Youth project scoops UNDP award
The YouthConnekt Hangout, a web-based platform that uses social media channels to connect young people to role models, resources, entrepreneurship skills and employment opportunities, has been named the best innovative project by the United Nations.
The project was rewarded with a $75,000 prize during the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Africa Innovation Fair earlier this month.
YouthConnekt was initiated by the Ministry of Youth and ICT (MYICT) in 2012 as a platform to connect innovative young Rwandans to participate actively in the country’s economic transformation.
“Building the skills of young people, harnessing their energy, and realizing their aspirations will help Rwanda improve its living standards and foster inclusive economic growth. Empowering them with opportunities to reach and apply their full potential are our most important challenges and our most vital opportunities,” said Lamin Manneh, the UN resident coordinator.
He indicated that although Africa had made significant strides in economic growth, it needs to be translated into opportunities for the youth to address poverty.
“Youth unemployment is a big challenge. If we want to develop, we have to harness development resources; no country can develop without involvement of youth,” he said.
“An innovative approach to development is imperative”.
Manneh also called on people to transform Africa by linking job seekers to opportunities, but reminded that skills were the primary starting point in creating employment.
“People seeking jobs need skills and qualifications,” he noted.
While YouthConnekt Hangout so far requires internet access and literacy to participate in it, ICT Minister Jean Philbert Nsengimana indicated that thanks to Hehe Ltd, a Rwandan company, the online services will be linked to phone short messages (SMS) to increase access to the platform, especially in rural areas.
He added that the UNDP prize will be used to strengthen and expand the project and urged the youth to explore and seize available opportunities.
“We want to build an active and innovative community that is confident in its ability to solve its own challenges by making a smart use of the abundant opportunities around us” he said.
“We are focusing on developing the youth because they are the future and are more innovative while taking on community challenges and turning them into opportunities”.
The hangouts sessions will be focusing on sharing information on opportunities for youth economic empowerment through employment, entrepreneurship, access to finance, Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D).
In addition, youth personal development as well as social and political empowerment will be promoted. Young people will also use the platform to contribute to ongoing policy discussions at national and international levels, with a focus on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.