Youth Social Entrepreneurs Hold The Key to Sustainable Change in Africa

Written by on May 18, 2012 in Africa, Contributors, Entrepreneurship - 3 Comments

African girl in school

Rules are made to be broken, so some say. But unlike skipping school or sneaking into the house after the curfew, some rules bind our hands so tightly that the chain leaves a scarring tattoo.

We have tried to break the invisible links of poverty in Africa for decades with aid, relief, and development but as Sabrina Natasha Premji described in a recent blog post, such interventions to  “save Africa” more often than not, spark a disastrous domino effect, however well intended.

So how can we move beyond merely dictating their needs, relying on our “us versus them” attitude to solving extreme poverty?

Even though I joined StartSomeGood only a couple months ago, it has been an incredible journey thus far empowering courageous risk-takers and off-the-beaten-path rule-breakers start some good. Co-founders, Alex Budak and Tom Dawkins, created a crowdfunding platform for social entrepreneurs because they believed that these impact-preneurs are the most capable people to uplift the members within their own community and create long-term change.

As such, we are doubly excited to launch two campaigns focused on Africa – with a third on the way – to help these young, creative leaders ignite their ideas, together! All three are part of the YouthActionNet fellowship, which provides young changemakers with ideas, resources, and connections to other like-minded people around the world, ultimately strengthening the global peer-to-peer support system. The younger generation’s instinct for rebellion might be the only thing that could shatter the status quo and ignite a path towards a more prosperous future.

Benard Wakoli is the founder of YaYa Education Trust (YET).  YET is committed to alleviating poverty and combating “gender apartheid” toward women and girls within the rural Mumias district in Kenya. He created the Community Goat Bank Project to enable women entrepreneurs to become financially independent while also providing food for the family. By donating the goat’s offspring to another marginalized woman in the community, she will empower another to rise out of poverty. The increased income allows these women and girls to afford education and health services while increasing awareness for human rights and leveling gender discrimination.

Kwabena Danso co-founded The Yonso Project in rural Ghana, which provides community-based education and empowerment for the Yonso community. It uses scholarships, microfinance for rural women, Teach for Rural Ghana program, and Bamboo Bicycle Project as a platform for impact. Its campaign, Mentoring and Guidance for Rural School Children, creates an opportunity for 200 10-18 year old kids to be educated on their rights, mentored on their goals and roles in the community, and trained on facing sex issues through a three-day camp retreat.

The Tanzania Youth Environmental Network (TAYEN) sets up student-led, environmental clubs in schools to address sustainability issues such as deforestation, climate change, the lack of clean water access, and illnesses from insufficient sanitation. It helps youths identify destructive practices and inspires them to take initiative on environmental conservation. Although TAYEN’s campaign is forthcoming, keep an eye out for this organization incubating the future environmental leaders of Tanzania.

Now, I’m not here to discourage charity donations or knock down NGOs and their tireless, passionate members who are improving lives everyday in Africa. Whether building infrastructure for safe drinking water or selling tote bags to feed malnourished children, they all help secure a better future for the marginalized, the oppressed, and the impoverished. But some rules need to be broken, including the one treating Africa as a charity case. Instead of copy-and-pasting an image of us lending a hand, why not draw one where we are linking arms together?

The impact of sharing a goat’s offspring, educating and mentoring youths, or inspiring students to take action on conservation initiatives may not be apparent in the short-term but it’s never too early to spark rule breakers who challenge the status quo. So let’s support them by making their ideas a reality!

[featured image credit]

Clem Auyeung

Clem helps social entrepreneurs create communities and ignite their ideas at StartSomeGood. He also volunteers at Ashoka Twin Cities and coaxes entrepreneurs to share their wisdom and insights.

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