The best way to describe Abdou Adamou might be a “creative engineer”, but he’s also a social entrepreneur. And with support from USAID’s Youth, Advocacy, Women, Work, and Alliances (YAWWA) project, he’s scaling up the Craft and Technological Inventions Centre (CECIT), a social enterprise that he founded to help provide marketable skills, job opportunities, and a passion for innovation to his fellow youth in Niger.

Throughout his home region of Maradi and beyond, both nationally and internationally, Abdou is a recognised and highly sought after inventor and innovator. Since rising to prominence after winning first place in the education sector of the 2011 International Forum of Inventions and Technological Innovations, organised by the Nigerien Association for the Promotion of Invention and Innovation, Abdou has had a successful career as an engineer and educator. He has designed improvements on mechanical tools including air compressors, chainsaws, drills, welding torches, and more. And, he has produced and improved laboratory and health educational materials that technical and health schools in Niger actively seek out.

Apart from his professional training, Abdou credits his inspiration in engineering to a natural gift and his personal enthusiasm for creating and building. After graduating from technical school, he founded the Craft and Technological Inventions Centre (CECIT), which functions as a workshop and training centre for a variety of industries including mechanical engineering, industrial electricity, waste processing, metal construction, carpentry, and plumbing.

Abdou founded CECIT for two reasons, to produce and sell innovations that could have a positive impact on Niger’s social issues, and to spread the spirit of creativity and innovation throughout Niger.

Through CECIT, Abdou strives to demonstrate, and inspire others through his example, how innovation can improve products and services to be socially beneficial to communities. In the past CECIT has created, and provided women traders with, gas and coal ovens, cosmetics processing machinery, and food processing machinery, to help them develop and engage in income generating activities. Another example is when CECIT provided improved machines and tools to garage owners who might otherwise spend valuable time and travel great distances in search of tools and parts.

Abdou hopes to instil others with the same enthusiasm for creating and building, and for using innovation to tackle social issues, that he has. Through CECIT he provides free training to youth, helping them to build engineering skills. He has provided on-the-job training for about 150 people so far.

Currently Abdou has seven apprentices at CECIT who are gaining valuable technical skills in mechanical engineering and are learning how to approach challenges in innovative ways. His apprentices typically stay an average of three months at CECIT before branching out on their own, using their training to find employment opportunities that might have otherwise been out of reach for them.

Despite the successes he has had, Abdou plans to scale up CECIT and expand its engineering and training activities. And recently, Abdou received a grant from YAWWA that will support his plans to grow CECIT.

YAWWA, implemented by SNV in Niger from October, 2014 to October, 2017, identified young change-makers like Abdou and connected them with the knowledge, tools, and resources they needed to transform their localised civic activities into socially beneficial enterprises that were expanded, scaled-up, and replicated. In line with Abdou’s goal of spreading enthusiasm for innovation, YAWWA also worked to build culture of entrepreneurship throughout Niger by connecting these young entrepreneurs to share ideas.

The grant that YAWWA provided to CECIT is helping Abdou acquire the working capital he needs to expand, such as raw materials, mechanical tools for metal and hydraulic work, and workshop real estate. Abdou also received targeted technical and administrative trainings and support from YAWWA to help him manage the logistical and operational aspects of bringing CECIT to the next level.

Abdou Adamou, founder of the Craft and Technological Inventions Centre (CECIT)

YAWWA has also helped Abdou network with other social entrepreneurs in Niger by bringing other innovators to the CECIT workshop to discuss their challenges and ways to work together to meet the needs of their businesses. As a result of these networking opportunities, Abdou has gained several new clients from around the country and has built unique machines to address the needs of fellow YAWWA social entrepreneurs. For example, YAWWA grantee E3D, a producer of organic insecticides and soap made from an indigenous plant called neem, routinely uses Abdou’s services to build a specific machine used to make their products. Abdou also provides maintenance for the facility’s other machines throughout the entire production line. Through networking events, YAWWA brought together social entrepreneurs from across the country to create a network of innovators who are working together to advance their communities.

In founding CECIT, Abdou applied his considerable talents and passion for innovation to imbuing an entrepreneurial drive in Niger’s youth, and created a space and structure for them to build and exercise the skills needed to act on that drive. With YAWWA’s support, Abdou was able to expand on his ability to help young people gain marketable skills and approach challenges with a creative mindset, effectively guiding the next generation of Niger’s changemakers.