Njideka Harry

Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF)
Year founded: 

Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF), is addressing the youth bulge in Africa by equipping young people with appropriate technology and entrepreneurship skills.

Focus: Education
Geographic Area of Impact: Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon, Kenya, Colombia
Model: Leveraged Not-for-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 1.4 million
Annual Budget: US$ 4.8 million (2013)
Percent Earned Revenue: 15%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2013

Nigeria, where Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) first began its work, has the third-highest number of poor people in the world. The population of Sub-Saharan Africa is the youngest on Earth, with 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. The high rate of unemployment in the region, the environmental degradation, the dislocation of the traditional economy and the unfair allocation of revenue have all contributed to the rise to youth unrest in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, specifically. Youth for Technology Foundation works with local actors from a variety of sectors, including government, academia, the private sector and grassroots organizations, to ensure that marginalized youth have the opportunity to improve their standard of living.

Innovation and Activities
Since 2001, Youth for Technology Foundation Academy (“YTF Academy”) has partnered with disadvantaged youth and women in developing nations to improve their lives and expand their economic opportunities through employment and entrepreneurship. YTF helps uplift women and young people out of poverty by accessing market demands, designing developmental programs, providing linkages that accelerate business opportunities and by administering customized training programs. Africa is generating jobs, but not enough, particularly for young people. 73 million jobs were created between 2000 and 2008, but only 22% of those jobs went to people aged 24 years and under.

Youth unemployment in developing countries, like Nigeria, is a demand-side problem. Nigeria’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector is the largest in Africa, with $18 billion worth of investment capital behind it. However, there is a disparity between the number of young people entering the workforce and the number of jobs including digital jobs (short and long-term ICT positions that deliver products and services to the formal sector) available to them. There are high levels of youth unemployment and a shortage of job seekers with critical skills. YTF Academy addresses this problem. The learning environment at YTF Academy includes a curriculum that is tailored to rural life, encourages a participatory approach, promotes creativity, and emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving.

YTF believes it is important to increase the employability of youth while facilitating structural changes in the private sector and government that evolve an entrepreneurship ecosystem that makes it easier to monetize an idea, grow and sustain a business.

YTF charges a modest fee for enrollment in any of the programs at YTF Academy. In situations where participants demonstrate a genuine interest in participating in YTF Academy but have no means to pay the enrolment fee, YTF provides a volunteer scholarship. To qualify, recipients devote 3-5 hours per week to a community service project. Students enrolled in one of the YTF Academy programs, “TechCommunities” earn an internship opportunity at a local business upon graduation. YTF has also implemented an “adopt a Tech Student” model. Under this model, local businesses sponsor students who wish to enroll in YTF Academy. In return, the students work as interns at those businesses, giving the businesses the benefit of their knowledge and skills.

Since the launch of YTF Academy in 2001, 40% of program graduates have gone on to be employed by small businesses. They are earning three times the average salary of a non-YTF Academy graduate. 38% have started their own businesses. YTF’s work has inspired the creation and sustenance of over 2,100 small and medium enterprises led by youth and women in Nigeria.

When YTF receives requests from other grassroots organizations to replicate its work in other countries, it does so through YTF’s social franchise model. As part of this model, a representative from the organization is invited to YTF’s pioneer Community Technology and Learning Center, the Owerri Digital Village in Nigeria, as an apprentice. Upon returning to their local community, the apprentice forms a local management committee made up of community leaders, opinion leaders, professionals, entrepreneurs, school teachers and administration personnel. The committee helps to inform best practices and to target the specific academic needs of youth and women in the community. YTF works with the apprentice and his/her organization to determine the co-funding model given the needs and local constraints involved. YTF has expanded its operations in Uganda, Cameroon, Kenya, and most recently to Colombia in Latin America.

The Entrepreneur
Njideka U. Harry is the President and CEO of Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF). Njideka founded YTF at age 25 while working for Microsoft. An Ashoka Fellow, Njideka has over 13 years of experience in non-profit administration and planning, program management and social impact. She has provided strategic vision and leadership as YTF innovated scalable solutions to developing world problems. Njideka is an advisory board member for the Women of West Africa and Entrepreneurship (WOWe) Council and a board member for Promoting Readiness in Science and Math (PRISM), a program that supports activities that help 12-15 year old girls achieve proficiency in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.