Malawian youths offer solutions to COVID-19 challenges in their communities

1,717 young people take part in UNICEF youth innovation challenge

30 September 2020
Sam is re-imagining education, to reach children in remote and disadvantaged communities during COVID-19
UNICEF Malawi/2020
Sam is re-imagining education, to reach children in remote and disadvantaged communities during COVID-19

Lilongwe, 23 September 2020 – Inspirational young people from Malawi, are designing solutions to help their communities confront COVID-19. More than 1,700 youth aged 14 to 35 took part in the COVID-19 Youth Innovation Challenge for UNICEF in partnership with the Segal Family Foundation and the Social Impact Incubator Malawi, via Cartedo, an experiential learning platform that helps youth develop employability and entrepreneurship through innovation challenges.

COVID-19 has drastically changed the lives of many Malawian young people. From the loss of income and job insecurity to stalled education and lack of clean water, young people and their communities are being forced to explore new and innovative ways of coping.

Nigeria piloted the regional challenge in May 2020 followed by Malawi in June, inspiring a wave of youth participants in the continent. The winners in Malawi will receive funding and coaching to support scaling up of their ideas.  Other rewards include mentorships with industry experts, resume reviews and soft skills training provided by partners.

UNICEF’s Representative for Malawi, Rudolf Schwenk, said, “There is a significant skill and employment challenge in Malawi, where many young people are not receiving the learning and training to keep pace with the evolving demands of the 21st century job market. This skills gap, which contributes to high levels of unemployment, requires government investments, commitments from the business community, contributions from civil society, as well as the initiative and the perspective of young people.”  

The Representative added that the challenge has brought together many brilliant young minds and said, “At UNICEF, we are committed to helping young people become co-creators and develop their own innovative solutions to the challenges in their lives.  By developing these skills through problem solving, young people can be the change agents in their communities and country.”

The top innovative solutions submitted include: an offline mobile learning application to make e-learning work in the face of low digital literacy and poor infrastructure; an application aimed at enabling the elderly to stay at home while still accessing the basic supplies and services that they need; and a hand sanitization unit to promote touch-free disinfection in public places.

“Even before the pandemic, education in Malawi was in crisis. Only about 35 per cent get to complete their primary education and move on to secondary school and 8 per cent finish secondary education,” said Sam Masikini, 23, who designed an offline mobile learning application called Inspire to make e-learning work in Malawi, a country with low digital literacy and poor ICT infrastructure. “The idea is to reimagine education in Malawi and offer equal opportunities for continued learning to a boy or girl in a remote village and a privileged urban child with high-end devices.”

UNICEF is working with partners to expand education, training and employment opportunities for young people, aged 10 to 24, through Generation Unlimited, a global multi-sector partnership including governments, multilateral organizations, civil society, private sector and young people themselves. The COVID-19 Youth Innovation Challenge for UNICEF was supported by the government, private sector and local partners such as schools, churches and youth organisations across Malawi.

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NOTE TO EDITORS

Young people entered the challenge by exploring the human needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. They then channelled their findings into solutions that ordinary people in their communities can use. By utilising the tools and techniques within the Cartedo platform, they generated multiple ideas to solve the challenges faced and prototyped solutions in their communities. Cartedo incorporates an online human-centred design thinking process that is supported by psychometrics and provides feedback to the young participants and guides them towards resources that allow them to complement their newfound skills.

Partners for the challenge in Malawi: Segal Family Foundation, Social Impact Incubator Malawi, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Top Youth Solutions

In Malawi, 1,717 young people participated; UNICEF supported 10 finalists to participate in a 21-day social impact incubation and mentorship program with three Malawian hubs: MHub, Dzuka Africa StartUp Hub and Mzuzu E-Hub to re-invent their ideas as solutions that could be launched on the market, with the Top 5 solutions selected in partnership with the Segal Family Foundation. The winning solutions are:

  1. Sam Masikini, 23, an offline mobile learning application to make e-learning work in the face of low digital literacy and poor infrastructure. https://www.unicef.org/malawi/stories/re-imagining-education-sam-proposes-app-keep-all-children-learning-during-covid-19
  2. Maryam Latif, 14, an application aimed at enabling the elderly to stay at home while still accessing the basic supplies and services that they need. https://www.unicef.org/malawi/stories/14-year-old-maryam-inspired-her-own-condition-protect-eldery-covid-19
  3. Brenald Dzonzi, 24, designed a hand sanitisation unit to promote touch-free disinfection in public places. https://www.unicef.org/malawi/stories/brenald-touch-free-disinfection-public-places
  4. John Maneya, 29, a steam-based disinfectant sprayer which can disinfect without necessarily wetting surfaces. https://www.unicef.org/malawi/stories/johns-super-efficient-disinfectant-sprayer-combat-covid-19
  5. Mtheto Sinjani, 23, an automatic touch-free hand sanitizer dispenser which detects hand movement. https://www.unicef.org/malawi/stories/mtheto-hopes-his-automatic-sanitizer-dispenser-will-reduce-spread-covid-19

Media contacts

Rebecca Phwitiko
Communications Officer
UNICEF Malawi
Tel: 0999282723

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