Joel Onditi is working with the Kenyan government to provide education and opportunities in the tech sector
When people think of tech Meccas, they might think of Silicon Valley in the U.S. or India or Singapore. But the latest up-and-coming tech scene, according to Joel Onditi (MS 2010), is Kenya.
“Kenya has a young population, and these are very smart kids. We have good universities that are churning out graduates every year, and the schools are top quality,” said Onditi, who earned a master’s in business intelligence from the Daniels College of Business. “From a tech perspective, we have a very young, vibrant community.”
But there’s one problem: What young Kenyans lack, according to Onditi, is opportunities.
Many Kenyans who graduate from college become frustrated by a lack of jobs in their chosen sector, and they often leave the country to pursue further learning or to find job opportunities.
That’s something Onditi is setting out to change, by creating a “Silicon Savannah” in Kenya.
“We want to make Kenya a technology destination, in the way people think about India,” said Onditi, president and CEO of Pathways International, a data management and analytics consulting company that works with organizations to leverage their data and technology for digital transformation. In his role, he regularly travels between Denver and Nairobi. “Kenyans need opportunities because opportunities will make you creative and make you get exposed to different ideas.”
In other words, he says, he wants to “put Kenya on the map.”
“We’re hoping that over the next, say, 10 years, when people think about Kenya, they don’t think about just athletes and safari; they think about technology,” he said.
He’s already doing that in some ways with Pathways. The company he founded in 2012 has made many U.S. clients aware of “Kenyans as people who can deliver quality technology,” he said. But now, he is upscaling that work with the help of some very big connections—like Kenyan President William Ruto and U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman.
“The Kenyan government right now is really pushing to grow the tech talent [in Kenya] to be known as a technology destination. We have a [memorandum of understanding] with the government to train several hundred thousand kids over the next five years,” Onditi explained. “The government is giving us access to several technology centers across the country.”
Onditi is working to skill a number of young Kenyans in all emerging technologies, including blockchain, AI, data analytics, software development and cybersecurity “to get them ready for the global stage,” he said. Then, as part of the program he is creating, he will help place them in tech positions, both locally and globally.
“We are working to train them, give them industry best practices, help them in thinking through problems and situations and solutions,” he explained. “And we are working closely with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi to figure out what are the opportunities for these young people in Africa and even in the U.S.”
Over the next 10 years, with Onditi’s help, the Kenyan government hopes to educate 1 million people.
In September, Onditi and President Ruto toured Silicon Valley, visiting companies like Google, eBay and Apple. They participated in panel discussions and talked with industry experts to showcase Kenyan talent to the American market.
Ruto invited numerous tech CEOs to set up manufacturing operations and regional offices in Kenya.
“Kenya has plenty of opportunities to offer American technology and manufacturing companies, particularly its potential as a vital African base and prime centre for tech, manufacturing, connectivity, infrastructure development and garment fabrication,” the president posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
For Onditi, the mission is deeply personal. Originally from Kenya, he graduated with a bachelor of science in computer technology from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology before moving to Denver so he could pursue a master’s degree from the Daniels College of Business.
“Not many people [in Kenya] know about Denver and Colorado. It’s mostly about New York or Chicago,” he said. “The only thing I know about Colorado was from watching the show ‘Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman’ growing up.”
Onditi immediately liked the state, and he loved the culture at the University of Denver. At Daniels, he learned more about the tech sector and took advantage of opportunities like Race & Case, a unique event that is part business ethics case competition, part alpine ski challenge. (“I had never seen snow in my life before Colorado,” he said.)
Onditi has stayed well connected to DU and Daniels throughout his career. Since 2021, he has been a professor of practice, teaching data analytics to master’s students. He also serves on the Daniels Business Information and Analytics Advisory Board, which he joined in 2018. He’s continued his education too, earning a certificate in corporate innovation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2020, and a certificate in public policy from Harvard in 2022.
Elevating Kenya’s tech profile is top of mind, but Onditi is also passionate about the role of technology in helping solve the world’s biggest problems. It’s a vital mission, he said.
“I think technology is the gamechanger,” he said. “AI, for instance, is just mind-boggling. The more people can adopt technology in solving problems, the better the chance of finding solutions. We can use this in anything from global warming to food security to policy issues. Technology in today’s world is really the problem-solver.”