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Crime and Justice Innovation
in Kenya

Photo: © Wollwerth /

Innovation is

Executive summary

This report aims to investigate the potential of using innovative services for the improvement of criminal justice in Kenya. While the booming Kenyan innovation scene, the “Silicon Savannah”, is gaining global attention, it remains as a question for exploration how innovation could support the justice system which traditionally is understood as a public service. 

In this report we approach this exploration through mixing research methods: first we introduce the baseline for crime in Kenya, as reported by the Kenyan citizens. Second we showcase how innovation already responds to some of the challenges faced by Kenyan people. Then, with the help of interviews with Kenyan criminal justice experts, we explore suggestions on what could be done next

In the conclusion, we discuss what elements are common to successful innovations and what challenges in the criminal justice system could benefit from innovation.

The baseline shows that people need improved criminal justice responses. Crime is the most common justice problem in Kenya, yet up to 44% of Kenyans say that they were not able to resolve the crime problem they encountered. One way to improve the situation could be looking at the criminal justice system with an out-of-the-box mindset: Where are the opportunities for improvement through innovation?

Some existing innovations in Kenya already support the criminal justice system; some on a smaller scale, some on a larger scale, but all by delivering solutions where they are needed. Many of them are based on community justice models or utilising technology in a new way. In our interviews, Kenyan justice providers recognised ten points in the criminal justice system where they would like new approaches to be explored:

So, how to explore these issues from an inventive and solution-oriented standpoint? To build evidence-based interventions, it is useful to look at the current state of affairs (the baseline), the current challenges that need attention, and what makes a “good innovation”. There is not one simple solution to this. Innovating is hard work. Some innovations even fail. Yet, some succeed to scale and become remarkable in changing how people access justice. This report does not aim to give a simple answer the complicated question of incorporating innovation to the Kenyan criminal justice system, however we hope that we can help innovative mindsets to move one step further in the process of examining the current system critically, seeing what others are doing, getting excited, and opening up the drafting board. 


In recent years, Kenya’s innovation ecosystem has become known as the “Silicon Savannah” due to its booming creativity and high investment potential. It all started in 2007 when a mobile payment innovation called M-Pesa was launched. M-Pesa truly changed the innovation game in Kenya, showcasing the potential within the Silicon Savannah. At the moment, M-Pesa is used by over two-thirds of the Kenyan adult population. M-Pesa not only created a unique, successful business model, but also continues to provide banking services for the most marginalised parts of the population. This is what social innovation has to offer: scalable services that support social cohesion and equal access to services.

Many of the Kenyan innovations have focused on fintech and sustainability. However, there is another category of potential game changers that have stayed under the public radar: justice innovations. Justice innovation has the potential to disrupt the legal industry by not only providing services that are affordable and accessible, but also by making them more innovative and user-friendly. 

According to HiiL data, over one million Kenyans experience a crime problem annually. Many of these problems remain unresolved. Often people do not take any action to solve their crime problem, and when they do, the outcomes of resolution processes are unclear. Could justice innovation provide solutions to this unsustainable crime situation? What are the gaps in Kenyan criminal justice that innovation can bridge?

In 2020, the Kenyan Judiciary published their Alternative Justice System (AJS) policy. The AJS policy aims to bring traditional methods of dispute resolution into the mainstream and promote more affordable, participatory, and inclusive justice processes. Justice innovation has similar goals. While many innovation models make use of modern technology, a number are also focused on improved prevention and resolution of crime using traditional, community-based approaches. Can justice innovation support the realisation of the AJS policy, and if so, how?

In this report we explore the questions above. We start from analysing the baseline: what crimes problems Kenyans encounter, what they do to resolve them, and the quality of those resolutions. We then provide examples of Kenyan innovations that already deliver resolutions to crime problems. Part three introduces opportunities for innovation based on interviews with formal and informal criminal justice providers in Kenya. The final section brings these findings together and explores the most promising avenues for criminal justice innovation in Kenya.

Mixing methods

In this report, we bring together information from various sources to create a nuanced picture of crime innovation in Kenya. This combination includes quantitative nationwide data on people’s justice needs, a literature review on crime innovations in Kenya, and interviews with criminal justice providers.