Thousands of young people from across the continent and beyond are in Kigali for this year’s Youth Connekt Africa summit, which opens at the BK Arena on Thursday, October 13. The continental summit, which serves to realise the potential of Africa’s youthful population, will be happening in its fifth edition, at the same time celebrating a decade-long anniversary since it was conceptualized. The 3-day summit is expected to feature over 10,000 youth among which 2000 are from the international community. Speaking to The New Times in an exclusive interview, Solange Tetero, Director of Youth Empowerment at the Ministry of Youth and Culture, said that delegates will be coming from 84 countries. “We are excited to host the fifth edition of the youth connekt summit. We expect to see our youthful demographic coming up with solutions at the event, networking with colleagues and investors throughout the programme,” she said. Several high ranked officials including 30 ministers of youth from across Africa and the commonwealth have confirmed attendance. Also present are leading professionals from policy influencers, political and industry leaders, to public, private and development sector youth champions. According to the agenda, key issues to be covered at the summit include the contribution of youth towards climate action, sustainable peace and security, cultural creative industry, sports, economy as well as skilling for digital economy. Equally important to discuss is leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and the role of youth in transforming the ‘Africa we want’. With Africa estimated to have the world’s largest youth population in 2030, (42 percent of the world’s youth), there have been concerns on the need to address issues such as skills development, entrepreneurship, access to finance and employment. This, Tetero argues, provides a platform for the youth to become an advantage as opposed to a challenge. The United Nations estimates that there are over 226 million people aged between 15-24 on the continent, making Africa the most youthful continent. However, this has come with challenges, such as high unemployment rates currently estimated at about 60 per cent. According to her, this year’s summit will also feature a deal room in which young people including startups will have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to global investors. Youth Conneckt also aims at identifying, nurturing and growing up to one million leaders that provide solutions, participate in advocacy as well as developing sustainable initiatives and policies that reduce gender inequality. The platform has now grown to 28 countries, organizers say. Last year’s summit was held in Accra, Ghana bringing together over 17000 participants. The event was held in a hybrid format, owing to restrictions brought by the pandemic. Ghana’s vice president Mahamudu Bawumia presided over the official opening. Previous editions have attracted renowned figures such as Ivorian Footballer Didier Drogba, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, serial investor Strive Masiyiwe, among others. Rwanda’s youth driving economic agenda Meanwhile, as Rwanda’s economy continues to show resilience, Rose Mary Mbabazi, Minister of Youth and Culture believes the youth play a key role in the country’s development agenda. The country recorded a 7.5 percent growth for the second quarter of this year, despite current global economic shocks. According to Minister Mbabazi, they are the labor force, given Rwanda’s 70 percent of the population is under 30 years of age. “If you look at the construction sector that is booming now, if you look at the value addition and agriculture processing, 61 percent are young people, the same is in tourism, digitization among others.” In addition, she said, the youth are innovators, making them a powerhouse of innovation that is visible around the country. “They are also consumers, they are the market of all these products that we are producing, so obviously, the young people have contributed to this economic growth that you are seeing,” Mbabazi said in an earlier interview. Nigerian singer Patrick Nnaemeka Okorie popularly known as Patoranking and Zimbabwe’s Jah Prayzah, born Mukudzeyi Mukombe are also expected to perform at the summit.