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Young people offer tech solutions to Africa’s problems

By Zeenat Hansrod

Two young tech innovators from Somalia and South Africa are working together to develop study guides for Somali youth. They belong to this dynamic generation of young African entrepreneurs who are bringing 21st century solutions to the table.

From education, health to security, Africa’s youth are taking matters in their own hands with their innovative tech platforms.

Youth offers tech solutions to Africa’s problems 16/10/2017 Listen

Africa has the youngest population in the world, according to the United Nations, with well over 226 million young people between 15 and 24, accounting for 19 per cent of the global youth population.

A figure on the rise predicts the UN; by 2030, it is projected that the number of youth in Africa will have increased by 42 per cent.

Abdi Addow and Shivad Singh belong to this generation of tech innovators who are bringing, under their own steam, concrete solutions to problems their people have to grapple with.

Abdi Addow is a 25-year-old refugee in Sweden where he is currently studying development and international cooperation.

Along with his friends, they set up the website, Abaaraha, as a response to the drought crippling Somalia. Abaaraha is a live crisis online mapping platform putting people in need with relief responders. Shivad Singh (22) is an entrepreneur in education and media who lives in South Africa.

When he was 19, he founded Presto Academy with his friend Fuaad Coovadia to provide study guides to secondary school students.

Working together on education

Together they are working on building up study guides for Somali youth.

More than half of Somalia’s 10+ million population is under 25, according to UNESCO.

Only 37% of the population can read and write. The lack of a stable government and constant security threats posed by the Al Shabab islamist militant group makes it near impossible to provide education to children.

“We need to educate our young people. This [lack of education] is what is causing conflict in Africa, especially Somalia. If you don’t give the young people the opportunity to read and write, it will be a disaster for the future,” says Abdi Addow.

“And I am planning to do what he [Shivad] is doing in Somalia.”

Addow and Singh met in Colombia’s capital, Bogata, at the One Young World Summit where they were roommates.

The two young men were chosen to address the summit along with 20 other delegate speakers. Shivad Singh received the Leading South Africa award which allowed him to attend the One Young World Summit through a fully paid scholarship.

Abdi Addow was sponsored by the Love Army to attend the summit. Information about such schemes are available on the One Young World newsletter and website.

Shivad Singh says he is very excited on working to apply his Presto study guides to Somalia.

He believes that the challenges are similar to the ones South Africa faces because even though almost all of his country’s 56 million population can read and write, a large number of youth do not finish formal education. Largely due to lack of resources and teachers.

“Our model is to get students to teach other students. We noticed that a lot of our friends struggled to make the jump from high school to university. Due to poor schooling,” Singh explains.

“We created Presto Academy to make learning simpler, easier and more memorable by getting students to write the content so that it is more understandable and relatable to others. We provide a world class education for a minimum cost.”

Presto study guides are aimed at what in South Africa is known as Matric students who are completing the last year of secondary school.

They are put together by South Africa’s top Matric students and reviewed by teachers before being up for sale.

The guides are for Maths, Chemistry, Physics and Accounting and cost roughly 10 euros each. They are available online, as books and soon on videos.

A digital solution to Somalia’s drought

Further north to South Africa, Somalia faced one of its most severe drought this year affecting some 6 million people.

Abdi Addow and his friends realised that even though there was a lot of good will from the diaspora and the international community, the aid was not reaching its targets because of insufficient coordination.

So, in March this year and in just 7 days, Addow and his friends – all volunteers – set up the Abaaraha website.

A live crisis mapping platform which visually indicates where and what type of aid is needed.

“Abaaraha means drought in Somali. We created this to give voice to the voiceless. People can report what they need: water, food, medicine… so, people who want to help them can see their contact information”, says Abdi Addow.

People affected by the drought may reach a call center in Somalia. They can also send text messages, email, use Twitter or Facebook to communicate about their needs or areas affected. All information gathered is verified before put online.

Abaraaha caught the attention of the Yale University in USA and students from its Geographical Information System department are planning to further develop the website.

Connecting young people across the world

According to participants like Abdi Addow and Shivad Singh, One Young World lives up to its promise of connecting people and showcasing the brightest, most innovative young people across the world.

This year in Colombia, 1, 300 young people representing 195 countries attended the summit.

“I get energized by talking to all those amazing people. We really connect like friends and everyone is very like-minded. And when we discuss things we don’t talk about people, we discuss ideas,” says Shivad Singh.

“It’s an amazing synergy. Everyone experience the same problems but just on different scales. But because people are from all different parts of the world, we all come with different ideas and solutions.”

The opportunities of this type of networking happen to be real. Shivad Singh got around 20 to 30 people who want to partner with him.

Abdi Addow is working on a partnership with a Dr. Charles Akhimien, head of Mobicure in Nigeria, who has designed an App for pregnant women called Omomi.

They are working on how to apply it to Somalia. Child mortality in Somalia is among the highest in the world.

One Young World also enabled participants to meet a number of influential people. This year, among a number of VIPs, there were Koffi Annan – former United Nations secretary general – and Nobel Prize laureate, Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen bank.

Abdi Addow met the Vice-President of Facebook where they discussed how to activate the Facebook Safety Check for Somalia.

It is the 21st century, most of the ideas, projects, businesses, and enterprises put forward by the young people need the internet to exist. The downside is the prohibitive cost of access to internet in Africa.

This is where the digital divide lies. Africa’s youth has the capacity to shake things up and shows an incredible energy to shape tomorrow’s world. Now their governments need to break up monopolies and bring affordable internet connections.

Follow Abdi Addow on Twitter @AbdiAddow1

Follow Shivad Singh on Twitter @shivadsingh

Follow Zeenat Hansrod on Twitter @zxnt

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