Updated August 1, 2022
Nelly Cheboi smiling with kids using donated macbook computers

What inspired me to want to fix poverty in Kenya?

First published on July 16, 2022
Nelly Cheboi Black Background
Nelly Cheboi (Kosi)
CEO | CNN Hero | Forbes Under 30

I grew up in a small tin-roof house in rural Kenya. The floor, which was once a cement floor, was full of potholes. There was this part near the door that had a proportional patch big enough to accommodate my torso. I used to lay on that spot and look at the roof. The roof was full of holes which meant the house flooded during rainy seasons but on sunny days, rays of sunlight would shine through in a spectacular way. I loved looking at the different shapes of light bouncing around as I strategized on the different ways I could lift my community out of poverty. I was maybe eleven and I was scared to die before I could change the narrative of people growing in communities like mine.

Less than a decade later, I had moved my family out of that house, built a primary school, started a hairdressing school and founded a non-profit that provided more opportunities for rural africans to make a living online.

I was born into poverty. I grew up watching my dear mom work tirelessly to educate my sisters and I. She did all kinds of informal businesses from selling goats to selling vegetables. For as long as I can remember, she worked hard day in and day out but our life never changed. People in rural Kenya work really hard to just provide for their families but the lack of upward mobility is the most depressing bit. We are not sitting around waiting for handouts. The systems are not in our favor. Loans have at least 13% interest rates, unreliable roads make it really hard to distribute goods and our education system is so expensive that families continue to sink into poverty just to educate their kids. These unfavorable entrepreneurial climates hinder small businesses from becoming middle size businesses that can employ a lot of people. So everyone is a small business owner that works tirelessly to barely get by. 

I knew education gave me a chance at a better life. So I worked really hard in school and got a scholarship to come to America in 2012.Immediately when I got to America I got a job through a work study program and in one year moved my out of poverty, built a school and later on started TechLit Africa

I can’t exactly point at what inspired me, I just knew this is something I had to do. What keeps me going now, is I see how little investment it takes to empower people. The hair school was very cheap to start. I already had the space and we just needed a teacher and inventory, Darling a company in Kenya provided that.

Our TechLit Africa program teaches digitals skills using donated used computers that could end up in landfills. Our biggest expense is just getting them into the country.And that part is not that expensive, it is about $50 a laptop. Once in the country, we have programs preparing kids for the digital economy. With these skills they could be working remotely for tech companies all over the world straight from the village. 

To me, the lack of strong institutions and infrastructure keeps rural Africans poor but digital infrastructure is the easiest one to build. And a future where rurals Africans could be making money online is what keeps me going.


How can I contact Nelly Cheboi?

You can find Nelly's contact information on the TechLit website. She manages TechLit's WhatsApp number in Kenya and has a TechLit business email.

About The Author

Nelly Cheboi Black Background
Nelly Cheboi (Kosi)
CEO | CNN Hero | Forbes Under 30

Nelly Cheboi is a celebrated social entrepreneur, Forbes 30 under 30 honoree, and CNN Hero. After growing up in rural Kenya and lifting her family out of poverty, she focused on her community.