The search for solutions to Africa’s vast challenges have inspired an intergenerational partnership to rescue the continent. With the aging generation refusing to let go of political power amidst a disturbing youth bulge, young Africans have become even more restless and innovative in making a difference.
The launch of Ignite Africa Challenge, a Non-Governmental Organization that seeks to influence and shape Africa’s future through intervention and mediation in youth engagements with creating solutions, captured this noble dream of the young to complement formal policymaking in various African countries. Registered in 2019, Ignite Africa is championed by young professionals passionate about driving change through integrating the common values and goals of different actors and sectors in the African development.
I was a witness to its most recent intervention in the historic Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the venue of Ignite Africa’s Inaugural Laureate Award Gala. At the October 19 event, which held at the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the Executive Director of Ignite Africa Challenge, Mr. Fahad Garba Aliyu, remarked that “The choice of the venue was purposely for inclusiveness.” Mr. Garba’s statement pointed to the symbolic function and place of Addis Ababa as the administrative heart of the continent’s political and cultural life, being also the headquarters of the African Union.
Addis Ababa, thus, was the most suitable location for the hosting the finals of the organization’s pan-African platform designed to empower and equip youths from all backgrounds with the knowledge, skills and training needed to overcome the numerous challenges facing the continent. Ignite Africa Challenge (IAC) offers to reward the best pitch idea by participants with the sum of hundred thousand dollars seed-funding to support start-ups across the continent. The program also provides mentorship for the finalists.
The finals in Addis Ababa were a keenly-contested competition between the three teams that qualified for the ‘accelerator program’ – Nigeria, Ethiopia and Rwanda. At the event of intense processes, Refcom Africa emerged overall winner. Commenting on the group’s performance, the judges noted that “They have the most impactful idea.” Refcom Africa’s pitch idea is to convert the invasive sight of maggots in most refugee camps to animal feeds with about 65% rich nutrients and 45% less cost than the common animal feeds in Rwanda.
Ignite Africa held 3 Semifinal events to determine the finalist in Nigeria, Rwanda and Ethiopia. The finalists qualify for the Accelerator and Fellowship Program which was held in Abuja for a month in August. The accelerator was aimed at transforming and equipping the teams from with training and guidance they need to move idea stage to investment ready startups.
Refcom Africa stood out due to the practicality of its implementation and the fact that they were designed to fit into the geographical structure of the continent. Africa has long been a laboratory of foreign-led and Western-driven solutions, and the intervention by Ignite Africa offers a platform for persistent manufacturing of local and testable solutions to fit into the larger needs of the continent.
The second edition of Ignite Africa Challenge is already underway, and will be open for application November 1st. In the just-concluded first edition, applications were mainly from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Rwanda. While this is an indicator of the interest to participate in finding local solutions for Africa’s problems, it triggers the need to expand the search to other regions.
“We hope to expand our reach to East and Central Africa in the 2020 edition,” said Mr. Garba, in noting the essence of cross-regional interactions and spread. “I will be traveling to Ghana’s Africa Entrepreneurship Summit to give a talk about the program later this year, and then Morocco, and a host of other institutions in Nigeria to increase participation” he added.
In Africa, where access to any form of overdraft to fund ideas is a wild goose chase, the IAC has achieved successes inclosing this gap. Although with little financial backing itself, IAC has shown promise and potentials to expand and be an institution of reference on the continent, with both individual and organizational support and partnerships in subsequent editions. Relevant information for its activities and contact is available at https://igniteafricachallenge.org.
Abubakar K. Abdullahi writes from Lagos Nigeria, and tweets from @abubakar47i.