Meet Three West African Entrepreneurs that are Making a Mark in Their Communities and Beyond

Wenceslas Djokpe, 2022 Solver (right) meets Dayo Aduroja, Youth & Innovation Lead, Africa, Heifer International (left) during Solve Challenge Finals in New York City (Photo/MIT Solve)
Wenceslas Djokpe, 2022 Solver (right) meets Dayo Aduroja, Youth & Innovation Lead, Africa, Heifer International (left) during Solve Challenge Finals in New York City (Photo/MIT Solve)

MIT Solve recently announced the 2022 Solver Class – a cohort of 40 social impact teams that are tackling world issues. These teams were chosen among 1,100 applicants from 117 countries and this year, 11 of the 40 are headquartered in Africa.

Solve gives each of the 40 entrepreneurs $10,000 in unrestricted grant funding and eligibility for over $2M in additional prize funding. Solver teams also gain access to support in various forms like expert insights from the MIT community, public relations training, and introductions to potential funders and partners, among other resources.

In years past and present, African Solver teams have made significant impacts in their communities and on a global scale whether that be educating youth, improving health accessibility, working towards climate justice, or another area of work. Over 14% of Solver teams are headquartered in Africa, not to mention additional teams who have deployed work there.

Here are three West African teams that are making an impact in the region and beyond with unique solutions.

In Africa, 47% business leaders mark “significant retraining/upskilling” as the largest factor to address the skills gap at their organization. Utiva, a 2020 Solver team, is offering a solution to this problem with a device called the Nucleus, a pre-loaded encrypted device with 14 structured learning modules that enable users to access technology skills training without relying on the internet.

Utiva is headquartered in Nigeria and their work is expanding into other regions as well. Eyitayo Ogunmola, CEO and Founder of Utiva, shares, “Through Solve, we got a major partnership with HP, which helped us scale our program to Kenya and it’s giving us the opportunity to reach more women and girls in Eastern Africa.”

With HP and Microsoft as key supporters, Utiva has been able to help over 6,500 women and girls in Africa access technology skill training. It has also given 6,000 young men (between the ages of 18-40) the opportunity to learn skills like cloud computing and data science. “More than 800 companies have hired junior developers and engineers through Utiva,” shared Ogunmola.

The Batonga Foundation, a 2022 Solver team, is also focused on expanding digital literacy in Africa. Angélique Kidjo, Founder of the Batonga Foundation, learned from a young age how gender stereotypes led many of her young female classmates to get married at a young age and become pregnant before completing their education.

Batonga aims to empower hard-to-reach adolescent girls and young women (aged 12-30) with the knowledge and skills to be agents of change in their own lives and communities. The organization, which is headquartered in Benin, offers vocational training, mentorship, and safe spaces (Batonga Clubs) for women and girls to gather and learn critical life skills. Through the program, female leaders also reach 200,000 people across Benin through the radio, sharing their own stories and opinions, which the community would normally not be able to access.

The organization operates in 53 Benin villages and reaches over 5,000 young women and girls in rural areas. They have over 38 girls’ clubs and 100 young women’s business circles. ”We also plan to launch new programs in Senegal by the end of 2022, which would further increase the potential reach of our solution to a total of 12,000 young women and girls across two countries,” says Wencelas Djokpe, A Senior Manager at Batonga.

Batonga, which recently won over $100,000 in prize funding from Solve supporters like GSR and Vodafone Americas Foundation, is hoping to expand its impact even further through the Batonga Podcast for Equity. Building on Batonga’s radio program, female leaders will spend over a year developing and producing their own digital content focused on educating others on girls’ rights. These podcasts will be shared on tablets across Benin and hopefully streamed online across the globe.

Solve believes that everyone should have a place at the problem-solving table, including and especially young people. In-Sync, a Nigerian based 2022 Solv[ED] Innovator, is making use of technology to support mental health in Nigeria and beyond. This is especially relevant seeing that Nigeria has Africa’s highest caseload of depression.

The company has developed a mobile application that uses an artificial intelligence guided chatbot. The chatbot applies principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to respond to users.

Hala Hanna, Managing Director of Solve shares, “We are always looking for the most creative solutions to Solve Global Challenges and we hope entrepreneurs – no matter how young – consider sharing their solutions with us.”

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