Amanda Obidike: changing people’s lives through STEM training

April 16, 2021

STEMi Makers Africa, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Innovation Makers of Africa, was started two years ago. After completing her training in data science, Amanda got together with people she knew who were of a similar age and at the time similarly unemployed to address what she calls the ‘leaking unemployment pipeline’ in Nigeria. What she means by this, is that there is a lack of skills and preparation of people graduating school and university in Nigeria, which means they are not competitive in the job market – in particular for jobs in STEM, which are not only better paid, but there are also more of them. Research STEMi did with a local NGO found that 60% of those graduating are not career-ready, particularly in this field. And this is the gap that Amanda and her team are trying to fill.

STEMi Makers Africa has several target beneficiary groups, which are young people, and women and girls, mostly based across Sub-Saharan Africa. These are underrepresented communities within the STEM sector. STEMi designed one program that targets young people aged 15-25, and another, in collaboration with 500 women scientists, targeting girls and women in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. This second project has now impacted over 350 girls, 17 of which have been awarded opportunities for entering research programs and study abroad.  

So far, STEMi have created over 30 individual ecosystems. The way it works is that in each country the social business operates, there is a ‘G8’, a coordinating team that manages that country. The idea behind this is to tailor the work to the different contexts and to understand the specific needs and gaps in each place. Once a month, all the teams report back centrally where they talk both about what they have achieved, what challenges they have been met with, and where they need support. Some of Amanda’s work stems from her own frustrations with the job market, and the fact that what often happens is that ex-pats come to take the jobs over local people due to a skill gap, perpetuating the inequalities that have existed for a long time. Having recognized the issues for the broader society on her own example, she is trying to address them in an increasingly scalable way. Her dream is for STEMi to become a household name for bridging the employment gap in the region, and she is doing it through her inspiring form of leadership that elevates local actors.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a huge challenge for Amanda and her team at STEMi. They did not pause their activities but had to re-strategize. They put most of their focus on secondary schools and elevating their professional development. Although the numbers and success stories are not as high as normal, they have still managed to log several successes and have been very encouraged to continue learning for secondary school pupils. 

The Y&Y Fellowship is one of the best things Amanda said happened to her that year. It made her see her business from a different perspective. The mentorship experience was for Amanda and STEMi one of the Fellowship’s best features – her Mentors helped her work out the structure, revenue and questions of sustainability for the business. Amanda recognizes that while passion is the key to starting, it is sustainability that allows for the long-term impact and success of a social business. She is also grateful for the Y&Y community – particularly during the pandemic, it has been great for her to know that others are struggling with the same issues, that the Y&Y staff truly care about the wellbeing of their cohort, and that there is space for sharing solutions and experiences. Amanda is an inspiring leader and has a great team around her – and her willingness to learn and improve the sustainability of her business only makes her an even better leader.

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