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SDG Innovation Challenge 2021

The SDG Innovation Challenge is on again! Are you young, African and an SDG leader in the making? Do you thrive while working together with like-minded people committed to making a difference from the grassroots level up? The SDG Innovation Challenge is your space to be!

Designed as a virtual, pan-African ideation space, the SDG Innovation Challenge is a power-house for young people from across the continent to come together in developing and connecting practical solution ideas to grassroots challenges while pushing the needle of sustainable development on a global scale.

Following the huge success of the maiden event in 2020, the SDG Innovation Challenge 2021 is re-launching with double the capacity, from 18-20 October 2021 and 21-23 October 2021. To maximize engagement, each event is limited to 100 participants, creating space for up to 200 young pan-African young innovators and entrepreneurs to develop practical, impact-oriented solution ideas through cross-boundary teamwork.

Innovation Challenge Theme

Youth resilience in Covid-19 Era: Pathways to accelerate actions towards achieving SDGs!

The COVID-19 global health emergency and its economic and social impacts have disrupted nearly all aspects of life for all groups in society. For young people, and especially for vulnerable youth, the COVID-19 crisis poses considerable risks in the fields of education, employment, mental health, and more. To reduce exacerbating intergenerational inequalities and to involve young people in building societal resilience, under the theme Youth resilience in Covid-19 era: Pathways to accelerate actions towards achieving SDGs, the SDG Innovation Challenge 2021 converges young talent with two primary goals:

  • To trigger fresh thinking by connecting innovators from diverse backgrounds and sectors, and

  • To further knowledge transfer and collaborations across boundaries to ignite transformative action towards sustainable development and improved livelihoods of communities across Africa.

Experience deep collaboration and work across domains to gain insights into the brightest minds tackling sustainable development from the grassroots level up! An opportunity for young, pan-African social innovators and entrepreneurs to change the world, one idea at a time!

Why participate in the SDG Innovation Challenge

There are numerous reasons young change-makers from across Africa should participate in the SDG Innovation Challenge. Here are a few of them!

  • A new platform: Access to an unorthodox, dynamic, and diverse platform of youth activists, organizations, and legislators – Tap into a conducive online space to converge around practical SDG solutions!
  • Implement the SDGs: A much-needed opportunity to visualize and implement the SDGs at the grassroots level – Participate in the making of our future, and jumpstart your involvement in the sustainable development agenda as an active, passionate global citizen.
  • Immense networking potential: Build connections, and be part of a community of practice around eco-systemic, collaborative solutions.
  • Global Citizenship: A space to exercise your global citizenship muscle – Sharpen and hone skills in leadership, innovation, cross-sector collaboration, analytic thinking, interpersonal communication, intercultural communication, and allied areas.
  • Diverse Collaboration: Sourcing diversity of thought, background, and sector – Collaborate with people from a plethora of domains, be it engineering, design, civic policy, social justice reform, project management, finance, education, and many others.

What do we seek in participants?

The SDG Innovation Challenge is open to participation for young people across Africa. What do we seek from participants?

  • Passion, drive, and commitment to improving livelihoods in your community and beyond
  • A genuine interest in sustainable development and desire to contribute to advancing the SDGs in your community and beyond
  • Some exposure to this year’s challenge theme – Youth resilience in Covid-19 era: Pathways to accelerate Some actions towards achieving SDGs.
  • The motivation to engage pro-actively throughout the event
  • The ability to work in an interdisciplinary team from different domains and geographies
  • Motivation to extensively ideate throughout the SDG Innovation Challenge and work in an agile hackathon like environment
  • The commitment to take the idea to completion and remain engaged with the cause post the SDG Innovation Challenge.

Guidelines to Participate

To participate in one of the two events happening virtually this 18-20 and 21-23 October, you must have registered by 4 October 2021. Registrations are now closed.

Following the registration deadline, participants will receive further instructions about the activities and the technologies deployed during the event. And then, the challenge is on: participants will be asked to form an interdisciplinary team with the other registrants and, together, develop a solution idea which they will consolidate in a short video pitch at the end of the challenge.

The following points must be considered before registration:

  • Only groups with a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 7 individuals will be allowed to register
    Diversity is one of the core values of the SDG Innovation Challenge. We strongly encourage anyone interested in participating in the SDG Innovation Challenge 2021 to join our pre-event connector space on Facebook. Whether you’re an individual who’s looking for a group of likeminded people to register, or whether you already have a (small) team in mind but could use some more diversity of thought and talent – the connector space enables you to meet people who are committed to sustainable development and interested in participating in the event. It also presents an opportunity to find out more about each other – what motivates you, the skills you bring, the dreams you have, the communities you serve, etc.
  • Any idea entering the challenge must be at a nascent (early) stage
    The SDG Innovation Challenge is an ideation marathon, not an accelerator program. It does not require a specific idea as a prerequisite. The Challenge aims to spark fresh thinking in order to unearth novel ideas through cross-boundary collaboration and converge around solutions ideas. This facilitates the creation of transformative impact, starting with your participation in the SDG Innovation Challenge!

Your chance to script an SDG success story!


The registration follows a two-step process: First, you must register your group – this can be done by one designated member of that group. Important is, that you have the names and email addresses of the young innovators you’ll be working with at hand. After completing the group registration, the registrant will receive an email with instructions for the second step, the personal registry, where each group member must provide additional personal information that is required in order to make the event a full success. Both steps are equally important and only groups who have completed both steps will be considered for participation in the SDG Innovation Challenge 2021.

All registrations will be screened and undergo a pre-selection. Selected participants will be confirmed by 13 October. Once selected, teams of 3-7 participants will engage over the course of 48 hours from either 18-20 October or from 21-23 October to unpack challenges faced by their local communities and relate the Challenge theme. Together, they design practical solution ideas to strike at the roots of problems and tackle them bottom-up!

The solution ideas submitted during both events will then be assessed by an independent panel of judges. The ideas with the highest evaluation will have the opportunity to present their proposal at the 4th African Youth SDGs Summit, Africa’s Africa’s biggest Sustainable Development Youth congregation.

In addition, the top teams receive continued support in form of digital literacy tools for startup upscale, support for business modeling and registration, recommendations to investment match-making opportunities, access to business incubation, pro-bono mentorship, and more. To crown it all, an SDG Innovation Fund will soon be launched to crowdsource financial support for leading project ideas!


The SDG Innovation Challenge 2021 is a 48-hours innovation marathon. We're following a paced process that puts participants in charge to manage their time freely, using the following schedule as orientation.

Meet the Judges

Our panel of evaluators for the SDG Innovation Challenge 2021 includes experienced, diverse, and dynamic thought leaders from around the world!