Jacobs Ladder Africa

Mwanzo Spaces

It all started with an idea!

A couple of us were hanging out for three Fridays in a row doing what we love doing, helping the next generation in their journey of articulating their thoughts on the innovative creative ideas they had conceptualised during the greenLabs Innovation Challenge. Each Friday, it was really refreshing seeing how much effort they were putting into describing their erstwhile non-existent life changing projects which they hoped would play a part in restoring the earth’s original balance. They are thinking about a time beyond themselves.  

At the end of each session as we regrouped, each of us would share our experiences. We were so wowed by the creativity and ingenuity displayed in their ideas, and yet also perturbed by the limited ability to process and effectively communicate thoughts and ideas, a general lack of awareness of the ebb and flow of the real world; and so our collective sigh resulted in the birth of Mwanzo Spaces. 

Mwanzo simply means beginning. We believe that if we build an enabling environment for youth curious about the world of entrepreneurship and innovation, help them sort the beginning, that is their foundations and originating thoughts, then no sky will limit them. The statistics are not new to us but have long remained numbers bandied about. Approximately 10 to 12 million African youth are ushered annually into a labour market that can only offer three million formal jobs and over half of these youth are disproportionately affected by climate change effects. At JLA, we honestly believe that in addition to government and private players, young Africans can also become job creators for themselves and for their communities, contributing to income generation for many while solving climate and socioeconomic problems. 

JLA’s incubation program, greenLabs, is among the interventions that is set out to raise these young entrepreneurial leaders. The incubator is currently nurturing its second cohort of young innovators towards income-generating climate positive startups. As I interact with these wide-eyed, malleable, program participants, ensuring that their interface with learning materials and greenLabs facilitators is seamless, I am filled with pride and joy, and almost excitement, at what the world will experience from Africa.  

Mwanzo Spaces on the other hand is here to offer a safe space for African youth to even begin to dare to dream, see themselves as part of the solution, and find a community amongst fellow problem-solvers. We thought that it was a brilliant idea but as the first session was underway, we soon learned that we had underestimated the hunger and desire for such an enabling environment.  With the backdrop of African culture, whereby those born within a span of say five years or less went through rites of passage together, attaining status of adulthood and being bestowed with responsibilities within the community and gaining recognition, we see the possibility of a peer group forming with those who are choosing to move from dependency to interdependency by taking a position to make a change to their own life and also impact positively the place and community they dwell. There is a fresh realisation that your tribe is no longer only those related by birth, but also those who you are jointly building with.

The overwhelming response to the first Mwanzo Space was testament that hope is still alive. There was sufficient evidence that we are not short of young, brilliant, agile minds who just need a bigger brother to believe in them and show them the way to walk. Africa has largely been lying fallow and I am honoured to be a part of Mwanzo Spaces, that is here to till the ground in preparation for all the great ideas and initiatives that are being birthed.

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