The UNDP Accelerator Lab was officially launched in Freetown, Sierra Leone on Thursday 10th October 2019 at the Golden Tulip Hotel. The event was well attended with representatives from Government, UN Agencies, Development Partners, Private Sector, Academia, Media Houses and Civil Society. There were inspirational speeches given on the theme, “Harnessing grassroots solutions/innovations to solve developmental challenges in Sierra Leone”, from Sam Doe (UNDP Resident Representative), Sunil Saigal (UN Resident Coordinator), Wilberforce Tengey (UNICEF Deputy Resident Representative), with the keynote address given by Dr. David Sengeh (DSTI - Chief Innovations Officer). The event was chaired by a ‘guru’ of innovation and entrepreneurship is Sierra Leone, Francis Stevens George CEO of GEN-SL, Innovation SL, and Innovation Axis.
The event was also used to showcase talents and inventions of local innovators; and few were given the opportunity to present to the audience as part of the activities. The ideas showcased covered areas such as waste management, affordable housing, provision of safe clean drinking water, renewable energy, information technology and fashion. An exciting interactive session was done with all attendees as they were asked to walk around the room and talk with each innovator about their inventions and to select and vote for their two favourite ideas.
Result of the voting from the interactive session reveals that Premier Enviro Solutions/youth recycling who manufactures building blocks and outdoor floor tiles from recycling plastics with sand emerged the winner. Next to it were two joint second ideas; hand-pump water filter which purifies local water sources from Benson Kandeh and a business set-up by university students that renovate used 40 feet containers obtained from the quay into office spaces or homes. Eighty percent of the ideas showcased were led by vibrant young people, showing what is possible if youth are effectively engage and supported to pursue their passions.
The highlight of the launching was the key note address giving by Sierra Leone’s Chief Innovation Officer, Dr. David Sengeh. His address was a rallying cry to all present to see innovation as a necessity for solving current and future development challenges. He stated that the Directorate of Science, Innovation and Technology has two main focuses: to support education for development and entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem in Sierra Leone. He underscored that, “the time is now, Sierra Leone is ready… and it is not a coincidence that of the 60 labs set up around the world Sierra Leone was chosen to host one of them”.
Dr. Sengeh, went on to challenge the young entrepreneurs in the room to pursue their dream and make a difference. “The challenges in Sierra Leone are plenty but that again is our biggest opportunity. If you are a creative person right now in the Sierra Leone, you have a big opportunity to succeed”, he noted.
So, with the launch behind us, the hard work starts now! The AccLab Team is busy engaging a range of partners and mobilizing Sierra Leone’s young innovators and inventers to join the exciting bandwagon.