runners up were also awarded 3,000 Euros help develop their ideas.

Speaking about the Challenge, Asier Alea, General Manager of trade promotion and tourism at the government of Biscay said, “The ABC is the first hub-to-hub competition for entrepreneurs, linking innovators in Kenya and the Basque Country. Kenya was chosen because it is known as the Silicon Valley of Africa and it’s a thriving hub for entrepreneurs. Providing a dynamic ecosystem for startups. The idea is to broaden the innovators’ horizons, show them the world is their market and that all entrepreneurs think the same regardless of their geography.”

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