By Josh Ghaim, Ph.D., Chief Technology Officer, Johnson & Johnson Consumer
Today, Africa's economic growth is soaring, and industries like telecommunications, technology and travel are helping the continent flourish.
It's a very different landscape from when I was growing up in East Africa in the '70s, with limited access to technological tools or opportunities for college graduates to find meaningful work in these industries.
But while Africa's economic opportunities may be on the upswing, the continent still needs to address one key area to continue its momentum: the health and well-being of its people.
Significant opportunities exist to address water-borne diseases, improve sanitation conditions, and provide better access to clean water and over-the-counter medications. Compounding these situations is the fact that less than 50 percent of Africans have access to modern healthcare facilities, along with the fact that there's a shortage of trained healthcare professionals.
That's why Johnson & Johnson (No. 8 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) is launching the Africa Innovation Challenge, which is designed to find and support Africa-based entrepreneurs who are developing creative healthcare products and services. The challenge will focus on three target areas: early child development and maternal health, empowering young girls and overall family well-being.
The winners will be named in February and will receive funding of up to $100,000 and mentorship from Johnson & Johnson scientists, engineers and researchers.
And to help ensure that more of Africa's bright minds have an opportunity to contribute to the continent's future success, the challenge will also encourage and support STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and career development for girls and women through a partnership with the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA).
Throughout the challenge, Johnson & Johnson employee volunteers will work with AESA to host and support STEM workshops and courses geared toward developing and training scientific leadership. Africa's young people need to know that they do not have to travel abroad to receive a strong STEM education.
Africa is a large and vibrant continent, and it will take outside-the-box thinking to make a lasting impact on the well-being of its diverse population. I'm proud to help discover and develop the next generation of innovators poised to propel my home continent forward on its healthcare journey.