Voices of Innovation: The 2024 World Bank Youth Summit

June 18, 2024
Banner: Voices of Innovation: The 2024 World Bank Youth Summit

On this episode of IFC Audio Stories we explore the 11th edition of the World Bank Group Youth Summit, where thousands of young innovators converged to address global development challenges. This year's theme, "Powering Progress: Youth Leading the Digital Transformation," spotlighted digital access and inclusion, AI, and sustainable tech. Hear from pitch competition finalists Ndi Selma Ekfvei and Ndi Frida Eposi of Data Girl Technologies and discover how they're empowering women in Cameroon through tech education.  Visit the World Bank Group Youth Summit website for more information.

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Camryn Billett: Welcome to the 2024 World Bank Youth Summit. My name is Camryn Billett. And in this episode of IFC Audio Stories, we delve into the 11th edition of the World Bank Group Youth Summit, where 1000s of young minds from around the world converge to explore innovative ideas that tackle global development challenges. This year's theme, Powering Progress: Youth Leading the Digital Transformation, focuses on three critical areas, digital access and inclusion, artificial intelligence, and sustainable technology for a livable planet.

This year’s event is a Pitch Competition where six finalists, chosen from over 2,000 submissions, will take the stage to pitch their best solutions to address global challenges. There's a particular focus on solutions for women in tech, digital inclusion of rural youth, and fragility, conflict and violence affected countries.

What's on the line? Training and mentorship from The George Washington University Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Before we are joined by a team that made it to the finals, let's first hear what some of the delegates have to say about artificial intelligence and how it can be used for good.

Suma Movva: My name is Suma. I'm representing Rewriting the Code, which is a Women in Tech organization that seeks to empower women and non-binary folk in tech. And especially being a machine learning engineer, I think like one of the most like powerful things that I've been seeing that AI is doing is like bringing people of like diverse backgrounds together, even if they don't have familiarity with technology in like the deepest sense. Like for example, like someone who's just starting out or doesn't have the resources to be at the same level as someone else who's comes from a more privileged background can get the same benefit from AI.  We can imagine in terms of like networking to get the job that you want, or even going even broader like learning skills that people might not have access to like learning a new instrument, AI can plug in those gaps for people who don't have those accesses in their general society.

Camryn: Today, we are joined by Pitch Competition Finalists Ndi Selma Ekfvei and Ndi Frida Eposi[LM1] , co-founders of Cameroonian tech company, Data Girl Technologies. Two young women in technology who are dedicated to educating and empowering young women in their community to pursue a career in tech and make a life for themselves.

Selma, Frida, welcome. Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and what inspired you to get into technology?

Ndi Selma Ekfvei: I started off in finance. I have a BS in accounting and a master's in business administration. It's not until 2019 that I decided to make the switch. Someone proposed to me that you're a born problem solver. Why don't you think of getting into tech? And this just kind of emphasizes the importance of mentors, of people who can actually see you for who you are. So I started learning how to code in 2019. And by 2020, I already had a certificate full stack web development.

Camryn: Frida.  

Ndi Frida Eposi: So, my tech story I’d say is very interesting. I started my own business in 2018. My second business actually in 2018, and I needed a graphics designer. And I was trying to cut costs so I started learning using Canva, Poster on My Wall and those, you know, applications. And I took interest in that. And it helped me cut costs as an entrepreneur. But also I realized that that was a skill that other entrepreneurs needed. So I started making money off of just that little skill. And for me, that was it. I was already in the business of understanding what technology is not just with coding, but all the things that you can do. All the  solutions that you can bring to the table without necessarily being a full-time programmer or anything like that. So, for me that was the gateway or that was a window through which I got into tech.

Camryn: Neither one of you all came from tech backgrounds. So I'm curious what inspired you, Selma, to then foster the same interest in young girls in Cameroon.

Selma: Because of the opportunities that I saw that existed in tech, and how mal-informed we were about tech, we felt like tech was something for men. It was hard, it was difficult. If you didn't study mathematics, you won't be good at becoming a software engineer. If you don't have a science background, you won't be a good software engineer. So, because of all these myths surrounding this, I thought it wise to start a program, an awareness program that just sensitizes girls, tells them that you can do it. And then the opportunities kept showing forth. And I saw that all right, getting them aware is not enough. How about you actually train them to be able to get these opportunities by themselves. So what I did is we started actually training them to be able to build web applications, to be able to become full stack web developers. Until then we have been able to train over 3,000 Girls in Cameroon and beyond.

Camryn: What is your goal for Data Girl Technologies? And where do you see the company in five years?

Frida: So, five years from now we're looking to global impact. We want to be able to not just reach out to 5,000, 10,000 young women. We want to touch global reach. We want to be able to impact more than a million young women out there. And our goal currently is we're trying to get that credibility for our curriculum, you know. So we want to be able to have that global validation that whatever curriculum we're teaching, we're training these young women is validated, is recognized at a global level.

In terms of reach, we're reaching to hit a million. I mean,  if we can establish an online platform, that would mean that people can get on those platforms and learn any tech course from any time  going through their pace, or using their pace, and it becomes easier for us to track to say that, okay, this is the number of people that we are able to reach. And we're looking forward to, you know, establishing that online platform.

So, five years in, in regards to structuring, would mean that we must have established in at least four regions within Cameroon, and also reach out to other nations out of Cameroon, especially in the Central Africa. Because we realized that a lot of countries in the Central Africa already identified Cameroon's education model as very valid. So we find that most of them come into study in Cameroon and having to take the knowledge to them would be would be a thing of joy for us. It will not just reduce the cost of them having to fly to study, but it will be that we're cutting we're cutting down the costs for them as well as giving opportunities to those who cannot travel to study.

Camryn: Being one out of six finalists in a pool of 2,100 applicants is impressive, but not easy. And I'm sure some looking in may believe that your path has been only success. But can you tell us how has failure helped the both of you achieve the success that brought you here today?

Frida: Initially I was so very quiet about my failures, because I was like, oh, no, I'm a big failure. But then I realized that what I know because of the journey or the path that I took, it's what adds on the experts to my name. You know, when you say this person is an expert, it's because they've been through a route and they already know what is going to happen or what is happening in that space. So, most of the business consultation that I do most of the business development that I do is thanks to the routes that I took as a curious young woman who just wanted to make some extra cash. And that alone makes me understand that that was an experience that I needed for what I'm doing right now.

Selma: I applied for the Tech Women program twice, and I wasn't taken. The third year I was taken. And I just want to tell you that even if you try and fail don't give up, keep doing it, especially if you believe that it's going to help someone live a better life.

Camryn: Live at the summit, I had a brief moment to catch up with finalists Benny Owanga and Aníbal Pineda Guzman. Here's what they had to say to youth looking to change the world using digital technology.

Benedict Owanga: One advice I would give is just just do it. But when you do it as well make sure that you test it out. And it's a simple solution. You know, at the end of the day, you don't need to reinvent the wheel. There are problems to be solved with simple solutions.

 Aníbal Pineda Guzman: Don't think about digitalization. Think about people, think about communities, and understand that communities. So the digitalization and the technology is only a tool. But we have to understand people.

Camryn: While it is not an official theme, collaboration seems to be an overarching theme, not only within the youth summit, but within the tech space as a whole. Selma, can you tell us one of the challenges that you faced in developing your project? And how collaboration solved that?

Selma: [LM2] So one of the things that we are doing is mostly just being able to bring our voices together. Someone said in the hall, I think it’s the manager of the Youth Summit this year, she said that we should be loud, like make noise, make noise, make noise. So, we actually one of the tools we're using is just being loud, like collaborating and talking about our challenges a lot. It's true that as startup as an initiative, we cannot solve all of them at once. Because even as we are training these girls to be able to get a job. Another problem that we are causing is that very soon the market will be saturated, and maybe some of these girls will not get jobs. So, we are also looking to target to tackle that problem, which is being able to create jobs with these girls or actually helping them to build solutions that they can market themselves and employ other people. So, do you see that you're solving one problem you're causing another? But at the same time it does not mean that you should stop. It just means that you should be able to find out innovative ways to think about how you can be able to work out a system where everybody wins. You win, the girls win, the community wins, and perhaps your country and your continent wins as well.

Camryn: The World Bank Youth Summit 2024 showcases the power of youth in leading the digital transformation. Selma and Frida’s story is a testament to the impact individuals can have. We invite you to engage with the themes of this summit and support initiatives that close the digital divide and promote sustainable development. To learn more and stay updated, visit and search Youth Summit 2024. This episode of IFC Audio Stories was produced and edited by me, Camryn Billett. Thank you for joining us on this journey of innovation and inspiration.