Africa is taking back its place in history, one youth at a time. All across a continent with the world’s largest generation of youth, young men and women in their teens, twenties and thirties are pushing boundaries and changing Africa and the world.
Hats off to young people in Africa!
COVID-19 is driving a wave of innovation as young African innovators and entrepreneurs find finding purpose in this moment of crisis and inspire others to hope and act. Here are but a few examples of the creative energy bringing light to the world from the continent.
Senegal: Young people in Thiès, a crossroads city located 70 km. from the capital, Dakar, have decided to be an active part of the solution to stopping the spread of COVID19. More than 100 former and current members of the Association for Culture and Sports of the 10th District, some of them currently living abroad, have come together to help keep the coronavirus at bay in their city. They decided of their own free will to contribute a minimum of 1,000 Fcfa ($1.65) to the city’s PANHACEA
efforts, led by the Mayor of Thiès. Amounts contributed to the pool of funds vary from $8.50, $16, $33 to $$58. Their mission is to buy and distribute protective masks to citizens without the means to access this basic protective equipment.
Ghana: Young Ghanaian entrepreneur Laud Anthony Basing, CEO of Incas Diagnostics and with a background in microbiology and biomedical engineering, developed a screening tool concept — operable via mobile app orUSSD code — that maps COVID-19 test cases, classifies them according to risk and provides data to national authorities to plan responses. He was the winner of the first virtual WHO-AFRO Digital series held via Zoom in April 2020, which aims to prompt contextualized digital solutions to curb the spread and negative impact of COVID-19.
Nigeria: The e-health startup 54gene launched in 2019 by Abasi Ene-Obong, 34, to make drug research and development more equitable. It recently raised a US$15 million Series A funding round, and had already launched a fund of its own to raise money for COVID-19 mitigation efforts. It has now has partnered with others to launch a mobile COVID19 testing lab fully kitted out with the necessary instruments in a, environmentally-friendly, 40-foot container that eliminates the logistics of shipping samples to another location for processing, reduces turnaround times for test results and allows clinicians to manage and treat patients accurately, sooner rather than later.
Cameroon: Christian Achaleke is producing bottles of disinfectant, following the World Health Organization (WHO) recipe. He and his officemates dipped into their salaries to do get the project going. After testing the mixturethey devised a plan to launch a campaign to offer hand sanitizer to people on the streets. Their main vision is to engage young people to be aware of the risks surrounding the spread of the virus and to act responsibly and spread correct information to help people follow the preventive measures. After reaching out to medical and development professionals throughout the country, the project has now become the “1 Person 1 Hand Sanitizer” Campaign. He has moved his project into a laboratory and engaged pharmacists, doctors, sanitation engineers and nurses to help. By helping people to clean their hands and emphasizing awareness-raising, he and his team are helping to curb the spread of the virus and clearing away misinformation that can cost lives.
Kenya: In Nairobi, the capital, Nichanor Ochienghas turned his small shoe shop on a busy junction in Dandora, a high-density, low-income neighborhood, into a temporary distribution point for free hand-cleaning and other essential products, piloting a tech-driven initiative aimed at helping slow down the pathogen's transmission. He is part of the Safe Hands Kenya coalition of community groups and businesses is working to use existing tech-enabled supply chains to hand out items such as sanitizer, masks, soap and surface disinfectant, particularly in poor, densely populated areas.
Chad: Behind tall iron gates on a dusty alleyway in Ndjamena, the capital, a group of twenty-somethings have established a digital start-up. Armed with laptops, business books and a red motor bike they are helping to propel their country into the 21st century with MossoSouk (Chadian Arabic for “trade-market”), an electronic marketplace created in 2017. It is Chad’s first online store for merchants, shopkeepers and individuals with goods to sell.
South Sudan: Nelson Kwaje is tacklingmisinformation on COVID-19 to help save lives. This 28-year old young man has helped initiate the #211 CHECK collective, a digital community of youth collaborating to fight misinformation and raise awareness on coronavirus prevention and protection. Using the #COVID19SS hashtag, they expose false facts, disputed and unfounded remedies or cures, doctored images and any and all pieces of information that could confuse and mislead the public. Thanks to them, truth is replacing lies so that people can act in their own best interests, and society’s as a whole.
South Africa: The Ndlovu Youth Choir, known for reaching the finale of America’s Got Talent in 2019, is usingentertainment to raise awareness. Using their creative talents, they composed, performed and filmed a musical rendition of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) coronavirus safety advice as a way to support the COVID-19 response. To ensure the various communities in the country are well informed and safe during the spread of the outbreak, it features translations of certain key points in various South African languages.
Grasping the light of Africa
Grasping Africa demands understanding the continent’s transformations, past and ongoing. It requires looking with fresh eyes to see how those transformations are offering the tools for internally generated growth, development and progress.
Africa is in movement. Its youth - educated and uneducated, poor and not so poor, privileged and underprivileged, alone and together - is contributing to writing history. Young men and women are combining the ingredients of innovation, entrepreneurship, and partnerships to build a better future, for themselves, their families, their countries, their continent, and in the common interest for humanity.
The examples provided in this article are just a few of the many examples of how young people across Africa under the age of 40 are rising to the challenge of pioneering local solutions to curb the spread and negative impact of COVID-19. Their innovations in a wide range of industries are addressing critical gaps in the regional response and providing creatively, practical, local solutions beyond the health sector.
There are so many young and youthful Africans that are making a difference and shining a light in the COVID-19 tunnel! They deserve recognition and praise.
Astrid Ruiz Thierry, Principal, Upboost LLC