Youths across the globe stand on the brink of creating a revolution that will usher in the dawn of a new era. An era marked by resourcefulness, positive change, and sustainable development. Hence, an overarching need exists to create platforms that guarantee exposure, opportunities for creative problem-solving, and skills acquisition for young people.
(Young People at The Exhibition)
Through the Generation Unlimited Sierra Leone (GenU SL) initiative, the Ministry of Youth Affairs (MoYa), in partnership with the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF SL), hosted an exhibition and Bootcamp to showcase the impacts of various projects designed to expand opportunities for career development, entrepreneurship and sustainable livelihoods for young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years.
GENERATION UNLIMITED EXHIBITION
The exhibition, which took place on the 5th of March, 2022, at the Occasions Villa, Lakka, in Freetown, brought together over 150 participants from government agencies, UN Agencies, development partners, the private sector, and young people, who demonstrated some of their on-going projects and how these interventions are poised to positively impact the lives of children and young people in Sierra Leone.
(Young People At The Exhibition)
The quest to be part of this impactful process commenced 5 months earlier for these participants. On October 28th, 2021, the GenU SL National Partnership Committee put out a nationwide call for applications inviting young innovators across the country to submit solutions in a Youth Challenge that aims to address social challenges and improve the quality of life in their communities.
(Young People At The Exhibition)
15 teams were selected from over 400 team applications. On March 5th, 2022, an eager crop of young innovators began the week-long journey through workshops and team-building exercises designed to sculpt their ideas into practical products and solutions that can be taken to scale.
(Kids From Saint Joseph’s School For The Hearing Impaired)
“I am thrilled to be part of this transformative experience, especially when Africa longs and thirsts for a generation full of creative and innovative youth who show passion in everything they do. If we choose to develop in the best way possible, investing in our youth is the right course of action.” – Eliza Gloria Wilson, Exhibition & Bootcamp Participant.
The exhibition was a well-attended opening event that brought together leading experts from the professional spectrum. The star-studded audience featured Government Ministers, Civil Society Activists, Private Sector Executives, Representatives from Non- Governmental Organisations such as Plan International, Restless Development, One Family People, Journalists, and many more.
(UNICEF Country Representative Dr. Suleiman Braimoh & Hon. Min of Youth Affairs Mohamed Orman Bangura)
The exhibition’s central theme sought to promote public awareness about existing skills acquisition programs, shared learning, networking, and employment opportunities for young people in the public-private-youth partnership. In addition, young people could interact and engage with stakeholders on models for optimising large-scale investment opportunities, programmes, and innovations that could help young people become productive in life.
Making their respective statements at the exhibition, several speakers notably underscored the importance of young people acting and building the future they deserve.
(Reps From DSTI, UNICEF & MOYA)
“Every old man was once a young man but not every young man will become an old man if they don’t make use of today. As a young person, you will have yourself to blame tomorrow if you do not make the best use of today.” – Mohamed Orman Bangura, Minister of Youth Affairs.
“Young people must embrace the wave of opportunity, growth, and progress that technology offers. Initiatives of this nature set the tone for a more extensive discourse on the role and evolution of tomorrow’s leaders.” – Michala Mackay, Chief Operating Officer and Director of DSTI.
“Young people constitute a significant proportion of the population in Sierra Leone and are pivotal to the country’s development. The GenU initiative provides an opportunity for all young people to network, showcase their talents, and harness existing opportunities to realise their potential to the fullest possible extent,” said Dr. Suleiman Braimoh, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone.
THE GENU IMAGEN VENTURES BOOTCAMP
The buzz and momentum from the exhibition day activities set the stage for the BootCamp. The Bootcamp was designed as a 5-day workshop training that utilised UPSHIFT modular curriculum to instruct young people on developing social innovation skills in response to issues affecting their communities.
(Lead Consultant at Afriqia HR Solutions; Maryam Darwich Facilitates Bootcamp Session)
(Young People Engaged Team Building Exercise At Bootcamp)
THE GENU IMAGEN VENTURES PITCH COMPETITION 1.0
The Bootcamp culminated in a pitch competition where 5 of the most promising ideas were awarded USD 1,000 each in seed funding and technical support. The five winning teams were selected, representing Makeni, Western Area, and Kenema regions whose solutions centered around solving critical issues concerning Environmental Health, Climate Change, Disabilities inclusion, Digital skills, and Online learning tools.
(Participants From Team Normalnet At Pitch Competition 1.0)
MENTORSHIP & ACCELERATION PHASE
Following a successful first pitch, the five winning teams engaged in pitch training sessions with Innovation SL designed as diagnostic exercises to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the participant’s pitch skills and the feasibility of their business plans.
(Head of Innovations SL Francis Stevens George facilitating a pitch training session)
THE GENU IMAGEN VENTURES PITCH COMPETITION 2.0
These sessions ended with a final pitch competition at Mamba Point Hotel to determine the two most promising solutions to represent Sierra Leone at the GenU global youth innovation competition.
(Judges at the Pitch Competition 2.0)
“DSTI is grateful for the continued collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Youth Affairs. The Generation Unlimited project aligns with the Government’s flagship Human Capital Development agenda. Being that the youth accounts for over 60% of the country’s population, projects like GenU awaken their entrepreneurial ingenuity and reaffirms our commitment to delivering on the National Development Plan” – Jasper Sembie, Head of Finance & Operations, DSTI.
(DSTI’s Head of Finance & Operations, Jasper Sembie, Delivering The Keynote Address)
After a heated battle of wits, teams LOREM AND TOMDACT won the pitch and will represent Sierra Leone at the global competition.
(TEAM LOREM – Pitched the idea of developing an e-learning intervention in STEM)
(TEAM TOMDACT – Pitched the idea of developing a skills training initiative for persons living with disability)
Watch the Official Live Announcement here.
Tanya Phiri, Youth Innovation Specialist at UNICEF SL, speaking on the benefits and true goal of the initiative, emphasised that “As part of our robust big picture strategy, the young people will further receive mentorship opportunities to support the implementation of their projects. Ultimately, the aim is to inspire young people who possess brilliant ideas but lack the resources to actualize their dreams and make a difference in their communities”.
(Winning Teams from Pitch Competition 1.0)
Following the completion and success of the Exhibition and Bootcamp, GenU project coordinator at DSTI, Fatmata Bangura, indicated that the project will continue with a 6-month Mentorship and Acceleration phase. “Invariably, these are all geared towards ensuring that we adequately prepare the two most promising solutions to represent Sierra Leone at the ImaGen Ventures global youth innovation challenge,” she concluded.
About Generation Unlimited Global
Generation Unlimited is a global multi-sector partnership designed to meet the urgent needs for expanded education, training, and employment opportunities for young people. Gen U, which prioritises young people in the development agenda, creates global public-private-youth partnerships to co-create and support large-scale investment opportunities, programmes, and innovations to become productive in life.