The Youth Network for Reform, or YONER-LIBERIA, works to reunite communities, provide services and support for child soldiers and child victims of the Liberian civil wars, and prepare young Liberian entrepreneurs to drive forward the country’s growth and development. As a GIST Innovation Hub, YONER-LIBERIA will use GIST to promote, support and teach science and technology entrepreneurship.
At a Glance:
I-Hub: Youth Network for Reform, also known as YONER-LIBERIA
Location: Paynesville City, Liberia
Startups: 25 startups; 50 startups in incubation; 3,000 students and entrepreneurs; 30,000 youth and children since 2008
Sectors: Science and Technology Innovation, Social Entrepreneurship
A Closer Look at YONER-LIBERIA:
On August 18, 2003, the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed by the warring parties of the Second Liberian Civil War. The August peace agreement marked the end to Liberia’s second civil war in less than a decade and the start of Liberia’s transition to a democracy. As part of this transition, Liberia needed to reconcile and reintegrate the child soldiers used in both conflicts. YONER-LIBERIA was created in direct response to this need, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship as a tool for reintegration, economic development and regional stability.
The Youth Network for Reform, also known as YONER-LIBERIA, was created in 2008 to reunite communities, and provide support for child victims and soldiers created by both civil wars. Part of this mission involves training young Liberians on how to become entrepreneurs and drive Liberia’s growth and development in the 21st Century. Jarius Andrew Greaves, founder and executive director of YONER-LIBERIA, said since its inception the program has helped more than 30,000 young people in Liberia.
According to Greaves, entrepreneurship is key to Liberia’s post-war development. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs face many challenges and barriers. Among the top challenges, Greaves said the public sector is the largest employer in Liberia, the growing youth population is unemployed or underemployed, education is not doing enough to prepare young Liberians for the work force, and the startup ecosystem in Liberia is missing many key ingredients for success.
Greaves views all of these challenges as potential threats to peace and stability in Liberia. In an effort to overcome these challenges, he and his team created YONER-LIBERIA and joined GIST as an Innovation Hub and tap into the resources offered by GIST.
Already, Greaves has taken advantage of the GIST TechConnect program, which he has connected more than 3,000 high school and university students to science and tech entrepreneurship. But Greaves is hoping the resources and opportunities the I-Hub program connects him and will support YONER-LIBERIA in becoming a leader in entrepreneurial innovation in the country.
“I’m hopeful that I-Hub will help us achieve the establishment and running of the first premiere Youth Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation space in Liberia to stimulate and drive the country’s socioeconomic growth and development through youth entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Greaves. “This project will enable us to have a physical space where youth will be able to learn, collaborate and nurture their entrepreneurial ideas.”
As an I-Hub, YONER-LIBERIA will use GIST and its global network to create an entrepreneurship network in West Africa’s Mano River Region, and eventually expand throughout Africa. YONER-LIBERIA will use GIST to promote science and tech entrepreneurship, share information, foster innovation and contribute to the economic growth and stability of Liberia.
TechConnect Program Reaches Thousands in Liberia
From May 2016 to March 2018, YONER-LIBERIA has hosted viewing groups for 14 editions of the GIST TechConnect program. Through these groups, more than 3,000 high school and university students were able to learn more about science and technology entrepreneurship.
Official Partnership with University of Delaware Announced
In June 2017, YONER-LIBERIA became the Official Pitch Site Partner of the Horn Entrepreneurship’s Diamond Challenge Program at the University of Delaware. Through this partnership, YONER-LIBERIA was able to host the first high school entrepreneurship competition in Liberia. The competition brought together 40 students in 20 teams from 10 high schools around the country. The National Finalist competed in the Global Semifinals in April 2018 at the University of Delaware.