Despite a pandemic, Nigeria’s youth demonstrate unlimited potential

Using WhatsApp, Nigerian Youth engaged with their peers during a 3-day virtual bootcamp to co-create solutions to education challenges in their communities

Caroline Muhwezi and Joannes Yimbesalu
Youth Challenge 2019/20 Nigeria 1
Youth Challenge 2019/20 Nigeria
01 June 2020

GenU Nigeria is proud to announce the five winning teams following the completion of an intensive 3-day virtual bootcamp Youth Challenge co-hosted by UNICEF and UNDP and implemented by SAED Connect, a youth empowerment accelerator who guided the teams in the co-creation process. Nigeria is one of 41 countries taking part in this Challenge,

The Youth Challenge was launched in Nigeria in February 2020, for young people living in Lagos slum communities and the conflict affected state of Borno. It aims to encourage young Nigerians aged 14-24 years to identify challenges in their communities and come up with creative local ideas for potential scaling-up.

All five teams have come a long way – from going through an intensive Human Centered Design thinking process, which allowed them to problem solve; to creating numerous products; and developing a better understanding of the ecosystem, strengthening their business model canvas and pitching their ideas. Now they are preparing to move into a very crucial phase of the competition, the incubation and mentorship phase - ahead of the final Global judging process planned for September 2020.

Youth Challenge 2019/20 Nigeria 2
Youth Challenge 2019/20 Nigeria

Yes, we did it!

In these very extraordinary and unprecedented COVID-19 times and as crazy as it may sound; thirty young people from the Lagos urban slums and the conflict affected communities in Borno in the North East Nigeria were able to co-design six solutions to challenges in education in their communities. In 3-days via WhatsApp engagement, five of these ideas won $1000 USD each in seed funding and advanced to the incubation and mentorship phase.

“The Challenge bootcamp helped me put the different issues in our communities forward while helping the less fortunate among us;”- said Hindatu, “issues such as how to deal with high number of out of school children as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency in my state”. Other issues raised by the teams from the communities where they live included how to deal with inexperienced tutors and improve the quality of learning. One of the big issues that came up was how to address the inadequate skilling of youth. The six teams learnt about, storyboarding, prototyping, and field-testing their solutions while staying home and were supported with internet data bundles to ensure a seamless engagement process.

The level of engagement and creativity as they worked late into the night trying to catchup on the different assigned tasks while looking out for one another was inspiring to watch. The young people used audio voice notes, selfies, videos, energizers and shared pictures of hand-written notes across their teams to stay actively engaged.

“I was thinking it would be just another workshop, but we were told we were here to change the world and this process helped me discover my why.” Tobi, Lagos participant

“The bootcamp made me understand the importance of what I’m doing and how great the impact is on my community”. Abdul, Borno

“I was taken out of my comfort zone and drilled to bring the best out of myself”. Patrick, Lagos

Youth Challenge 2019/20 Nigeria 3
Youth Challenge 2019/20 Nigeria
Youth Challenge 2019/20 Nigeria 4
Youth Challenge 2019/20 Nigeria


Poor network connectivity and power outages were a problem for some participants. Some participants also wished the bootcamp had been longer than three days. All participants still mentioned that meeting their teams in Lagos for a face-to-face bootcamp would have been more fun, but they were glad that COVID-19 did not stop them from connecting online.

What next?

“The engagement of young people in the virtual bootcamp during the Covid-19 Pandemic is a clear indication that when young people are given the right support and avenues to engage freely, they can make a difference irrespective of the challenging circumstances in which they live. These experiences reinforce the critical importance of youth inclusion in designing solutions that address challenges in education and respecting every child’s right to participate in matters that concern them.” Peter Hawkins UNICEF Nigeria Representative.

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Youth Challenge 2019/20 Nigeria
Youth Challenge 2019/20 Nigeria 6
Youth Challenge 2019/20 Nigeria

The solutions designed by the teams, aim to empower young people with skills while also transforming education in Nigeria where approximately 80+ million Nigerians are 15 years or younger, and nearly 10.5 million of them are out of school. The solutions designed ranged from developing a business literacy application for youth to learn basic entrepreneurship skills and access educational resources to creating online/offline platforms where young people can access audio-visual learning contents.

The young people’s virtual ideation journey was highly self-driven and a great inspiration to watch while always making a conscious effort to reach out to their teammates to ensure good coordination. We hope that these solutions will attract private and public sector investment to reach more young people in the communities where they are needed the most.