talented humans, poor infrastructure
We chose Turkana, a region in remote north-western Kenya, bordering Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda as a starting point for our program. The region suffers from poor infrastructure and very few job opportunities – if the model works here, it could work anywhere.
The county’s semi-arid climate makes sustainable agriculture very difficult, so that the majority of food supplies have to be transported from regions several hours away. Most of its population still follow traditional pastoral living habits in relatively poor conditions. Local businesses include basket weaving, mechanical repairs and small kiosks, however none of these scale to provide widespread employment opportunities or meaningful wages. The youth are the most directly affected, having little opportunity to find a job and move beyond subsistence livelihoods in their home region. And yet, with around 1 million inhabitants Turkana holds an untapped potential of human talent with the great opportunity of internet access even in some of the most remote areas.
Learning Lions is fighting poverty with digital opportunity. We connect bright African minds in rural Africa to global digital markets, making use of internet and solar power access even in the most remote regions.
what makes us different?
- Focus either on education or on job creation
- Based in urban areas
- Tap into existing (already pre-qualified) talent pools without addressing education bottlenecks
- Basic data entry, data processing and standardized work (low human capital)
- Limited earnings and long-term career growth opportunities
- Remote areas and underprivileged youth
- Training AND job creation program
- We start from scratch: working with talented youth without any prior IT training or tertiary education.
- Focus on human-capital intensive and creative skills: more fulfilling and more sustainable career perspectives
- Quality over quantity: our trainings and job creation programs are life-changing
- Sustainable business model: income from graduates and digital nomad program will cross-finance educational cost
Tech Dada aims to create a space for young ladies to explore technology. Driven by female graduates of Tunapanda Institute and Learning Lions, Tech Dada combat the awareness and stereotyping issues through outreach into the community by partnering with organisations and institutions such as high schools. Tech Dada encourages more women to join the tech space and creates a supportive ecosystem
Wakanda is a fictional African country masquerading as a developing country, while truly being the most technologically advanced nation in the world. In the fictional story by Marvel, Wakanda is located around lake Turkana. We aim to make the dream of Wakanda come true. “The Wakanda Girls Secondary School of digital excellence” at the shore of Lake Turkana will be the first fully digital girl school in Kenya, with every desk and classroom fully equipped with a networked computer system and a large variety of digital extracurricular activity.
What else do we do for women empowerment:
the campus: learn, earn and innovate
the world's most remote ICT Hub
In 2020, with financial support from Google, SAP, the Löwenmarsch e.v. team and the Bavarian state, we finally opened the Startup Lions ICT Campus at the Shores of Lake Turkana, a dedicated, innovative and largely autonomous hub in the world’s most remote regions.
The buildings designed by the highly renowned Kéré Architecture office are optimally tailored to the needs of an IT campus in the semi-desert of Turkana:
Innovative construction methods (windows, ventilation, second roof) are creating working conditions in which both (wo) man and machine can work optimally.
inspiring learning facilities
We believe that the learning process does not end after leaving the classroom. For this reason, we created multiple common spaces on the shaded rooftops, accessible by everybody, favouring meetings and exchange ideas. The campus is facing downhill overlooking the beautiful lake Turkana, the largest desert lake in the world.
Visual artist, Freelance
Learning Lions is open to partnering with universities from all around the globe to offer scholarships and remote study opportunities to the marginalised youth of Turkana. If your institution or some institution you know would be interested in this, kindly reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
One such partner is the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE), the leading 3D animation, game design, visual effects and film educator in Australia. They offer practical, career-focused courses delivered by industry-experienced teachers. Since 2019 AIE has sponsored scholarships to their certificate and diploma programs to Learning Lions graduates. Additionally, AIE provided laptops and is supporting with opportunities at various gaming companies around the world for part- and full-time paid work. AIE has offered 10 more scholarships for 2022 to hard-working lions.
this is what our partners say
"I admit that the entry of Startup Lions was treated with great scepticism. Few believed that something good could grow in the middle of Turkana, far from the better infrastructure of Lodwar town and on barren desert land. Since the groundbreaking of the campus in 2016, the project has grown in leaps and bounds, proving the doubters wrong and earning national and global recognition for the amazing work done here.
"Learning Lions is one of East Africa's premier training and work readiness institutions, focusing on some of the most challenging areas. Those challenges are from both infrastructure, education, and economic development. I have been extremely impressed over the past half decade with the leadership team's dedication, depth of thought, and ability to innovate. The people they train also show tremendous growth along numerous lines, from workplace skills, teamwork/soft skills, and caring for the broader community. We have worked closely with Learning Lions over several years — running training programs together, building open source software together, and creating interactive content together — as well as a broad range of other partners in East Africa, so I feel confident in making this wholehearted recommendation.
"I had the honor of being in Turkana when the first cohort graduated in 2016. To say that this is an inspiring project is an underestimation. The stories of what Startup Lions have been able to achieve since are nothing short of fantastic. I have seen several individuals go on to do brilliant work for faith-based organizations around Lodwar, to fulfilling work for multinational companies. Jan and the team have been working directly with various stakeholders to make this a sustainable endeavor with long-term impact and I wholeheartedly endorse them. Do let me know if you have any questions. They are stellar and execute this work in very difficult circumstances.
meet the founders
Antonius has a Business Administration background and has been working the past five years in sales and logistics. He supported the organsastion’s foundation on site in Turkana from 2015 onwards for several years. He is passionate about music and is closely connected to the local culture.
Benedikt has more than fifteen years of experience in banking & finance and strategy consulting, including building up the business for a top 4 strategy consultant in Sub-Saharan Africa for four years and driving financial inclusion projects (incl. for World Bank, IFC, Gates). He also served on the board of Europe’s leading e-commerce software provider and co-managed investment projects of EUR 3.5bn.
Brizan Were, HSC
Co-Founder and Local Director
A teacher by profession, he has 10 years teaching experience and worked with the youth at various levels. He is a graduate in human resource management and currently enrolled as a student in project management. He is a recipient of the Kenyan Head of State commendation award among other several local and regional awards on his involvement in elevating poverty and marginalisation through creative initiatives.
Charlotte is a specialist in modern & contemporary art. She has been a director of research & exhibitions for a leading art advisory firm, before co-founding Thanks for Nothing, a philanthropic platform gathering actors of the art world to promote development projects. She spent a year in Turkana in 2015-2016 and supports the organisation remotely since then. She holds a master in history of art and a double degree in economics.
Co-Founder and CEO
Ludwig started out early in the IT world co-founding his first internet startup at the age of 18. He later studied political science and law. In the last 10 years he worked on several relief and development projects with a special focus on East Africa. Since 2015 he’s been building up the Startup Lions project.
Worked in Finance and IT roles in the private, NPO and social business sectors. Jan holds a B.Sc. in Economics and a M.A. in PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics). He is co-leading our Digital Lions agency since its inception in 2017 and also coordinates our volunteer program.
June has spent 20 years in corporate IT as a System and Network Administrator before transitioning into using her ICT skills in international development and obtaining a Masters in ICT4D. The last 10 years she has worked in Guyana, India and Kenya helping to develop and implement ICT solutions for multiple projects. She’s been involved on the ground and from abroad since 2018.
Wilhelm has over 15 years financial project work experience within Wealth Management, Private Equity and the consumer goods sector. Currently he is working for Marcuard Family Office, a Zürich based multi-family office. From September 2015 onwards he spent over a year in Turkana and is still involved on a day-to-day basis. Wilhelm holds a Global Executive MBA and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.