Young innovators were awarded grant financing for their innovative solutions to youth challenges in Africa during the Africa Youth Conference taking place in Nairobi, Kenya on 23 – 25 October 2018. Photo: UNDP

Nairobi, Kenya – Young innovators were awarded grant financing for their innovative solutions to youth challenges in Africa during the Africa Youth Conference taking place in Nairobi, Kenya on 23 – 25 October 2018.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) teamed up with UN Women to conduct an Open innovation challenge through its “YAS! Youth for Africa and SDGs” portal-platform implemented in partnership with Accenture. The two UN agencies called for African youth entrepreneurs to step forward to help realise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially in the areas of sustainable livelihoods, youth engagement in governance, leadership and decision-making, as well as youth action in preventing violence and other harmful practices against young women and girls.

YAS! supports the development and growth of youth entrepreneurship in Africa by creating a marketplace for eco-system players, namely investors, large corporates and governments. It has four pillars of support: a learning section, an ecosystem map, open challenges to award financing for SDGs innovations, and a knowledge base about funding and networking.

Around 2,000 young entrepreneurs from across Africa submitted their innovations for the YAS! Open Innovation Challenge targeting especially young women. After evaluating the entries against set criteria and their contributions towards the SDGs, 13 winners were identified, most of them women. Ten of those youth entrepreneurs were present at the Award Ceremony held on 24 October 2018 at the United Nations Office at Nairobi, and were presented with their prizes, 5,000 USD seed grants and 10,000 USD for entrepreneurs in the growth stage.

Among the YAS! grant winners are Ashley Tallu from Kenya and Nawal Allaoui from Morocco. Ashley, an 18-year-old high school student, developed Ukulima Digitech, which is a micro controller kit that remotely monitors and controls farm activities, sending real-time SMS notifications on moisture and PH levels. This contributes to reduced water wastage and an enhanced understanding of the farms’ status.

Nawal founded Seakskin to recycle fish waste and produce bio fish leather. She uses a dry tanning method, which helps save up to 95% of the water used in tanning and integrates women from marginalized coastal regions into her entrepreneurial venture. As part of a panel discussion during the Award Ceremony, the two budding entrepreneurs recognized YAS! as the ideal platform to access not only financial backing but also receive mentorship for their business ventures and develop partnerships with key ecosystem players.

In advance of the grant awarding, UNDP and UN Women co-organised a capacity building workshop for the winners and other young innovators to equip them with some business development fundamentals and to facilitate cross-fertilisation between youth from various African countries. The grant winners will be accompanied throughout their entrepreneurial journeys and provided with dedicated support through the YAS! portal-platform.

YAS! has been developed by the UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa (RSCA) and is powered by Accenture. Please visit the portal-platform to register for YAS! and receive more information: www.yasdg.com.

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