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The country’s youth unemployment stands at 43% mainly in the urban and peri-urban areas, with young, innovative developers unable to promote their locally developed products due to limited business management and marketing skills, and no appropriate mechanisms established to facilitate the registration and coordination of young developers. There is also limited recognition of young people skills and ability to contribute in transforming societies for economic development through ICTs.
UNDP has established a Youth Innovation lab at the University of Swaziland and an association for innovators, Innovators Association of Swaziland (IAS) with the objective of contributing to development and the Swazi economy through the promotion of an innovation culture, modernization and utilization of technology; creating entrepreneurship and producing responsive products aimed at improving access to public and private services. Furthermore, providing a supportive environment and platform for local innovators to network, share skills, knowledge and experiences and facilitate mentorship support in the various disciplines of innovation. The Association will advocate for the needs of innovators in the area of law and policy reform; recognition of local talent; access to local contracts; access to financial assistance; markets and job creation.
The project established partnerships with MTN Swaziland, Junior Achievers Swaziland, the Prime Minister’s Office e-Government Unit, South Africa Tshwane Innovation hub, the Academia University of Swaziland and Limkokwing University of Creative Technology. All these Institutions have committed to sustain the innovation efforts of involving and engaging young developers in the innovation space. The University of Swaziland provided space for hosting the Youth Innovation Lab and MTN co-sponsored the Innovation Conference and currently supporting hacker-thorns for mobile developers. The Government of Swaziland will be signing an MOU with IAS to support with the implementation of its e- governance strategy. Other partnerships explored include the financial Institutions who committed to support the Innovators Association initiatives.
Establishment of innovation lab at the University of Swaziland with the latest equipment to support Innovators and promote culture of innovation. Established and registered the Innovators Association of Swaziland currently with over 160 members. In September IAS supported the first competition themed “Design Create and Innovate “this attracted over 170 applicants with innovations and concepts for possible innovations which are now part of the pipeline in the hub. South South was also facilitated in September to expose the Swaziland team on the functions and operations of the hub. This further informed the establishment of the innovation lab at the University of Swaziland. In November, IAS hosted its first conference themed “Transforming Lives through Innovation,” which acted as a platform for IAS and various stakeholders to discuss how innovation can transform the lives of Swazis as well as improve the country’s economy. The conference had 230 attendees who included the Top 18 Finalists of the “Design, Create & Innovate Competition 2014,” senior Government officials; development partners; representatives of Government parastatals, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector; institutions of higher learning, and partners from South Africa.
Youth involvement and engagement in any youth related programme at an earlier stage of the project is critical for its success and sustainability. Young people have the ability to change and transform the nation all they require is the opportunity to prove their worth. Establishment of strategic partnerships with like-minded organisation internally and externally is essential for the success of any programme. Government ownership of the Innovation agenda is also critical and there are many policy and legal implications if systems and institution are weak.
Senelisiwe Ntshangase: firstname.lastname@example.org