Burkina Faso’s government collapsed under the pressure of protests demanding a change in leadership in October, 2014. President Blaise Compaoré stepped down one day after the parliament building in the capital city, Ouagadougou, went up in flames, officially ending his 27-year rule.
During Compaoré’s governance, major human rights problems included (but were not limited to) the “excessive use of force against civilians, criminal suspects, and detainees,” according to a U.S. State Department report, as well as the abuse of prisoners, harsh prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention, and judicial inefficiency.
In this time of change and transition, Hado Nicaise Sawadogo identified a problem, that the number of prisoners were increasing dramatically. He then came up with an innovation in 2011 to change the lives of inmates in his home country so as to avoid reincarceration through his startup, AEPT (Detenus et Entrepreneuriat)
The method applied by the innovation is transforming prisoners into entrepreneurs by helping them take part in an intensive entrepreneurship training and getting them funding to make them less likely to go back to prison. Through this, it is also believed that this would give the prisoners a better chance to reintegrate into the society.
According to Sawadogo, the innovation is aimed at combating the high rate of recidivism in prisons, and the youth unemployment that can drive them to commit crimes. He is of the opinion that Burkina Faso will be better off as a society with flourishing youth where the rate of juvenile delinquency is minimized. The main strategy adopted is organizing training programs for these prisoners for business creation, leading to follow-up and funding of their project ideas at the end of their detention.
Since 2011, Sawadogo and his team have offered French literacy courses to inmates in the Ouagadougou Correctional Facility (MACO). Now, he wants to expand the project to each of the nearly 30 prisons across Burkina Faso, and to introduce entrepreneurship programming to get young men and women of about 18-35 years back to work.
This innovation has caught the attention of quite a number of persons across the globe, it was in fact awarded with the Prix “Innove4Africa” recu a Dakar au Senegal comme fellow in 2014.