Summer 2015, as the Archimedes Project’s first co-founded venture in Haiti continues to innovate and expand its operations, Iynna Halilou, the first Archimedes Project Frontier Social Entrepreneur Fellow, was hard at work in Cameroon. While there, she worked to define the sanitation needs, challenges and opportunities in the capital city of Douala, as a potential country for a sanitation-focused social enterprises to be co-founded with Archimedes Project.
Iynna spent three months living and working in Cameroon, talking with workers, entrepreneurs and policy makers to gain insight into the most urgent sanitation needs of the people of Douala. “I quickly made the connection between sanitation, education, poverty and the sexy concept of ‘development,’ as well as what this equation would mean for Cameroon, and more generally Africa,” says Halilou.
Her findings pinpointed two high-risk groups who would benefit greatly from a sanitation solution; one that would simultaneously improve the overall health of the city. These two groups, Taxi drivers and Bayam Sellam (food-cart vendors) both work near or on roadways in the city center, and often do not have access to toilets during their workday. This makes theses groups a key point in the sanitation chain because they are often left with no other option than to relieve themselves openly on the side of the road, causing sanitation dangers throughout the community.
A global nomad, Iynna was born in Cameroon and grew up there for ten years before moving to France. She has studied, lived and worked in England, the United States, Canada, Russia and Senegal. She most recently received her Master’s degree from New York University in International Affairs with a focus on international development. Upon graduating, she saw working with the Archimedes Project as “an opportunity to impact change and touch on some topics I am deeply passionate about. Indeed as we enter a new age, we are also faced with more challenges that need new and sustainable solutions.
Iynna believes that innovation and creativity are the solution to Cameroon's development challenges. Her goal as a social entrepreneur is to unlock the potential within local communities to create solutions for the lack of access to sanitation and clean water. At the culmination of her findings, Iynna and Archimedes Project will work together to design and implement a strategic social enterprise business model tailored to the sociopolitical climate, culture and needs specific to Cameroonians.
The next step will be Iynna and her committed and expert colleagues at Archimedes Project working with her findings in Cameroon to build a strategic, agile business model focused on the needs of the local people. Meanwhile, Archimedes Project is searching for its next Frontier Fellow and raising money to send them to yet another at-risk country to continue the process by actively using human-centered design, rapidly scalable business models and a passionate contempt for the status quo. The mission is to save lives all over the world with simple, localized solutions to water and sanitation scarcity.