Winner Spotlight: Errand-Running and Project Management for Kenyans in the Diaspora
Three million Kenyans live outside of their homeland. While gone, these citizens have assignments and items to get done—from completing home repairs to gathering physical materials—but there’s no reliable way to take care of these tasks in their absence.
That’s where Taskwetu comes in. The startup’s name—a blend of Swahili and English—means “your task is our task,” and its tagline is, “Consider it done.” Both convey the main objective: to serve as an online-management and tracking platform for projects in which Africans need assistance.
Taskwetu is Nairobi-based, and most of its efforts have been concentrated in the Kenyan capital for now. But Taskwetu’s founder Leila Khalif says the plan is to gradually expand to other cities in Kenya, then other places in Africa and eventually well beyond the continent. Her company emerged victorious in the Challenge Cup’s cities category and goes on to the Challenge Festival in May.
You explained that Taskwetu is helping Kenyans get errands done in the diaspora. How and why do you do that?
The Kenyan diaspora faces three main problems when it comes to getting things done at home: One, they can’t come home to do their own errands because it’s too expensive for them and also time-consuming to go back and forth. Second, their relatives or friends are too busy with their own jobs and they can’t get stuff done for them. And thirdly, they have gone through the painful experience of losing their investment because they’ve been conned time and again for their money.
Now, Taskwetu comes in and serves their interests. They log onto our website, they post their project or their errand, then we contact them to get further details and then we monitor for them with constant feedback.
At this point how many errands and projects has Taskwetu helped facilitate and what has been the range in these assignments?
They range from really simple tasks to the more complicated ones. Simple tasks can be sourcing for African bangles and bracelets to something as complicated as helping them fence their land back home by sourcing the contractors for them and then handling the whole process. That’s the kind of range we have.
For the simple tasks we’ve done about 533, and for the projects we’re currently running about 11.
Where, geographically, are the Kenyans in the diaspora that you’re aiding?
So far, the ones we’re helping are in the U.K. and the U.S. From the other countries we just get feedback to tweak our product to be better and get them to order from us.
Where did this idea come from?
My family is in the painting industry. When it comes to [painting jobs], you see that most of the clients aren’t happy with how their houses were built or handled. And when you ask them what happened and why aren’t they happy, they tell you, “I wasn’t at home. I was studying abroad or working and I left someone else in charge.”
Then the other thing is my business partner and I were international-relations students. There is a major development in Africa, not just in Kenya when it comes to realizing the investment opportunities for Africans in the diaspora. And we thought why not come up with a way that these people can realize their investments by having people they trust doing jobs for them how they would want it done. That’s how we came up with Taskwetu.
Is there competition out there for you?
Yes. When it comes to banks and real estate agencies they have opened the window for Africans in the diaspora to realize their investments through institutions. If it’s real estate, they’ll help them build their home and have that dream house. If it’s a bank they’ll help them move their loans to get it done for them.
So these are our competitors, in a way. But we don’t view them as competitors, but as potential partners, because when you partner with banks or real estate agencies they help get that job done, because we are a temporary personal assistant that helps them.
Secondly, to increase the integrity of Taskwetu, we’re more trusted when we’re working with big institutions that are already working on such projects.
What is your plan going forward to scale up beyond Nairobi?
Currently we just want to work on the projects that we have and accomplish them, and have a firm foundation in Nairobi before we scale to other cities. We do get errands to run that are outside of Nairobi.
What was Challenge Cup like for you?
It was my first pitching competition, and it was an eye opener for me. One, I got to interact with my other competitors and learn what is really going on in Kenya in improving our systems. Also the kinds of feedback I got, not just from the judges, but from the audience about the product and how to explain it, were really good.