Former PCC alum and Art Center student Patrick Kiruki splits his time between LA and Nairobi and works as an advocate for change by designing products that help improve the lives of poverty-stricken areas in East Africa.
Kiruki has focused much of his life on designing innovative products. His latest endeavors have been focused in East Africa where he wants to address sanitation and health concerns.
As a product designer and social entrepreneur, Kiruki has been the brains behind notable projects, including the Banza Sanitation Project and a solar-powered saddle system for camels.
“It was really good to go there and see the need,” said Kiruki.
Kiruki first became aware about how his products could help others when he was a student at Art Center.
“I got involved with Designmatters in my third term at Art Center for the Nyumbani project that was involved in designing a new community of families,” said Kiruki.
The Designmatters project involved Kiruki going to villages and visiting with nomads so that he could better understand the situation and what kind of product he could create to help their lives.
While there, Kiruki realized that he needed to come up with a product that was easy to transport and easy to maintain. In the end, Kiruki designed a solar-powered saddle to help the nomads that had to travel through harsh environments.
To create the actual saddle, Kiruki teamed up with Princeton engineers.
“I actually built this relationship with Princeton,” said Kiruki. “At the end of the day it was very beneficial. The way we worked together with them was very good.”
Kiruki’s awareness about environmental concerns and sanitation issues in East Africa also led him to design a sanitation solution that was nominated for an award in 2011. Although he did not win, he was proud of his design because it helped raise awareness about the problems in East Africa.
“In 2011 I went ahead and established Banza Limited,” said Kiruki. “A for-profit organization in Kenya, with a mission to use design as a toll to empower people’s lives, in particular to benefit those most in need with better solutions and product options. “
According to Kiruki, Africa needs appropriate investment in its people. Kiruki’s organization does this by developing goods at the lowest prices possible and engaging the bottom half of the economic pyramid.
Banza focuses on producing products that address sanitation and health concerns in East Africa.
“We believe everyone has a right to a dignified, safe and hygienic means of disposing of human waste,” said Kiruki.
Banza has produced such products like the Banza Toilet to address the lack of safe and unhygienic toilet systems in East Africa. The Banza Toilet is a foldable, multi-functional unit designed to be placed in homes that are not connected to a sewer system.
“It allows users to hygienically dispose of human waste in the security and privacy of their own homes,” said Kiruki.
Kiruki initially designed a toilet because he noticed that the capital city of Nairobi had a large slum where people used pit latrines and plastic bags as primary methods of human waste disposal. Human waste that is not disposed of properly often contributes to the spread of disease such as dysentery and typhoid.
In 2013, the Banza toilet was selected to be one of the “bold ideas with big impact in global health” by Grand Challenges Canada.
Kiruki has involved himself with other projects as well since then. He is the lead principal designer at Alru Design Consultancy and has been awarded the 2014 Outstanding Service Alumni Award for his work in improving conditions in East Africa.