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Mahmoud Jajah: Digital advocate aiming to transform Ghana’s deprived inner cities

Mahmoud Jajah: Digital advocate aiming to transform Ghana’s deprived inner cities

Ghana

That we are in a digital age means different things to different people. Technology continues to drastically change the way things are done with the benefit of speed whiles cutting down distance.

The social media boom doesn’t look like it is going to abate anytime soon. So much of the average man’s daily life is spent on one platform or the other.

Be it for purposes of work, for information, entertainment and connecting with associates and family, the use of social media differs largely from user to user.

Our peculiar challenge for me is that our youth do not have opportunities available to other youth in non-Zongo communities such as scholarship programs and job opportunities. The prospects looks very bright. Our challenges are also opportunities, only if we re-organize our societies.

Over in Ghana, a strong believer in the digital drive says the country’s Muslim dominated inner city areas have to leverage on the digital dividends to scale its present challenges and to stand a chance in competing in the future.

Born in arguably Ghana’s biggest inner city, Nima, Mahmoud Jajah, says areas like his cannot afford to be left behind in the digital scheme of affairs.

“I believe strongly that with the power of digital technology, we can transform the Zongos in our lifetime. I want the kind of Zongo where every young person has the opportunity to live their dreams, and become whoever they want to become in this world,” Jajah said.

Zongo is the local term for inner city areas across Ghana, Jajah gives a classical explanation of what a Zongo is: “… my definition of Zongo means a deprived, marginalized and disadvantaged community, and not necessarily Hausa dominated communities.

“In other words, for me a Zongo community is a deprived community, whether Hausa dominated or not,” he adds. Hausa is a dominant language used in Muslim areas across most of northern Nigeria and parts of Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Jajah’s modest digital push – ZongoVation Hub, Zongo Coders

Jajah, a strong presence on especially Facebook has long stressed that coding was an area that most people should be gearing towards. One of his foremost digital undertakings is the Zongo Coders program.

The program gave the opportunity to scores of young people to be trained on coding. His non-profit outfit Initiative for Youth Development, IYD, partnered with MTN Ghana foundation and Ghana’s Ministry for Inner Cities on the program that happened earlier this year.

The IYD is a youth-led organization that is committed to improving the lives of young people in deprived communities, especially in the Zongos and the three regions in the north – Northern, Upper East and Upper West.

“My other organization is the ZongoVation Hub, a community tech innovation hub that I am setting up across the various Zongo communities and the three regions in the north to serve as the hub for the training and development of tech entrepreneurs and professionals,” he told Africanews in an exclusive interview.

It turns out that beyond the digital and entrepreneurship drives, the Dundee University educated Jajah has other interests: “We are finalizing arrangements with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on our Zongo Integrated Migration Awareness Program.”

Challenges in line of work and of Zongo youth

It is not all rosy in his line of work. Jajah says there are hurdles that his team works to scale in order to achieve their targets. Inadequate resources to implement our programs and projects and the issue of credibility.

He says people more often than not doubt whether or not they can sustain planned programs and projects. “…. on sustainability, because a lot of organizations especially from the Zongos have very short life spans, potential donors are not sure whether or not ours is also not just a nine-day wonder.”

Jajah is of the view that the challenges faced by the average Ghanaian youth is the same the Zongo youth faces but theirs is compounded by the lack of opportunities to even jump at.

“Our peculiar challenge for me is that our youth do not have opportunities available to other youth in non-Zongo communities such as scholarship programs and job opportunities.

“The prospects looks very bright. Our challenges are also opportunities, only if we re-organize our societies,” he is quick to add.

Jajah looks to a bright future

He carries the optimistic air in planning for the future, Jajah tells Africanews that he looks to a bright future for the initiatives he is currently heading.

“Insha Allah [if God wills] I hope to contribute greatly to the transformation of the Zongo communities across the country. My ambition is to bequeath a transformative and resilient Zongos to this generation and the generation to come.

“Insha Allah in the next five years, we hope to have three branches of the ZongoVaton Hub in Accra, Kumasi and Tamale, training tech entrepreneurs all over the country.

“Again, insha Allah we are building the IYD to become one of Africa’s most respected youth-led organization transforming the lives of young people.”

Brief about Jajah, the activist

He has a first degree in Management Studies from Ghana’s Central University, and second degree in International Oil & Gas Management from the University of Dundee in Scotland, UK.

He describes himself as a social entrepreneur running different organizations, nonprofits and profit-making. CEO of Amanah Energy, a solar energy startup.

A man with great interest in development work, especially how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals at the local level.

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