Njombe Innovation Academy

Panvala Observer Weekly Newsletter

This week we spoke with Ibrahim Gambaseni, one of the founders of Njombe Innovation Academy, a learning community that unleashes the potential of local youth to transform social challenges into social enterprises.

Unlocking Opportunity

When Ibrahim Gambaseni grew up in Njombe, Tanzania, he was one of the brightest students in his class.  He excelled in primary school, but life interfered with him finishing high school and finances impeded any higher education.  Reflecting upon his path through life, he commented, “It was a challenge, but it also gave me an opportunity to find other ways of getting the skills I needed to survive.”  Now 29 years old, he recognizes that lack of education does not diminish his value or stop him from achieving his goals.  “In the world right now, you can learn anything from anywhere—I want to reach out to those who are out of school and let them know that you are not a failure and can make it in life.” 

Just three months ago, Ibrahim met with friend and co-Founder, Unai Gaztelu of SHIPO, to collaborate on Njombe Innovation Academy (NIA), a project that would utilize the SINA model, an existing framework for a cost-effective community approach to empowering marginalized youth to become self-reliant through social enterprises.  Ibrahim described how youth in Njombe are categorized into two groups: caterpillars and butterflies; caterpillars lack secondary or higher education and are common within the community.  When NIA launches in September, the program will enroll 20 “social innovators” to learn how to bring projects to life that will enrich themselves and their community—regardless of their level of education.  Examples of social enterprises that have emerged from the SINA Model in Uganda include organic mosquito repellant soap, construction materials made from plastic bottles, and a flooring solution made from plastic bags and eggshells. 

Support NIA

Njombe Innovation Academy is in its process of mobilizing—staff, funds, resources, etc.  Ibrahim is passionate about getting this project off the ground because, as he puts it, “it has the power to change whole ecosystem in Njombe.  We expect that those who enroll in the academy will affect the community around them, using the local resources available to them.”  As of right now, you can support NIA with a donation or by offering consultation around creating a community token.  You can also learn more about NIA on their website, Gitcoin page, and Panvala page, or reach out directly to them on Twitter.  We are so excited to have Njombe Innovation Academy as a part of our expanding Panvala league community and look forward to watching this project grow!