Invest in the Youth of Sierra Leone

Starting in 1991, Sierra Leone was ravaged by a brutal civil war that lasted for 11 years. By the time the war drew to a close in 2002, over 50,000 people had died and the national economy was in ruins. Sierra Leone was — and still is — one of the poorest countries on earth.

As the nation emerged from the carnage that the civil war brought, it started to work on the monumental task of rebuilding a shattered economy. There have been some encouraging signs since, with a return to democracy and an increasing natural resources revenues stream — Sierra Leone has abundant diamonds, gold, aluminum, iron, cocoa, coffee and other commodities. However, the fact is that approximately two thirds of the population is still engaged in subsistence agriculture, and GDP per capita is still below $1400 per year, placing it in the bottom 15% of all nations.


Image source:

Clearly, Sierra Leone is in need of a new path if it is to evolve toward sustainable economic growth and prosperity. Global Minimum, a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 2006, thinks that it has the answer. It is putting its faith in the young people of Sierra Leone, and is giving them the tools needed to address some of the most challenging issues the country faces.

Along with activities such as distributing insecticide-treated bed nets to over 30,000 people in Sierra Leone, Global Minimum has established its Innovate Salone program, which is designed to instill a passion for innovation and technology into Sierra Leone’s students. It has set up an annual competition where students develop innovative solutions that benefit their local communities in fields that include telecommunications, engineering, energy, health, transportation and education. Student teams submit their ideas to the competition, and can win up to $1500 to build the solution.

This competition is not just about money. It also provides mentorship to the students, both from local professionals and from mentors from Harvard and MIT. Every team of students that submits a proposal received detailed feedback, and every team that is selected as semifinalists receives two months of professional mentoring and $500 to develop a prototype. The finalists are given an additional $1000 to develop their ideas further, and receive professional mentoring over the course of an entire academic year.

Global Minimum’s Fundraiser is looking for donations to help it continue this important work and lay the foundation for future prosperity in Sierra Leone. They are committed to helping Sierra Leone’s youth help themselves, transforming the economy from one where people don’t just depend on technological advances, but instead take an active hand in creating them. If you do donate, you will be joining corporations and individuals such as MediaWhiz, Professor Osman Sankoh and Melinda Field who believe that Sierra Leone’s future lies in the hands of its children.

To be clear: these students are creating real solutions to pressing problems. For example, the finalists in the 2013 competition include a school in Freetown that is using locally available materials to develop an electric hoist that raises water out of deep wells. Deforestation in the Freetown area has lowered water levels significantly, so that wells have to be dug more deeply, Therefore, an electric hoist that is inexpensive and easy to make solves a significant problem.

Another school in Kabala is trying to tackle the serious issue of waterborne diseases such as cholera. Students at Kabala Senior Secondary School are trying to raise the sanitation standards in their community by repairing broken wells and using chlorine to treat the water. And a team from the Prince Of Wales School in Freetown is working on the design and production of grinding machines that are manually operated, allowing tools such as knives and hoes to be kept sharp.

Perhaps the most remarkable young person to come out of Innovate Salone is Kelvin Doe, who created generators and batteries using materials that he recovered from trash cans. He is completely self-taught, and used the generators to run his own fully-staffed community radio station in Sierra Leone, where he goes by the name of “DJ Focus.” MIT came across Kelvin when he competed in Innovate Salone, and invited him to its prestigious Visiting Practitioners Program. Kelvin is only 16, making him the youngest person ever to receive this honor. He is also soon to become a guest presenter at the Harvard School of Engineering.

We encourage you to donate generously to Global Minimum. It would be a shame to let another prodigious talent like Kelvin Doe languish undiscovered.

Leave a Reply