Prof. Laban Ayiro

Vice Chancellor | Daystar University

Daystar University Charting An Innovation-Led Future for Kenya

Professor Laban Ayiro is a prominent Kenyan academic currently serving as the Vice Chancellor of Daystar University, a Christian liberal arts institution in Nairobi. Prof Ayiro’s CV showcases extensive experience in education leadership and policy. 

Working towards the goal of creating a stronger university-led innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Kenya, Prof Ayiro joined the council of the Kenya Network of Entrepreneurial Institutions Leaders and the Kenya Innovation Agency.

At Daystar, Prof. Ayiro champions research methods and statistics education. He also leverages his past roles as Provincial Director of Education and Ministry of Education positions to guide the university’s direction.

His experience in educational leadership and curriculum development positions him to contribute to Kenya’s broader innovation ecosystem.

Prof Ayiro speaks here to the AfricaLive editorial team regarding an innovation-led future for Daystar University and for Kenya.

Key Points

Daystar University, a Kenyan institution with strong American ties, is embracing a bold vision under the leadership of Vice Chancellor, Prof. Laban Ayiro.  In this interview with AfricaLive, Prof. Ayiro outlines his five-year plan to transform Daystar into a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.

  • Focus on Commercialization:  Daystar is moving beyond theoretical education by emphasizing practical application and commercialization of research.  This includes partnerships with industries and a poultry project generating revenue for the university.
  • Flagship Initiatives:  Prof. Ayiro highlights exciting projects like the Technology University Center offering digital education programs within prisons and student-created digital content for the market.  Environmental sustainability is also a priority with a large-scale tree planting initiative underway.
  • Building Successful Partnerships:  Collaboration is key to Daystar’s success.  Partnerships with universities like Maryland and industries provide students with practical experience and access to cutting-edge knowledge.


AfricaLive: Let’s introduce our readers to Daystar University. 

I noticed that in recent weeks you personally have recently been in the United States representing the university. You already have collaborations, for example, with the University of Maryland.  You have also recently announced a five-year contract to lead Daystar University as Vice Chancellor. Looking ahead to these five years as you will be serving as Vice Chancellor, we would be interested in your vision.

Prof. Laban Ayiro: Thank you very much. Daystar University was started by an American couple as a college for communication, and then it became a university. So, a lot of our relationships are American-oriented. We get substantial amounts of support for infrastructure and scholarships from the United States.

My vision for the next five years is to engage in innovation, allowing our students to introduce new ideas, services, products, and business processes based on what they’re learning in the classroom. 

In collaboration with the Kenya Innovation Agency, we would like to ensure that we embed an entrepreneurial mindset in our students, aligning them with a business mindset and, more importantly, enabling them to turn products into commercial entities within the university.


AfricaLive: Perhaps you could tell us a little more about commercialization. I know that you consider it vital not only to carry out research but to have the opportunity for commercialization. How do you see this developing in Kenya?

Prof. Laban Ayiro: For example, as I mentioned, we have very deep links with American institutions. Right now, we are collaborating with the University of Maryland on a poultry agriculture project. 

We are trying to maximize production of broilers and layers by conducting research on the amount of water they need, disease prevention, and temperature control. We currently have about 5,000 broilers and 4,000 layers. 

We are commercializing this by producing enough eggs for the local area and providing chicken to feed the university cafeteria. The revenue is circulating within Daystar, and the returns are much higher. I’m just giving one project where we are collaborating, conducting research to maximize production through innovative ways of controlling the chickens for productivity. But then, what we get, we are commercializing it – selling it. 

Sometimes, last month, we had too many chickens, and we had to go to the city market in Nairobi for vendors to come and buy chickens from the university.

AfricaLive: So that’s an excellent example of commercialization in action. Looking more widely at research and innovation, what are your flagship projects that you would like a larger audience to know about?

Prof. Laban Ayiro: What is exciting us now at Daystar is that we are creating a Technology University Center. We are doing an innovative thing – we have conducted a baseline survey in Kenya of all the prison services, including the demographics in the prisons. We intend to have innovative programs that will get into prisons and allow us to enroll inmates for business courses, psychology courses, or mainstream degree courses. We’re going to deliver this using digital programs. We have two philanthropists who have bought into the idea, and they would like to lead in that innovative approach to instruction in correctional centers.  

Another flagship project is that our students are developing digital content. It’s very popular, and they’re putting it on the market – music, drama pieces – and commercializing their products. We are providing them with studios to record and commercialize what they’re producing. We’re also allowing our law students to pick up contemporary cases and do podcasts and debates that can then inform the public.

Finally, we are very strong on environmental conservation. We are in a semi-arid area, and we have a master plan to plant about 100,000 trees on 300 acres of land here. Five years ago, this place was without any kind of forest apart from the indigenous acacia trees. We have so far planted over 50,000 trees, and the environment is changing drastically for sustainability. This is allowing us now to invest in agriculture in diverse ways and also to have seedlings for farmers in the area to come and buy them to improve the environment. So, we also look at environmental salvation and sustainability.

AfricaLive: Yes, and in doing so, you’re helping the local farmers there adapt to the changing climate that we’re seeing as well.  

Prof. Laban Ayiro: Yes, absolutely. By the way, last year, in such a big effort, the ministry in charge of the environment, when the country was planting trees under the leadership of the president, they came here with 12,000 trees, and we did a major tree planting exercise here. It’s not just about environmental conservation here but also about inducing and interesting the communities to know that we can turn this environment around if we plant trees.


AfricaLive: I would like to ask is about the opportunities for partnership with the university in such projects. 

You’ve already mentioned your partnership with the University of Maryland, but I’d first like to ask you, what are the building blocks of a successful partnership? 

Whether this is a university-industry partnership, what are the key blocks to make that successful?


Prof. Laban Ayiro: At the Kenya Innovation Agency, we are stressing the relationship between universities and industries. For example, our School of Media and Communication is no longer just working on the theories of education, etc., but we are linking up with radio stations to give our students practical experience. The whole idea is if you want to turn around the mindset to become innovative, entrepreneurial and bent on commercialization, you have to influence the existing culture. 

So taking our students into the School of Nursing, we are taking them into hospitals for floor experience to change their culture to see the reality of their profession’s demand. But also when we go to industries, most universities will be limited in their intellectual property. But when you go to industries, you see continuous improvement and the latest technology that maybe in our university we have not yet been exposed to or cannot afford. 

There is also collaboration where the students are working in those industries, and the industries expose our students to the latest knowledge at the various frontiers of careers. I think industry creates more challenge and acceptance of the fact that expertise beyond knowledge acquisition is important. And then, of course, when you work in the industry, you see the value of constraints. These are skills that then truly form our students into innovators.

AfricaLive: Yes, and when it comes to research related to this last point, we’ve discussed the importance of commercialization. I think it’s important that research can be applied, that the research can have a real-world impact and impact the communities that you have there in Kenya.

For example, this is often the criticism many universities receive – that the research they are engaging in can’t easily be applied to their environment.

How do you work to create that culture within the university to ensure your resources are channeled towards areas where they can produce applied research that can have an impact in the local community?


Prof. Laban Ayiro: Thank you for that valuable question. It starts with the way you construct the curriculum. We are well aware that we cannot sit in a boardroom, all of us professors and lecturers, and craft a curriculum that does not speak to industrial needs. So we start by inviting industry to help us understand how we can create creativity and innovation in our curriculum programs – to me, that is very important. 

The other aspect is, of course, to create what we now call an Industry-University Linkages Office – an office that looks at innovation models. There is always an innovation model, a solution-builder, where the industry provides the leverage and the expansion and upscaling. And all these things cannot happen unless you are in collaboration with industry.

So yes, that’s how we make sure this is done, and now it is becoming very obvious you cannot do it any other way. Otherwise, your programs will be stale. They will not attract students.


AfricaLive: Yes, thank you. And I’d like to ask a final question, not only looking at Daystar University, but also your work with the Kenya Innovation Agency – what is the long-term vision that, as a group, you have for Kenya? What does an innovation-led future for Kenya look like?

Prof. Laban Ayiro: I think first of all, we want to take a business approach. In other words, at the end of it all, there is commercialization that will give impetus to innovation. 


AfricaLive: Right.


Prof. Laban Ayiro: I think the product of innovation must be seen to make a business difference but also a social difference to the Kenyan people. And then, of course, the bigger picture is the economic difference. So we are hoping that we can have innovation models that have been tested, and they’ll give us the greatest leverage in leapfrogging. We are not reinventing wheels, but leaping forward to the developed northern hemisphere.


AfricaLive: Yes, and indeed, that’s the strength of the position the economy is in – the ability to leapfrog in many areas. There have been a lot of exciting developments in East Africa over recent years. Thank you so much for the interview.  

Prof. Laban Ayiro: You’re welcome.

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