On Friday the 16th of December we got together with Isata Jallo. Isata Jallo was a member of
Aurora Impact’s second Cohort. We decided to meet at the launch of Freetown design and creative art network, a collaborative project between Freetown and Milan https://www.thesierraleonetelegraph.com/mayor-aki-sawyerr-launches-freetown-fashion-design-and-creative-arts-network/ . It was a great place to meet. The atmosphere was inspiring and driven, exactly like Isata. We sat down away from the crowds, and Isata told us her story.
Isata moved to Bo, Sierra Leone, from Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2019. Upon arrival in Bo she recognized that there was a lack of technological knowledge. To her, that came across as an opportunity, an opportunity to build a community, to build a generation of tech-savvy people. She said, “I had many ideas, and I really wanted to do something, to make a change – my focus went directly to training the youngest generation”. So she decided she wanted to open up a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) garage, an innovation after school hub for youth. Isata’s vision is to prepare the youth of Sierra Leone for the fourth industrial revolution (the age of digitization). But understanding and digesting the concepts of STEM is still a gray area for kids in Sierra Leone, particularly girls. The situation is worse for those living in the provinces she says.
Her vision for the STEM garage, innovation hub for youth in Bo is threefold, to:
- Eradicate the long-standing myth of STEM being only for boys.
- Change the traditional and usually fear-instilling science learning experience children are exposed to at an early age.
- Give students an early advantage that can help build a strong scientific proficiency that will assist them in their future academic experiences in STEM subjects.
She participated in the Orange Startup Venture competition and came in second and received some funding to get her started. A few months later, she came across an advertisement about Aurora Impact entrepreneurship training. She decided to use half of the award money to invest in herself, meaning – using half of the award money for transport from Bo to Freetown to attend the Aurora Impact training. She saw it as an investment in herself and her company, which proved correct. Through Aurora Impact she gained a strong foundation of knowledge and connections that she still cherishes.
Her plans for the future are to open up more innovation hubs, focusing on the provinces where there is a great lack of access to spaces that provide proper technological knowledge. Since taking part in Aurora Impact entrepreneurship training, Isata has got onto both the UNDP Accelerator lab startup training program and the Social Good Summit of 2021. And most recently, she was one of the winners of the UNDP growth accelerator grant! All these proactive actions she has taken have served as the foundational steps to be where she and her team are today!
She put in the work and made good use of all the connections she gained in the program, and today she is reaping the rewards. Bo Innovation Hub was launched in 2022.
Meeting Isata was wonderful, and we are looking forward to following her on her journey. If you want to know more – check out her Facebook page.