Youths with Innovations Ideas won prize of 6000$

10 August 2017

The generation of young people aged 10-24 is the largest ever in history - 1.8 billion. Ninety percent of those young people live in developing countries like Tanzania. Forty four percent of people in Tanzania are below 15 years, and 19% of the population is aged 15-24 making 63% under the age of 24 (Census 2012), and the minimum age is 17 years making Tanzania a very youthful nation indeed. 

In contrast, this large segment of the Tanzania population face a number of challenges related to their sexual and reproductive health (SRH) including high rate of HIV infections, early sexual debut and early marriages that contribute to teenage pregnancy.  Data show that of the 1.35 million people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Tanzania, nine percent are young people aged 15-24 years and one in every four young women aged 15-19 (27%) are already mothers or are pregnant with their first child (one of the highest in the world – TDHS 2015/16).  This is compounded by economic deprivation that can cause young girls and boys to engage in transactional and/or unprotected sex to meet basic needs, or to improve their living conditions.

This indicates also a high dependency ratio because there are more people in the non-producing age structure, the children and the elderly. For Tanzania to realize its Vision 2025 and become a middle income country, right policies and strategies should be in place to enable the country’s age structure turn into an opportunity to reap the demographic dividend. We need to take advantage of this, now.  Tanzania is the pre-Demographic Dividend country and has all the potential to reap the benefits.

“With this understanding UNFPA introduced the use of innovation accelerator to respond to SRH challenges and other population related issues beyond the ‘business as usual’ approach.  The approach has helped to cultivate new partnerships and promote an organizational culture that is open to innovation through interaction with external stakeholders; and develop spaces for testing and experimentation of innovative ideas and approaches”. According to Dr. Hashina Begum, UNFPA Tanzania Representative a.i & Deputy Representative.

Failure to invest in this huge youthful population has also an implication on the country’s health and development plans as it is likely to put increasing demands on provision of social services. A large workforce which is a guarantee (from the children who are 15 today) will be a plus to the economy, especially if these young people will have access to reproductive health information and services to enable them make the right informed choices. Choices that will help them to realize their full potential as responsible citizens.

Several barriers contribute to the complex situation that adolescents and young people are facing in Tanzania - lack of appropriate and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education, information and services for sexually transmitted infections including HIV and AIDs, and pregnancy-related issues which means many adolescents and youth still do not know how to or do not possess the means to prevent pregnancy and protect themselves from getting HIV.  This situation is aggravated by taboos surrounding provision of SRH information and education by adults including parents, teachers and health service providers’ attitude towards provision of adolescent SRH information, counselling and services.

To complement the Government of Tanzania efforts in addressing the youth SRH challenges, the UN system through UNFPA launched and supported the implementation of the innovation accelerator to find some solutions to one of the pressing SRH issue in the country – Teenage pregnancy.

The Innovation accelerator which is a mentorship-driven accelerator program supports young entrepreneurs with seed funding, training and skills development to generate innovative solutions in response to challenges related to sexual and reproductive health and other population development issues which affect the majority of young people.  The AMUA Accelerator is implemented in this context.

While we know the reasons and the solutions to these challenges, little has been achieved to reduce for example the high rate of HIV infection among youth, high rate of teenage pregnancy to mention the few. 

“Young people are already driving innovations in science and technology, making conscious choices that are drastically influencing patterns of consumption and production, and mobilizing to make companies, organizations and governments more socially and environmentally responsible. Where they can get information, technology, financing, mentorship, and platforms for collaboration, young innovators are able to turn their ideas into transformative solutions”. According to Dr. Hashina Begum, UNFPA Tanzania Representative a.i & Deputy Representative.

The AMUA Accelerator project has been built on this truth. AMUA Accelerator project calls on young people to realize their desire to learn about and contribute to the challenges faced by the country in regards to improving access to and, availability of quality SRH information, services and programmes by the young people. AMUA Accelerator project is also building the capacity of the young people to transform challenges into opportunities to build the entrepreneurship through creative solutions.

This Innovation Accelerator initiative will significantly contribute to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. It is reflected in a number of the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular: Goal 4 that refers to the enhancement of youth education, including vocational training for employment and entrepreneurship through mentorship; Goal 8 that refers to supporting entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and to encouraging the formalization and growth of enterprises through access to financial services.  Partnerships among governments, the private sector and civil society are key to achieving the SDGs.  

The vision of achieving people¬ centred economic growth as reflected by the SDGs requires inclusive partnerships built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the centre. Such requirement is explicitly stated in SDG goal 17 and specifically addressed by the Innovation Accelerator through creation of partnerships aimed at mobilizing private resources and using them to support young entrepreneurs in developing innovative and scalable solutions to development challenges that organisations and governments can adopt.

“In order to measure progress across the Sustainable Development Goals that relate to adolescents and youth an adolescent girl who is 10 years old today will be an adult of 24 in 2030, the target year for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. We must ensure that her path through adolescence and youth leads to a brighter future for herself, her community and the world – that is paved with rights upheld, opportunities realized and promises fulfilled”. According to Alvaro Rodriguez, Resident Coordinator, United Nations Tanzania.

“I urge private sector, the Government, donors and all investors to find possibilities to support the ideas generated from the AMUA accelerator.  Most of the ideas can be developed to viable product for the benefit of the country. Investing in a healthier and more educated population and enabling young people to access opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship, will provide young Tanzanians with a favourable environment to thrive in business and private life, and to make informed and safe decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health”. According to Alvaro Rodriguez, Resident Coordinator, United Nations Tanzania.

AMUA's Accelerator Project Manager, Adam Mbiyallu, said the project was initiated to help solve the existing challenges in community health and the rewards that would be given will help them develop the ideas they have to overcome these problems.

"They are trying to solve reproductive health issues and especially childhood pregnancies, and we wanted young people to come up with the concept of genetic and gender-based reproductive health to survive even after the project ends, The idea is also to provide employment in the face of challenges and creates jobs ... I want young people to see opportunities for this kind not to give up, to volunteer, if they have been trained in all kinds of training that will help them achieve their goals," said Adam Mbiyallu. AMUA's Accelerator Project Manager SAHARA Sparks.

The winners who have won the victory based on the innovative ideas they have given to end the challenge of reproductive health and, in particular, to cope with childhood pregnancy are Harakati za Lucy, e-Shangazi, Maisha Package and Mkwawa Community Art Space.

The UN system in Tanzania will continue to support the government of Tanzania and other partners to test and scale up some of these new and engaging ways to tackle pressing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) challenges in the country while promoting social entrepreneurship among young people to achieve the global goals for sustainable development.