From tackling digital illiteracy to recycling waste into affordable egg incubators, 35 young innovators took centre-stage to present their innovative solutions for solving social problems at the Youth Innovation for Sustainable Development (YISD) Challenge pitching competitions, organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the National Youth Authority (NYA).
The competitions, held in Tamale and Koforidua for the northern and southern zones respectively, is putting up an enviable prize of US$5,000 each for 16 young innovators this year. The winners will also benefit from business mentorship, coaching and other business development support services during a 9-week incubation period, to pilot and scale up their innovations.
Among the innovators is Lauretta Kaudey, an enterprising woman of 35years, whose idea of providing easy access to health facilities by customizing tricycles into mobile ambulances, will help save lives in under-served communities. She is seeking to improve access to health services and tackle the life-threatening problem of woefully inadequate ambulances in many communities.
“I am very excited to be part of the selected young people to pitch my idea. It was really a competitive journey. I have learnt a lot from the judges and my colleagues. Coming this far is a great privilege and I have been inspired to put more work into my project”, she recounted.
As part of efforts to support young people in Ghana, the Youth Innovation for Sustainable Development (YISD) Challenge was organized under UNDP’s YouthConnekt platform to motivate young people to develop innovative ideas and test ground breaking solutions for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Kordzo Sedegah, Economics Specialist at UNDP, in a speech read on his behalf by Ms. Sylvia Senu (Economics Analyst, UNDP) noted that young people when given the right conditions and support, would nourish their talents and ideas to attain their full potential.
“UNDP is happy to encourage experimentation and support young people to scale up their innovative solutions to bring Ghana a step further in achieving the SDGs”, he emphasized.
He revealed that, the number of applications received from the YISD challenge demonstrated the untapped ideas and innovations of the Ghanaian youth, however the quality of the submissions exposed the gaps in the preparedness of young people in taking advantage of such opportunities.
In a sketch to demonstrate the practical solution of quality education required by SDG 4, 20-year-old Sampson Naporo Iddrisu enacted a drama to show how his project: “Zaapanyin”, is working to fight learning disabilities that impair reading, hand-writing, mathematics and motor skills. He established a hub and school-based clubs, where pupils with learning disabilities are using Neuro-Linguistic Programming to solve their difficulties.
Other pitches included a presentation by Eunice Agyapong Kyereh (25 years), who is enhancing menstrual hygiene using reusable menstrual pads made from cotton cloth and water proof material. Also was Elvis Kuma, who is improving health care access and financial inclusion with an online platform. Mabel Suglo trains and employs physically challenged and rural women to handcraft shoes, handbags, locally woven clothing and traditional jewelries, using recycled plastics and local materials.
Judges were generally impressed with the many innovations presented and were inspired to see young people poised to address Ghana’s development challenges and create business out of problems. They indicated that the pitches show Ghanaian entrepreneurs do not only need money but also mentorship to build and solidify their ideas.
“Young people should never give up on their innovative ideas but focus on researching and building evidence to project their ideas and innovations confidently to investors”, urged Derrick Omari, Founder of TechEra, a social technology enterprise, who was on the panel of the Judges.
Presenting the overview of the challenge, Mr. Nelson Owusu Ansah (Deputy CEO of the National Youth Authority) noted that submissions were received from all the 16 administrative regions of Ghana.
The YISD was launched on 6th November 2019 for young Ghanaians between the ages of 15 and 35 years. Over 300 applications across the country were received. Through an intensive selection process, 39 youth were selected to pitch their ideas but 35 people were at the sessions.
On 14th December 2019, 16 young innovators will be announced as winners for the prizes and incubation.