About YWI

This winter we shot six new stories in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. We caught up with Jodie Wu at Global Cycle Solutions, shooting her birthday roast and soccer practice in Tanzania. We met village women inventing prize-winning nut shellers and rice threshers to save time and income (video coming!). In Kenya we found Cyrus in his studio with mosquito glasses (?!) and Payan at Kenya Stove, each trying to make peace with pests and lung disease. Check new teasers below and stay tuned for new clips coming soon.

Sam Zizinga won Rwanda’s own enterprise reality show on TV10 Rwanda last fall. YWI found out more about Sam and his work in February: here’s a teaser. Please share widely! Sam and Raymond need a mentor and tools to step up their game in Kigali. What do you think of Sam’s dream?

In February I met Henri Nyakarundi and his cool solar kiosk startup — ARED. A Rwandan who grew up in Burundi, he went to college in the USA and learned from his mistakes with early startups. On a trip home in 2009, he imagined that solar kiosks could offer convenient, low cost phone charging. He franchises the kiosks, giving people with no capital a chance to start their own business, free of rent and costly electricity. Stay tuned for more on Henri and our friends at African Entrepreneur Collective, who give him business advice in Kigali.

PrintYoung Africans are creating a new story. It’s about global collaboration and local solutions to everyday problems. Young World Inventors is finding, filming and following startup entrepreneurs as they bring social and economic change to their communities. We are building a robust community of storytellers, mentors and funders, and we aim to spread seeds of global invention.

This is a special moment: Africa’s youth are changing the game; four of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa. Since invention is the engine of prosperity, and since stories empower people to solve problems in their communities, YWI will launch an interactive platform with dozens of mini-documentaries from Africa that share lessons across cultures by the end of the year. With your help, we can return to Africa to complete six stories of growing startups, sell stories to a new TV station in Rwanda and build collaborations and media demand for a growing community of invention in East and West Africa.


“Kibera is a hotbed of innovation and ideas,” says TED talks curator Chris Anderson. It’s the second largest slum in the world, and sits at the epicenter of mobile technology in Nairobi, Kenya. Kibera speaks of contrasts — village and city, urban poor and wealthy, high technology to low tech — in developing and developed worlds. Anderson says that web video accelerates crowd innovation and cultural invention. That’s what the GenY idealists and activists we’ve met are all about.

Young Inventors is a video-based platform for connecting innovators, funders, and partners. We will post webisodes — insider stories about young inventor teams, as they struggle to make scalable, sustainable social change in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We plan to document their trials and triumphs on the road to invention here, of low tech and high tech devices which can trigger economic and social change in some corners of the world where they work. Collaborating on inventions does change things, first with the collaborators, and that’s what we begin to document in January, 2011.

Our first story tracks Global Cycle Solutions, an MIT team working with a Tanzanian inventor to market a corn sheller and cell phone charger that harness the power of ordinary bicycles. Despite being challenged by drought, Chinese fabrication snafus, and obstacles in team-building, they have won big prizes in the U.S. and Tanzania and  have begun securing markets; small, steady successes keep them focused on a global prize: doubling the incomes of small rural farmers worldwide.

Our website aims to:

-build community and connect young inventors to others

-promote and multiply successful projects

-build audiences for a broadcast film series; through a fan-based social media campaign, we can attract web celebrities and youth ripe for social action.

Community-building and social-networking features:

-Engaging serial video episodes that track teams in the field will show engaging characters negotiating personal goals, team relationships, and cross-cultural challenges 

-Links to blogs from vetted mentors and innovators offering advice

-A wiki-style brainstorming page for moderated discussions about existing projects and how people can get involved, as well as new ideas

-“Act Now” boxes for each Inventor Team, which users can click to a) get in touch with teams b) volunteer time to help, and/or c) donate money to the project.

Practical tools to help young inventors start projects:

-A comprehensive competitions database

-Access to Invested Development’s forthcoming “Angel Software,” a program that will connect inventor teams and angel investors

-Production guidelines for storytelling, with annotated samples of good videos, for those in need of presentation skills and materials

-Links to related sites with similar missions (incubators at universities, Lemelson, NCIIA, Gen V Campaigns, BGI, Acumen, Echoing Green, etc.).