Youth Innovation Challenge

youth innovation challenge - covid 19 grant

About the Challenge

Youth Innovation Challenge.

The COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt exacerbated major economic and social challenges across the globe. In Africa, young people, especially the vulnerable youth, have not been spared the devastating effects of the pandemic. The disruption by the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified many of the challenges already facing the continent’s youth. 

African governments are having to deal with the critical issues of disrupted education systems, reduced access to essential goods and services, increased poverty, food insecurity, and exposure to violence, abuse, and exploitation. They are also having to deal with vaccine access, uptake, and distribution in the context of weaknesses in health systems exposed by the pandemic. 

Young people, who constitute about 65% of Africa’s population, have exhibited a high appetite for leading the way in continental pandemic recovery efforts. Many young people have exemplified themselves as active agents in the fight against COVID-19 by volunteering as front liners in essential services, while others are constantly innovating to meet the emerging demands for essential products. 

The challenge for all is to embolden young people to escalate their contributions to the African recovery agenda by spearheading a network of local catalytic solutions, supported by regional advocacy and policy influencing.
This is why YOTA (Youth Opportunity & Transformation in Africa) has launched the Youth Innovation Challenge to foster and nurture catalytic youth-led solutions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Challenge forms part of activities under the Africa Youth Partnership to Advocate an Equitable Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic.

MTN Y’ellopreneur N2Million Loan

What we’re looking for at the Youth Innovation Challenge

YOTA is supporting young innovators to drive change and contribute to post-pandemic recovery efforts through grassroots innovations and social action. This is to alleviate the negative consequences of the pandemic on young people and their communities while elevating the ideas, ingenuity, and creativity of young innovators working to address the effects of the global health crisis. 

We are looking for the most talented young innovators from Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, and Nigeria to showcase their ideas on and proposed solutions for addressing the many challenges posed to the continent by the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to support youth innovation for the advancement of inclusive and equitable post-pandemic recovery efforts. 

Individuals or teams of young innovators in participating countries can take part in the Challenge by deploying the human-centered design approach to problem-solving in education and skills, youth employment and enterprises, health systems and treatment, vaccine equity, distribution, and uptake, among others. The best ideas or solutions from each participating country, as decided by our panel of judges and peers, will receive a mix of financial support, complete with expert advice, networking, tools, and other opportunities to enable them to implement their solutions.

Challenge Sectors

The thematic focus of the Youth Innovation Challenge cuts across several sectors, as long as a direct connection can be made to post-pandemic recovery potential. In particular, we are looking for youth-led solutions that address challenges in one or more of the following themes:

  • Agriculture and Fisheries
  • Biodiversity
  • Digitalization, AI, and Emerging Technologies
  • Employment
  • Energy and Industry
  • Education and Skills
  • Finance, Trade, and International Investment
  • Gender
  • Governance and Politics
  • Health and Wellbeing, including Vaccines
  • Housing and Infrastructure Development
  • Migration
  • Local and Regional Development
  • Mobility and Transport
  • Tourism


11th July 2022

First Round Submissions Open 

29th July 2022

First Round Submissions Deadline 

12th August 2022 (International Youth Day)

Announcement of shortlisted submissions 

15th August To 30th September 2022

Business development support, coaching, networking opportunities and technical assistance for shortlisted submissions 

15th September 2022

Second Round Submissions end 

23rd September 2022 (At The UN General Assembly)

Announcement of top four submissions with cash awards

The Youth Innovation Challenge is open to:

An individual young person between the age of 18 and 35; or an informal group of young people, or a local youth- or women-led organization or company (both non-profit or for-profit are welcome)

Female candidates or teams with predominantly female members are particularly encouraged to apply.

Nationals of Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, and Nigeria who are resident in their countries or based in the diaspora.

Persons who are passionate about using their skills to design innovative solutions to promote addressing the many socio-economic challenges posed to your country by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Truly innovative and impactful ideas or solutions that have the potential to change lives in a sustainable way.

10 Applications to make before July 31 2022

Judging Criteria

Fit to scope– Solution contributes to COVID-19 recovery efforts with a potential to disrupt

Business model – Solution clearly demonstrates a viable business model and scope for revenue generation

Sustainability – Solution is financially and operationally viable beyond the initial investment

Feasibility – Solution is viable and in the right direction

Value – Solution has a strong value proposition

Creativity – Solution is clearly an innovative approach to addressing the target challenge

Human centered – Solution is based on feedback from end users in order to solve a real problem for the community

Scalability – Solution can be easily scaled up and replicated beyond the initial scope


Participants of the Youth Innovation Challenge stand the chance of receiving a mix of support to enable them to implement their solutions, including: 

 Up to $5,000 USD of funding per project

 Business development advice from top experts in the field of innovation and human-centered design

 Access to carefully curated tools and resources to support the full cycle of youth-led innovation and human-centered design 

 Opportunity to become part of a growing community of young African innovators for ongoing learning, sharing, and networking

 Opportunity to be supported to showcase solutions across various international multi-stakeholder platforms, processes, and convenings before the end of 2022

Apply Here

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