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Since its inception in 2014, Africa Teen Geeks has grown to become the largest computer science non-profit organisation in Africa. Bronwyn Nielsen interviewed CEO Lindiwe Matlali at the World Economic Forum about the company’s focus.
CEO Lindiwe Matlali on how Africa Teen Geeks came to be and what they’re doing in Davos
We were focused on teaching kids how to code, but this is no longer our main focus. Now we’re focusing on teaching kids about market creating and innovation. So, we are launching our friend program – Market Creating Innovation Accelerator – in partnership with the Christensen Institute, based on the last book co-written by Professor Christensen and Efosa Ojomo, The Prosperity Paradox. We wanted to just reach out and teach young people how to create and innovate to get themselves out of poverty.
On why they are so successful, considering that creating employment is such a deep problem in Africa
It’s because we put kids first, right. And everything we do, when we develop our project, is [built around] how we serve the kids. We have some of the best people who are also passionate about these children. So for us, the first step to getting our organisation in the door is a love for disadvantaged kids and wanting to make a difference. I believe this is the reason why; it’s the love and the passion. I think that is why we’ve been able to get the support because we really are authentic and our program focuses on solving a problem and we don’t necessarily focus on getting funding.
On the long-term vision for Africa Teen Geeks
My long-term goal is that I hope we can start creating a pipeline of young people who create, innovate or do entrepreneurship not just for subsistence purposes. If we can support and really change the thinking that it’s not so much. Even if you don’t have the money for the great idea but you know how to take it from, you know, 0 to 1, then you can get the support for what you want to do; you will gain the bravery to approach the right people to support you. What we want to do is create that safe space for entrepreneurs from disadvantaged communities to reach people who can actually support their ideas. But we want good ideas that make a difference.
On the benefits of attending the Economic Forum
For me, it’s really the people I have met and being able to have a seat at the table to share my mission, the vision that we can then collaborate and create something that will hopefully outlive us. Most importantly, that it will have the desired outcome and the impact we want. And I must say, so far, it has been going great.
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