By Rudina Vojvoda
NEW YORK, United States of America, 1 July 2013 –With technological innovation increasingly playing a central role in social and economic development, young people are positioning themselves as key actors in creating tools and strategies for achieving equitable, sustainable development.
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In this episode of the ‘Beyond School Books’ podcast series, UNICEF’s Alex Goldmark speaks with three young African innovators: Wayetu Moore of One Moore Book, Catherine Kipsang of politk.com and Timothy Kaboya of ELE Rwanda. The three recently participated in a UNICEF-organized event showcasing Africa’s young innovators, which focused on individuals looking for home-grown solutions to everyday problems.
Realizing the permanence of culture
Wayetu Moore is the founder of One Moore Book, a start-up that publishes and distributes books for children in countries with low literacy rates and underrepresented cultures. According to Wayeto, the books that children have access to in developing countries are often donated by foreign organizations and reflect a different cultural context, making it difficult for children to identify with them.
Instead, Wayeto’s books speak to young readers through characters and situations that have a place within their own culture.
“They are struggling for dual competency: First, let me learn how to read, but then – Who are these white faces? What is baseball? What is pizza?” she says.
“When something is written down, it is internalized as an ideal of the standard of beauty and culture,” she continues. “The power with this project is that when a child sees himself in the literature, they realize the permanence of their culture; they realise that they are important, too, that they are definitive.”
So far, One Moore Book has published 18 books for children in Liberia and Haiti, and the organization is collaborating with non-profits one the ground to get these books into the hands of children in the most marginalized communities.
From ethnic-based to issue-based voting
According to Catherine Kipsang, information about politicians and political issues is crucial in a country like Kenya, where there is limited interaction between representatives and voters.
“We need to avoid the horrors of 2007 and 2008,” she says, referring to the crisis following Kenya’s 2007 presidential elections. “The death toll stood at 1,300. In addition, 600,000 Kenyans lost their homes. We can’t afford this, and that’s why we need to move from an ethnic-based voting system to an issue-based one.”
With this goal in mind, Catherine founded politk.com, a platform to provide Kenyan voters with up-to-date information about politicians and their positions.
“What we see is that if something happens in Kenya, people will come to the profile of that particular politician and post something – just the same way that they would do on Facebook, but it’s more targeted,” Catherine says. “The goal is to have the politician actually come online and see what they are saying about him or her. What we want to create is a social platform where the politicians and the public collaborate and talk more.”
Inspiring entrepreneurial innovation
As a young Rwandan studying in the United States, Timothy Kaboya sees himself as a bridge between young innovators in his own country and innovators, advocates, mentors and investors. With this idea in mind, Timothy co-founded ELE Rwanda, whose goal is to inspire, motivate and empower Rwandan youth to participate actively in the economy and the development of the country.
“It is very important for an innovator in Rwanda to connect with an investor in another region, say USA, because normally the challenges we face are the same globally,” he says.
Currently, Timothy is working on the ELE Rwanda Business Plan Competition, a contest that challenges young people to come up with creative and innovative solutions to their problems.