Harambee = “all pull together”
Change is unpredictable. The probability of success in a dynamic environment is more likely if people and partners work together through a regular process of experimentation and adaptation. Pursuing unusual partnerships in South Sudan can offer an opportunity to deploy rapid and adaptive COVID-19 response/services, while preventing social and economic backsliding.
In this regard, the Accelerator Lab in South Sudan is working on a number of initiatives with a range of stakeholders to mitigate the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of our work is focused on opportunities to mainstream youth entrepreneurship and harnessing the energy of young people to contribute in full force to South Sudan’s national COVID-19 response efforts, as well as broader economic development.
During World Youth Skills Day, the Accelerator Lab partnered with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, MTN South Sudan, and Junub Open Space to host a virtual panel with young entrepreneurs sharing their experience building skills and businesses in South Sudan adapted to the COVID-19 era. The online event streamed with watch parties in Bor, Torit, Yambio and the American Corner in Juba. The discussion highlighted youth-led enterprises receiving support from MTN South Sudan’s Business COVID Support Programme, such as Aramweer Organic Skincare (organic shea butter products), Ubuntu Farms (healthy, locally sourced produce), Fresh Start Cleaning (cleaning, fumigation and pest control) and JuHub (human-centered information and communication technology solutions).
Our Lab efforts also sought to map private sector actors pivoting to the COVID-19 “new normal” in locally relevant ways. One of the fellow #WorldYouthSkillsDay speakers was Dut Majak of Shilu Ana, a local taxi hailing company who managed to adapt their platform to offer food delivery services.
Most recently, the GoGirls Initiative, an organization promoting STEM education among girls and boys, is leveraging the work of artisanal producers of alcohol to produce hand sanitizers. This is part of the Accelerator Lab’s experimentation approach and an attempt to test the viability of a COVID-19 response production opportunity for small scale producers.
The COVID-19 situation is aggravating a number of socio-economic issues such child/forced marriage and poor resilience at household level. We are working with a number of partners to find innovative and impactful ways to alleviate some of these issues, including an innovative grassroots solution that provides safe havens for young girls in abusive relationships or forced marriages. Additionally, we are exploring experimentation on joined-up financial literacy training coupled with small seed capital for strengthening women-led SMEs. One of our key aims is to break silos through collective intelligence. Unfortunately, there is a danger of COVID-19 health guidelines reinforcing siloed approach to work.