Somaliland: SL Youthful Innovators Showcase their Ingenuity at the Muhandis Challenge
By Goth Mohamed Goth
The final event of the Muhandis Challenge was held today (23rd of November) at Green Plaza, Hargeisa with four out the anticipated seven universities taking part in the tech start-up entrepreneurship competition the first ever in the country.
The event brought together investors from the private and public sectors, higher education institutions, government officials, the media and the youth. Linking investors with innovative youth and universities enables for a myriad of possibilities for new start-ups, in the tech industry and beyond, and contributes to reducing unemployment among the youth.
The aim of the event today was meant to raise awareness, empower, and promote entrepreneurship to the Somaliland youth in the Horn of Africa region, in the form of a competition among students. The competition will be broadcasted through worldwide Somali TV Channels.
The students from four out the of original seven universities anticipated showcased their innovative ideas in front of a packed audience who later voted through SMS and finally the panel of judges announced the results in which they declared the vicar Golis University team with their online shopping scooping the grand prize worth $2,500 for a fully furnished and equipped office.
The other competing three Universities were Alpha University, International Horn University and Admas University.
Mr. Khalid Hassan, SPARK country representative in his presentation to the audience gave an insight on how the Muhandis Challenge idea started in which he began by saying , “Up until 2015, the Somali regions lacked any form of technology incubator to foster and develop a vibrant technology start-up-ecosystem and transition to a knowledge economy.Ultimately leaving it lagging in an agriculture-and labour-intensive economy. Couple this with the high youth unemployment rate (67% of 15-30 years old), and growth and job-creation in tradition sectors not keeping pace with the growth of this demographic primes the need for an enabling environment that generates sustainable employment and growth through the creation of technology focused start-ups leveraging the expertise of the Diaspora and boot strapping off of the growth of private sector companies.
Over 100+technology start-up incubators, accelerations, hubs and labs have cropped up all over Africa helping create jobs, wealth, foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem, commercialize technology, identify new business opportunities, and oil the cogs of economy growth. As the world moves to a knowledge economy, ICT and technology are core drivers of national economic and developmental policy, and significant investments have been made by governments to make strides towards this. Evidenced in the burgeoning “Silicon Savannah” in Kenya, “Digital City” in Rwanda, and the plethora of vibrant technology companies congregating in various pockets in other sub-Saharan countries.
Through 2015, student from seven universities in Hargeisa received training, coaching, and support from different organization to build their own tech start-up. The program consisted of a two-month accelerator program promoting entrepreneurship among the youth, a network of mentors, investors, and partners supporting innovative tech start-ups, and business competition for University students.
The start-ups were followed by a media crew, Amazing Technology Group (ATG) that is turning their experience into a TV show. The show aims at creating outreach, empowerment, and promoting entrepreneurship and innovation to the wider Somaliland youth in the Horn of Africa region and Diaspora.
The event was organized by SPARK in collaboration with Shaqodoon, Innovate so, Amazing technology Group (ATG) and the newly founded Muhandis Institution.
The Muhandis Challenge is a tech start-up entrepreneurship competition for using students from various Universities based in Hargeisa and plans to include other institutions all over the country in the forthcoming Muhandis Challenge which will focus on the agricultural and Fisheries.
At the beginning of 2015, three vibrant organizations supporting youth entrepreneurship, SPARK, innovate so, and Shaqodoon.Org, created the first Tech Incubator in the Somaliland regions. The Muhandis Challenge has achieved the following:
- Support and mentored 6 technology startups in Hargeisa comprising youth students, and graduates with backgrounds in IT and business by skilled technologists a and business development professionals who supported development of the product, the infrastructure, and development of the business plan;
- Conducted Workshops to help develop commercially viable products for the market
- Increased and provided Access to physical space, internet and resources to incubate start-up and investors and companies, to promote entrepreneurship among youth, link businesses with start-ups, and encourage networking.