Youths, Innovation, and a Pandemic

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Ifeoluwa Bunmi Ogunbufunmi is the 2021 Blog4Dev winner from Nigeria Ifeoluwa Bunmi Ogunbufunmi is the 2021 Blog4Dev winner from Nigeria

This is one of 38 winning blogs from the 2021 Blog4Dev competition, the World Bank Africa annual writing contest, inviting young people to weigh in on a topic critical to their country’s economic development. Blog4Dev winners responded to the question: How can young people work with their governments and civil society organizations to respond to the impact of COVID-19 and build a stronger post-pandemic economic and social system? 

What a year! We would all heave a sigh of relief at the slightest resemblance of life as we knew it, pre‐coronavirus (COVID‐19). The pandemic has pressure‐tested existing systems including healthcare, education, and the business environment.  

In my country, Nigeria, where young people constitute over 33 percent of the nation's estimated 202 million people (one of the largest youth populations according to the United Nations), COVID‐19 has presented ample opportunity to unveil the capacity in our numbers. Collaborative efforts between young Nigerians and key stakeholders are paramount to address the adverse impact of COVID‐19.   

Below, I propose three practical approaches that can best cushion the impact of the pandemic – harnessing technology as a tool for impact; prioritizing mental health; and utilizing the power of social media.  

Firstly, it is no news that different organizations have slashed jobs to stay afloat in these precarious times. However, an opportunity exists here – with young people at the center of technology‐driven and innovative solutions. In collaboration with relevant government institutions across state and federal levels, young Nigerians can create online platforms that connect freelance professionals to potential clients. These will provide avenues to engage the skilled but unemployed and enhance government initiatives to bridge the widening unemployment gap. Notably, the World Health Organization, commending Africa’s drive for innovation during the pandemic, reported in October 2020 that COVID‐19 has already spurred over 120 health technology innovations across the continent.  

Secondly, financial technology companies (FinTechs) that drive online modes of payment and obtaining credit, can collaborate with the government to set up low‐interest loan plans to soften the pandemic’s impact on their fast‐growing customer base. I had the privilege of working on a recent collaboration – the HelpNow Project; an online crowdfunding initiative led by Softcom (a FinTech owned by young Nigerians) in collaboration with the Lagos State government, to raise NGN10 Billion for two million vulnerable Nigerians affected by COVID‐19.  

Thirdly, an understated fall‐out from COVID‐19 is its impact on mental health. Losing loved ones; coping with job losses; and downtime in business have been traumatizing. In partnership with civil societies championing mental health awareness, young Nigerians can actively lend their voices to mental health causes by sensitizing their immediate affected communities on resilience techniques to manage emotional crises occasioned by the pandemic.  

Finally, social media has proven invaluable during this pandemic. With a smartphone, information disseminates within seconds on platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook. With African countries like South Africa, Ethiopia, and Botswana recording recent rises in COVID‐19 cases and fearing a second surge of the pandemic, fresh government regulations are being issued to ensure the safety of lives. To encourage regulatory adherence, young Nigerians through social media, need to ensure accurate and not fake news is shared, managing panic now and post‐pandemic. 

Collaboration amongst youth social media influencers, civil societies, and governments will also be instrumental.  

COVID‐19 undoubtedly presents critical challenges, however, the responses to these challenges, as highlighted above, are even more important. It’s time for all hands on deck! 

Ifeoluwa Bunmi Ogunbufunmi is the 2021 Blog4Dev winner from Nigeria. See the full list of 2021 Blog4Dev winners here, and read their blog posts.  



Ifeoluwa Bunmi Ogunbufunmi

Winner of the 2021 Blog4Dev competition for Nigeria

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