Young innovators tackling migration challenges in Djibouti join Africa Innovation Week

COVID-19, Migration and Youth

Djibouti— Espace Créatif, a digital training centre that provides entrepreneurial skills to young people affected by migration, has been selected to represent Djibouti this week (9-13 November) at Africa Innovation Week 2020, an annual event with hundreds of participants. The all-Africa event brings innovators from 54 countries to pitch ideas and win the chance to represent the continent in the U.S. at the world’s largest start-up competition–and compete for USD 1 million in start-up funds. 

“We are so proud to be chosen to represent young people in Djibouti for Africa Innovation Week 2020. It is a pivotal moment and a key opportunity to grow our community, to nurture digital youth leadership in our country, particularly for young people who face specific challenges relating to migration,” said Byleh Daher, Manager of Espace Créatif. 

Espace Créatif was set up as digital fabrication space, commonly known as a ‘fab lab’ with a humanitarian focus. Opening in December this year in the University of Djibouti, the centre offers digital skills training and access to computer-assisted equipment for young people aged 14 to 26, specifically unaccompanied minors, migrant returnees and youth at risk of unsafe migration.  This year’s focus has been heavy on tackling challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When the pandemic struck Djibouti and the centre closed its doors like all other public places, the team joined the COVID-19 response, putting 3D printing equipment to use to supply hundreds of plastic face shields to medical staff. At the height of the outbreak, there was a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and many fab labs reportedly stepped in to meet demand.  
"Our growing innovation community is delighted with this centre for reflection, for sharing tools and advanced machines to stimulate everyone's creativity. There is no doubt that this centre will trigger a change of attitude and practice in favour of the digital revolution in our country," said Dr Abdou Idriss Omar, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Djibouti. 

Dayer, the manager of the digital centre had been selected by the organizers to represent Djibouti alongside Raysso Ismael from Djibouti Business Solutions. Together they will represent innovation talent and promote initiatives led by young people affected by migration in Djibouti. They hope to be among the finalists selected to represent Africa nest May (2021) at the Start-up World Cup, a global competition held yearly in Silicon Valley. 

Espace Créatif provides courses ranging from 3-D printing, business development to ICT literacy for dozens of young people with different goals, varying needs and specific migration experiences. Partnerships with local organizations have enabled young people with limited exposure to digital technologies to access courses and equipment and increase their learning and job opportunities. “I fundamentally believe those who experience societal challenges are best suited to solve those problems. It is well known women and girls face gender inequalities, but they know well the gaps and how and where to build bridges. Start-up ecosystems benefit from the leadership of women and girls. This is what we are doing here, championing this leadership,” said Raysso Ismael of Djibouti Business Solutions.   

Espace Créatif was established as a joint initiative between the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Swiss non-governmental organization Terres des hommes and the University of Djibouti, funded by the IOM Development Fund. Africa Innovation Week was established in 2019 to showcase entrepreneurial talent, accelerate inclusive development and promote the continent’s talent at global conferences like the World Start-up Cup.

For more information, please contact Hannah Murphy, IOM Geneva. Tel: +447951538946. Email: [email protected]

  • Espace Creatif Project, Djibouti. Photo: IOM