JOHANNESBURG - Leonida Mutuku is just 28, but is already becoming recognized as one of the pioneers of digital technology in Africa. 

This is all the more startling in that she has ventured into an area in which technology and innovation has been the preserve of large conglomerates and multinationals. She runs a small company in Nairobi called Intelipro, which she describes as “a boutique data-science consultancy”. Her profile describes her as “a technology researcher, data scientist, entrepreneur, investor and futurist”. It all sounds visionary and idealistic, but the combination is making a real-world impact on a massive scale. More than 25 000 small-scale farmers are using a platform she created to help plan, finance and sell their crops. 

The only tool they need to make the connection is their mobile phones. In just two years, Mutuku has made waves that are being felt internationally. She was invited by cloud computing giants VMware to share the keynote stage at its recent VMworld conference in Barcelona. The focus of the event is on the future of cloud computing and data centers. Intellipro uses elements of the VMware cloud platform, and was highlighted as a case study in how small businesses in emerging market can make a massive impact. 

How did she come so far in such a short time? The superficial answer is that cloud computing makes it possible to scale up a small business to a massive level, in a short time, with limited resources. But beneath that technical layer lurks a story that is almost an archetype of entrepreneurialism in Africa. Mutuku studied actuarial science at the University of Nairobi, but realised she wanted to do more than crunch numbers: she wanted to make a difference. She enrolled for a Masters of Business Analytics and Big Data at a business school in Madrid, which allowed her to attend classes every six months while she built her business. Armed with this formidable set of qualifications, she “slowly transitioned into programming”, and began working with the legendary Nairobi technology incubator, the iHub. 

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