Violence and tragedy ignited a vision
In Kiswahili, ‘ongoza’ means ‘lead.’ It is a fitting title for an organisation dedicated to eliminating violence, educating the youth and crafting the leaders of tomorrow. Created by Eddy Gicheru Oketch, a young Kenyan who emerged from a life of tribal violence and tragedy with a vision, Ongoza educates Kenyans about the positive dynamics of different tribes working together. His commitment to seeking empowerment and peace has helped him become one of 200 leaders selected for the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa programme.
“I grew up in rural Migori amidst tribal violence that put everybody’s life at risk and I decided early on that I wanted to do something to change lives and provide opportunities for people in these communities.”
Oketch started his journey with education. He attended the African Leadership Academy, Friends School Kamusinga, and Trinity College in the USA and finished his education at Yale University with a Masters in Global Affairs. After the violence that followed the 2007 elections, Oketch started Ongoza, a business focused on youth economic empowerment and committed to fostering peace. It gives young people the tools needed to earn a stable income and become the next generation of leaders.
“Ongoza is committed to the community,” says Oketch. “These youths become the leaders who act as ambassadors for peace and integration in their different communities.”
Today Ongoza is successfully educating people around the positive elements of different tribes, showcasing what can be achieved by working together and diffusing stereotypes. Oketch has also founded the Oketch Gicheru Trust, a foundation that provides educational scholarships and digital mentorship opportunities to gifted, disadvantaged Kenyan youth. To date, Ongoza has incubated about 120 youth-run SMEs.
Oketch has been awarded numerous accolades, including the 2012 Impact Award from the Kenyan US Diaspora, 2013 Africa Village’s Top 30 Under 30 Most Inspirational Young People on the African continent and Salt’s 2015 top 30 under 30 most innovative and influential youth in Africa. Now, as he takes one of the few spots in the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa programme, he is excited about what this opportunity means for the future of his company and his community.
“I’m looking forward to being part of a network of people who share the values of President Obama but also embody strong principles for change.”