The Bertha Centre for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town, along with Douglas Knowledge Partners, are thrilled to announce the third annual Youth Innovation Essay Prize.

Young people between the ages of 18 and 30 are invited to write a 1,500–2,000 word essay about a great idea they have for South Africa’s future. This year, our theme is “Innovations for Planetary Health”. We want to hear your thoughts on how we can promote human health and social justice, while preserving the environment that allows us to thrive. Planetary health highlights the interdependence of human health and wellbeing, equity, and environmental sustainability; including issues of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

You might describe a new business that stewards our natural resources or biodiversity to safeguard health, or a non-profit or public sector innovation that addresses local climate risks to health and social wellbeing, or creative and artistic endeavours that could enrich our understanding of South Africa’s living heritage of connectedness to nature.

We’d love to read about your great idea that would enable South Africans, including young people, to flourish, while bringing benefit to people elsewhere in the world. Be creative, even surprise us—but also be pragmatic, showing us in detail the interconnection of health and the environment, and how the idea could really work in the South African context and beyond.

What can I gain from entering this competition?

This is more than a competition: it’s a development opportunity. Entrants with the most promising essays will receive coaching and mentorship from our writing and social innovation experts, who work with leading organisations in Africa and across the world to shape and communicate ideas on the issues that matter most for humanity. This support will help you to take your essay, and your writing and thinking skills, to the next level.

Shortlisted entrants will also gain exposure to the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship at UCT, Douglas Knowledge Partners, and other organisations in our network, all of which are interested in engaging with talented people. This exposure could open the door to job opportunities, freelance roles, or further study.

There is up to R20,000 in prizes available.

Essay Theme

"Innovations for planetary health"

Our environment is changing—from rising global temperatures, pandemics and natural disasters, to biodiversity loss and wide scale pollution.

We are now in an era characterized by human impacts on Earth’s conditions. The African continent is among the most severely affected, putting public health and development gains at risk.

Everything is connected. Environmental changes affect the quality of the air we breathe, the availability of water and food resources, our exposure to infectious diseases, and even the habitability of the places where we live.

In South Africa, these changes are already impacting our health and wellbeing, and worsening social inequities. Understanding and acting upon these challenges calls for collaboration across sectors to safeguard our future, with a particular focus on vulnerable groups.



You need to be between
the ages of 18 and 30.


Your essay must be
between 1,500
and 2,000 words.


Please read the
“advice to entrants”
carefully before you
submit your essay.


Finalists from previous
Youth Innovation Prize
competitions cannot
enter this year

How the competition works

Stage 1: Competition open for entries (9 June 2023 - 31 July 2023)

Entrants are invited to submit their essays. The most promising essays will then be selected for the next stage of the competition.

Stage 2: Mentorship and development (14 August 2023 - 12 September 2023)

The top entrants will be given practical tips and coaching on how to improve their essay.

Stage 3:
Round two of submissions
(26 September 2023)

The shortlisted participants will submit their final essays by 26 September 2023.

Stage 4:
Winners chosen
(27 September 2023 – 10 October 2023)

A diverse, high-powered judging panel will review the entries and select the winners and commended entries.

Stage 5: Celebration for the finalists (TBD)

At a glittering awards ceremony, R20 000 in prizes will be awarded to the top three winners.

Advice to entrants

Send us an essay outlining an innovative and implementable idea for how to tackle the environmental changes and improve planetary health. It should go into detail with a single innovation, mentioning concrete and relevant examples, and how it can help  both in South Africa and across the globe.

Click on the icons below to review our 12 helpful tips for writing your essay.

12 helpful tips for
your essay


Previous years Youth Innovation Essay Prize winners

Candice Richards

Candice is a student and freelance artist, with experience in commercial illustration, comics, and design. Her passion for children's media, comics studies, and the effect that art has on the world, were the driving forces behind this essay. When not working, studying, or writing, Candice can be found listening to alt-rock and figuring out how to draw a guitar.

Click here to download essay

Mumta Hargovan

Mumta is a medical doctor with a passion for social justice. She is completing a masters in Public Health at the University of Cape Town and leads an NGO that promotes gender equality within the evolving field of planetary health. Following on the YIP 2022, she works as a Knowledge Associate at Douglas Knowledge Partners, where she draws on her experiences in healthcare, research, and advocacy, to build effective partnerships and communicate for impact.

Click here to download essay

Delicia Govender

Delicia is a Pan-African entrepreneurial ecosystem builder, who is passionate about youth development. She has 10 years of experience in program design and management, as well as impact investing strategy development. As a youth leader, she has served on a number of national and international boards, leading transformation portfolios which has built her network reach from grassroot organisations to multinational corporations. Through her impact investing firm, she advocates for theory of change models that are centred on indigenous practices merged with tech, to enable thriving triple bottom line ecosystems in emerging African markets.

Click here to download essay

Shadai Beepat

After earning her Post Graduate Diploma in Management in Marketing from the University of Cape Town, Shadia entered the Sustainability industry to explore her passion for the environment and society. In addition, she have registered her social impact organisation, Youth Invasion Africa, in light of the essay she entered in the Youth Innovation Prize last year.

Click here to download essay

Cynthia Mujeni

Cynthia is a Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Cape Town. She's am very passionate about giving back to the community and believes in incremental progress to improve our environment.

Click here to download essay

Kayla Beare

Kayla is a writer and researcher, working as a Knowledge Partner at Douglas Knowledge Partners. She holds a Masters in Women’s Health from UCL and a Masters in Social Science specializing in Psychology from UCT.

Click here to download essay

Tumelo Mafoso

Tumelo is a student from Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, studying Mathematical Statistics as an undergraduate. Aside from academics, one of the most fulfilling activities he participates in is creative writing. Writing is much like cooking a meal; one has to find the right ingredients, and these can come from the strangest places. He enjoys learning about the weird intricacies of our world, participating in sports, and socialising. He has also come to realise that sometimes life is just one big comedy.

Click here to download essay


Entrant essay submission form

Thanks for registering your interest! Be sure to email your essay - along with a copy of your ID - to by midnight on 31 July
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