StartHub Innovation Consultant, Elisha Olukanni is positive that the Digital Innovations for Business Resilience in the EACProgram can be an ignition for the South Sudan ecosystem. Elisha alongside Alexander Hempel, another consultant at StartHub, spent a couple of days in South Sudan teaching the program participants in the Ideathon phase at the Koneta Hub.

Our consultant, Elisha Olukanni making a presentation during the Ideathon Session at Koneta Hub in South Sudan.

After two bitter civil wars, South Sudan attained independence on 9th July 2011 making it one of the world’s youngest sovereign states. It seceded from Sudan after a referendum was held in January in which 98.38% of South Sudanese chose sovereignty.

But even after independence, the wars didn’t stop. A bitter breakup between the country’s top politicians Riek Machar and Salva Kiir split the country almost into two. This civil war broke out in 2013 and ended in 2020 when a unity government deal was struck.

South Sudan is a country of 12m people, with a GDP of under $4bn and $250 GDP per capita, essentially making it one of the world’s poorest countries. The civil wars have come at a huge cost. There is little infrastructure, over 1.5m people have fled the country and it is going to be a huge building job for the government there. 

But entrepreneurship could be one of the positives the country can look forward to. South Sudan joined the East African Community in March 2016 and is one of the countries from where applications were being accepted into the Digital Innovations for Business Resilience in the EAC program. We received a total of 63 applications from there, which was the smallest number. 

We decided to hold a physical ideathon there at the Koneta Hub instead of the online one that we were holding in the other countries. Our Innovation Consultants, Elisha and Hempel arrived at Juba Airport on 23rd February 2022 and were received by our ambassadors led by Chris Malek Deng.

The StartHub university ambassadors in South Sudan received Elisha Olukanni (3rd, L) and Alexander Hempel (2nd, R) at Juba International Airport.

They were whisked away to the African Hotel which is close to the University of Juba and the next day, the physical ideathon began at Koneta Hub. Koneta Hub is the innovation centre of Koneta, a youth-led organisation that is focused on providing community-led solutions to socio-economic issues in society. It has hosted many flagship projects in South Sudan including Jubanovation in December 2021. It is headed by Denis Denaya who ensured the event was a success.

Per Elisha, over 50 students made their way to the venue and were taught various things like design thinking, value proposition canvas and prototyping among others. “The ecosystem here is very young. There are so many untapped potentials, things here are very challenging but young people here are very smart and they need more opportunities like this to make their mark.” Elisha concluded after engaging with the students.

Over 50 students turned up for the physical Ideathon sessions at Koneta Hub in Juba.

He further added, ”People here are nice and welcoming. There are so many opportunities and we believe this program will be a platform to put South Sudan on a global mark and the ignition on the ecosystem.” He also noted that the cost of the internet was very high which is a major bottleneck for innovators. 

Digital Innovations for Business Resilience in the East African Community, is a program under the dSkills@EA project that aims to support young innovators at universities in the East African Community to develop and implement digital innovations for business resilience in the times of Covid-19. The ideathon stage of the program was wrapped up over the weekend and applicants are waiting to know if they advanced to the boot camp stage which will be held physically in each country. 

The political partners for this program are the East African Community Secretariat and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The main implementation partners are the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), together with an East African-German academic consortium of universities and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). 

The program attracted various other partners in each country. In South Sudan, Koneta Hub is a partner alongside Junub Open Spaces, a community based educational space geared towards peacebuilding among youth through knowledge exposure. The finalists at the regional event have a chance to share a grant basket of $10,000.

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