Njideka Harry is the founder and chief executive officer of Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) in Nigeria. She is a World Economic ForumSchwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship Fellow.
In the fall of 1993, Njideka moved to the U.S. to pursue a college education and attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Looking at the curriculum early on, Njideka felt immediately at ease as it was seemingly less aggressive than her Nigerian secondary school. However, that ease would suddenly disappear when on the first day of English 101, the professor asked the class to “tell me about a time when… ” While her peers started clicking away on their computers, Njideka grabbed her pen. “I’m so behind and I haven’t even started yet,” Njideka recalls thinking. She immediately started teaching herself how to use a computer, and then at the library, realizing the pivotal role technology plays in education.
Upon graduation, Njideka accepted a position at Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Washington. There, she challenged senior leadership to expand their operations in sub-Saharan Africa, with hopes that this would help bridge the digital divide between the two continents. Njideka served in an advisory capacity to establish Microsoft’s first West Africa office in Lagos. In 2000, Njideka founded YTF as an international nonprofit and registered in both Nigeria and the U.S. She soon realized, however, that she wanted to play a much more direct role in her organization. A few years later, Njideka resigned from her comfortable position at Microsoft to pursue her calling to partner with developing nations to meet their challenges in facing a continuously widening digital divide.
Youth for Technology is a nonprofit that uses technology to improve the lives of young people and women in developing countries. Harry is particularly worried about the state of African education. YTF has worked in regions of Africa plagued by poverty and pervasive unemployment, especially among youth and women. YTF Academy provides beneficiaries with life skills and resources to join the economic mainstream.
In 2011 she was made an Ashoka Fellow. As a fellow, she developed the Agricultural Platform Offering Women Empowerment Resources (Agric-P.O.W.E.R), which provides rural women farmers with skills and technology that allows them to connect to other farmers and receive up-to-date market information. It allows farmers and industry to list buy-and-sell offers, partnering with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture to lead training on techniques. She launched the Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs and Mobile Value Added Services in 2012 which provides funding, training and networking opportunities to thousands of young women in 12 African states. The program is supported by Mastercard. She partnered with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women in 2013. According to Wikipedia, Harry’s efforts have reached almost 1.4 million youth and women.
She is also passionate about 3D printing. She launched 3D Africa, an educational program that provides training for unemployed African engineers, in 2015. The engineers learn skills in computer-aided design and business. The program was funded by WeTech (Women Enhancing Technology). Recognizing that girls were reluctant to commit to the after-school clubs, Harry launched 3D Africa for Girls to teach girls human-centered design and production. She collaborated with the Clinton Foundation in 2016 to launch an initiative providing training to 6,000 girls who are out-of-school in five Nigerian states. She is collaborating with Nigerian universities to develop maker spaces that allow young entrepreneurs to prototype their ideas.
Harry is our Youth of the week as she represents the true identity of change makers that will ignite a socio-cultural mindset of professional excellence and growth that catalyzes Africa’s economic development.