Zimbabwean youth bring innovative solutions to communities

By Dr Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF Representative

09 February 2023
Dr Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF Representative and four enthusiastic young innovators aged between 16-24 years

Zimbabwe is a youthful country with more than 60% of the population under 25 years. Young people are vibrant, mobile and full of creative ideas; and have shown us that they are best placed to bring innovative solutions and positive changes for issues affecting them and their communities. Are we giving them enough opportunities to do so?

I recently met in Harare with a team of Zambezi Ark Technologies, four enthusiastic young innovators aged between 16-24 years. They created a sustainable clean energy sourced lighting system - the Chigubhu Lantern - using e-waste and plastic. The lanterns can be charged by a charging port that is solar powered and can charge up to 8 lanterns. As the lanterns can be used for up to 4 hours after each complete charging, it can benefit many children and adolescents, especially in rural areas, to study at home. The initiative called ‘A light for every’ child won the global Generation Unlimited imaGen Ventures Youth Challenge 2022, with the prize money to assist them grow the business.

Generation Unlimited is a leading global Public-Private-Youth Partnership launched by the UN Secretary-General at the 2018 UN General Assembly, and anchored in UNICEF, to bring together global organizations and leaders including Heads of State, CEOs, Heads of UN agencies, and civil society champions with young people to co-create and deliver innovative solutions on a global scale

Another innovation of the youngsters of Zambezi Ark Technologies that goes hand in hand with the lantern is the solar-powered off-grid DC LED lighting system for schools and residential buildings, which eliminates the use of inverters and LED drivers and can be controlled using an installed app on a mobile device. Together, the inventions have collectively have the potential to become a climate-friendly source of light for children in rural areas who are struggling to learn because of frequent power cuts. Not only is the initiative of the team of Zambezi Ark Technologies one that can inspire many other young people, but it is also an environmentally conscious invention, using the circular model and upcycling of wastes, including plastic bottles, cans and e-waste from used household LED lights.

These young Zimbabweans are a prime example of what is possible when young people are given the space to create and the opportunities to grow. It is also an attestation to the quality of education in Zimbabwe. When young people are backed by a proper support system including local and international actors, they can create effective innovative solutions to address issues affecting them and their communities. This is also a prime example of young people possessing unique perspectives to the problems of today and the need for development sector to start looking into collaborating more with young people. It is famously said by young advocates that “Nothing for us, without us”. It is high time we as adults and development actors pay more attention to the voices of children and young people and meaningfully engage them in issues that are directly affecting them.

As UNICEF we believe in the power of adolescents and young people as change. UNICEF Zimbabwe has been working closely with the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation to ensure adolescents and youth in Zimbabwe have a platform to speak and voice their opinions, explore opportunities to grow and creative spaces to innovate. The children’s parliament is a good example that we can build upon. We also welcome the Government’s commitment to Education 5.0 and under the leadership of the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development building on ongoing transformation in curriculum and digital learning at the basic education level by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. As a Country known for high literacy rate on the continent, young people in Zimbabwe are showing us the path and the need to further invest in education and learning

UNICEF Zimbabwe together with other UN Agencies and relevant Ministries of the Government of Zimbabwe and the Private Sector will bring more focus, under Generation Unlimited to skills to work transition by expanding investment in 21st century skills training, boost entrepreneurial skills and opportunity and support young people as change-makers and co-creators of solutions. This will build on our commitment to create an enabling, nurturing and positive environment for the young innovative minds to thrive.

In 2023, UNICEF Zimbabwe will pursue its work with Zambezi Ark Technologies to expand their work towards their noble goal of ensuring there is a light for every child. We will also continue to be on the search for the next young innovators from Zimbabwe through the annual imaGen Ventures Youth Challenge.

Adolescents and youth inspire us with their creativity, willpower, and perseverance through all the hardships they are facing. They just require us to believe in them so that they can believe in themselves and bring the answers to the complex and specific problems they are facing along with their peers.

At UNICEF, we believe in the innovative power of children, adolescents and young people, and will continue to search and invest in them, while counting on all stakeholders to do the same.

#ForEveryChild and Adolescent, Innovation.

Media contacts

Yves Willemot
Chief of Communications
UNICEF Zimbabwe
Tel: +263772124268


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