Zimbabwe imaGen Ventures Youth Challenge winners recognised for lighting up rural schools
The Zambezi Ark Technologies introduced two innovations, the off-grid solar-powered DC lighting system for schools, and the Chigubhu Lantern, a unique creation made from electronic waste
Their story touched many, and in the fullness of time, the innovation by Zambezi Ark Technologies, a group of four young entrepreneurs from Zimbabwe, deservedly earned them a place in the sun when they were crowned of the 12 Global winners at the Youth Pavillion during 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 27).
It was befitting that this would happen during COP27 as this was an excellent platform to showcase their sustainable and solution-oriented project to address Climate Change.
The Zambezi Ark Technologies introduced two innovations, the off-grid solar-powered DC lighting system for schools, and the Chigubhu Lantern, a unique creation made from electronic waste and housed in plastic waste for children and families. The team's catchphrase, "A light for every student," not only encompasses the project's goal, but its ability to improve communities, as poor access to lighting inhibits a child's access to education.
The journey to Global Recognition
In collaboration with UNICEF Zimbabwe, young people from Zimbabwe have had the opportunity to participate in the global imaGen Ventures Youth Challenge since its launch in 2018 by the UN-Secretary General. imaGen Ventures challenge is an initiative that seeks to nurture a critical mass of young entrepreneurs dedicated to achieving Sustainable Development Goals and a better global future.
After a nationwide call for applications, reaching the most marginalised communities. Teams of young innovators were selected and qualified to attend intensive boot camps while receiving months of incubation, coaching, and mentorship. Two of the chosen teams proceeded to represent Zimbabwe and compete in the global challenge, with 76 teams from over 40 countries. Zambezi Ark Technologies impressively became one of the 12 winners worldwide.
In the spirit of leaving no one behind and in line with UNICEF's mandate, UNICEF Zimbabwe and its partners took a tested and holistic youth-centred approach to roll out the imaGen Ventures 2022 challenge. The process was co-designed, co-created, and co-led by young people with the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts, and Recreation, the Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC), and Boost Fellowship, a youth-led organisation.
As one of the global winners of the imaGen Ventures Youth Challenge 2022, they will receive further global incubation, coaching, and mentorship and 16,000 USD prize money. The prize money will allow the team to expand their initiative into a program that benefits children and young people of Zimbabwe by providing access to climate-friendly, clean energy light sources and access to development, knowledge transfer, and employment.
The first part of the innovation includes designing and developing the lighting control modules and installing the off-grid lighting system at schools and buildings. The lighting system can also charge cell phones, radios, and Chigubhu Lanterns.
The Chigubhu Lantern is a unique innovation made from electronic waste and housed in plastic waste. With a strong focus on students, the Chigubhu Lantern project has a social cause initiative where students are trained to make their lanterns using waste, making it a circular model. The lanterns come with a solar-powered centralised charger or can be charged with the off-grid lighting system. Both innovations have a sustainability plan by conducting knowledge transfer to other children, adolescents, and young people.
Zimbabwe faces a severe problem of unemployment and underemployment, especially among youth. Most young people are engaged in the informal sector, characterised by insecure incomes, lack of social security, low skills, poor productivity, and low earnings.
Working with the Government of Zimbabwe, the private sector, youth-led Civil Society Organisations, and young people themselves, UNICEF is implementing the Generation Unlimited Initiative to equip adolescents and youth with innovative transferable skills for life and work in the 21st century that empower them by building confidence, resilience, employability, and entrepreneurship skills.
Cultivating young people's entrepreneurial mindset and skills is critical to creating a new sustainable future for work, society, and the environment.