Research & Development & Product Fellow

Type: Engineering

Role: Research & Development & Product Fellow


Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Deadline: July 14, 2019


About Kwangu Kwako Limited

Kwangu Kwako Limited enhance and save lives through providing improved housing to families living in informal settlements and low-income areas of Kenya. Our product is a simple, modular precast structure made by local people from locally available materials.

Our proposal is different because it benefits all the stakeholders, tenants, the community and also to the landlord/investor. It is our belief that other solutions have been slow to gain significant traction because they were not attractive to the major stakeholders who control 86% of the land – the landlords. Kwangu Kwako provide a solution that is attractive to the landlords AND significantly improves housing for the tenants. In addition to this, the landlords themselves will be investing in the solution thereby securing buy-in and self-financing of the improvement.    

We have completed our concept phase and are embarking on our implementation phase. This is an exciting time to join Kwangu Kwako but will need a very special person. Being a small company about to scale, we need to set up processes, procedures, you will need to be flexible as new challenges will arise each day. There is no manual, few processes. We outsource basic accounting and the founders do the rest at the moment. It will be for you to take a look at the current state and help us set up finance systems and processes for the business to grow into. There will be lots of ambiguity at first, lots of autonomy, and lots of fun. If the thought of that excites you then let’s talk.

This will be a period of huge transformation for us and the successful candidate will be pivotal in fast-tracking us to success. We need to quickly become an increasingly sophisticated, highly intricate organization with many moving parts. We are about to move from small production volumes to full scale commercial production in less than 12 months

In partnership with Kwangu Kwako, as a Fellow with Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB Canada), you will be placed as a Research & Development and Product Design Fellow with Kwangu Kwako to work with their team in Kenya. Throughout your Fellowship with EWB, you will receive guidance, mentorship and financial support from the community in Canada and in East and West Africa.


About Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB)

EWB is a free-thinking charitable organization that brings people and ideas together to tackle the most crucial causes of poverty and inequality. We nurture talent and leadership, enable social entrepreneurship and advocate for policy innovations to cross-breed systems-changing innovations to ensure economic and public opportunity reaches everyone, including the most underserved and marginalized populations, especially women and girls.

Through our leadership curriculum and Fellowships Program, we offer experiential learning opportunities in Canada and sub-Saharan Africa to launch future shapers equipped to understand and re-engineer complex social systems.  For more information, visit


About You

Kwangu Kwako seeks a dynamic, experienced and imaginative design mind to develop innovative solutions, with a gender lens, to set the standards/processes and long-term effectiveness of our products and operations to impact way beyond the period of the fellowship. You will almost have a blank canvas to set the landscape for our future in terms of research and development and product design (R&D/PD). We also need help with funding this facility so you will need the ability to support the directors and Technical Team Lead on investor pitches and modelling, etc.

Basically, everything from designing a concrete panel to a whole new manufacturing facility. You will be the R&D/PD team supporting the Technical Team Lead. You will help to source, design and mobilise a Kenyan R&D/PD team, capacity build and then leave a highly functioning group that can take the company to the next level of expansion.



As a Research and Development and Product Design Fellow for Kwangu Kwako Limited, your responsibilities will include:

  • Finding a cost effective, structurally sound, energy efficient, 2 storey solution for $1000 KES per room;
  • Improving the construction process by off-site manufacture and removing the need for site welding – modifying our doors and windows to facilitate this;
  • Looking for a suitable ventilation solution that accommodates the customer’s aversion to draughts;
  • Finding effective working at height access solutions for informal settlement environments;
  • Designing effective trolley solutions for transporting our panels and materials the last 2-500m in informal area;
  • Designing a product design and testing facility, sourcing equipment and tools, etc;  
  • Researching automated manufacturing methods and making a recommendation;
  • Research gender-specific needs of tenants to ensure spaces are safe, inclusive, accessible and dignified.


Key Result Areas: (Measurable goals)

For a successful fellowship – develop and deliver by the end of the year, as a minimum, the following:

  • Design an affordable two storey house solution;
  • Worked with the team to deliver a minimum of $100k R&D funding;
  • Delivered viable solutions to reduce the cost per house by 20%;
  • A complete set of standard drawings and details for tested and analysed designs and solutions. Ensuring buildability and safety;
  • All goals need to demonstrate consideration of specific gender needs as it relates to safety, inclusivity, accessibility and dignified.


Sound exciting? Here’s who we are looking for.


Skills & Qualifications

The Fellow will need the following qualities:

  • Have travelled independently in developing countries and demonstrable ability to navigate in challenging communities. Your work will involve you working independently in Nairobi’s informal settlements at times. You need to have a strong instinct, humanity, humility and be resoundingly streetwise;
  • Awareness of cross-cultural communication and ability to maintain constructive relationships with a diverse set of key stakeholders;
  • Excellent analytical skills;
  • Project management experience – how to manage projects, break down problems, develop methodologies, frameworks and develop implementation plans;
  • Human centered design skills – understanding and working with our teams, how to get to the why rather than the what and developing design and process innovations from this information;
  • Knowledge of inclusive design;
  • Resoundingly pragmatic;
  • Hold a continuous, restless desire to improve yourself, your project teams, and your organization;
  • The ability to conceive, design, test, evaluate potential solutions and implement recommendations;
  • A collaborative mentality;
  • Deep-rooted empathy and humility;
  • Powerful communications skills – particularly in presenting ideas.


For this specific role, we seek talent preferably with a background in project management, civil or industrial engineering, and manufacturing. More qualitatively, we are looking for people who have the desire to take on a whole new challenge in a whole new context, a tenacity and drive to keep going in the face of frustrations and set-backs inevitable in working in a developing country and in a new company. We believe that we are on the cusp of transformative change and we seek people who believe their skills will deliver that transformation.  


Educational & Experience

  • Degree in Engineering or similar. Minimum 3 years (preferably 5) work experience in a similar area. P. Eng Certification would be an asset but is not necessary;
  • Experience in Engineering software – Solidworks, Autodesk, AutoCad;
  • Experience working independently in an unstructured environment;
  • Experience in the Africa environment and/or as an independent traveler will be an advantage.


Application Inquiries


Application Instructions

For further details, please refer to our website.

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