Young Africans need space to drive continent’s development agenda – PM

Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente delivers his remarks during the official opening ceremony of the Youth Connekt Africa Summit in Kigali yesterday. Nadege Imbabazi.

There was a common understanding at the opening session of the annual Youth Connekt Africa Summit – that if African youth are given space and trust to innovate and try new things, the continent would sustainably achieve the future it envisages.

While officiating at the opening of the 3-day summit in Kigali, on Monday, Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, challenged the youth to own the journey to transform Africa.

The premier observed that the youngsters need a conducive environment and opportunities to reach their personal and professional dreams.

With such, the Prime Minister said, young Africans would also be able to “confidently” take part in nation building.

“The Africa We Want by 2063, is an Africa whose development is people-driven, one that relies on the potential of all its people, including its women and youth, and cares for children. To achieve it, Africa requires holistic transformation.” Ngirente said.

About 70 per cent of Africa’s population is under the age of 30, making Africa the youngest continent. The continent’s population is projected to double by 2050.

“Therefore, any plan for improving the future of Africa must factor in the role of young people,” Ngirente said.

Youth Connekt Africa Summit brings together some 2,500 delegates from 90 countries, making the summit Africa’s largest youth gathering.

This year’s summit is being held under the theme “Connekting youth for continental transformation”

The overall mission of the summit is to leverage technology to connect youth to their role models and opportunities for civic engagement, social and economic.

Zakariyyah Musa, a Nigerian youth who lives in Kenya, makes a point during the Youth Connekt Africa Summit in Kigali yesterday. (Photo: Nadege Imbabazi)

The Prime Minister said that the summit would also be an ideal platform to advise African leaders on how to better support young Africans so that they can achieve their full potential and contribute to the transformation of Africa.

“My call to all African youth, especially you who are gathered here today, is to rise to the challenge, and take ownership of the journey. Use your skills, networks and resources to build the Africa We Want.”

This year’s summit also marks the official launch of the Youth Connekt Hub and offers a series of informative high-level dialogues engaging the youth on their role in Africa’s transformation.

“I call on all African youth to use Youth Connekt Hubs to effectively design the scale-up model for Youth Connekt, facilitate national, regional and continental Youth Connekt events, and lobby for more coherent and inclusive youth empowerment policy and programmes,” Ngirente said.

Ahunna Eziakonwa, the Assistant Secretary-General and Director of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Regional Bureau for Africa, noted that African youth have the ability to deliver the continent to desired transformation if they are nurtured and given the opportunities.

“We must give young Africans the space and the trust to take the lead and this is how we will build the future we want for this continent. Through Africa’s young people ingenuity, Africa is on the move.” Ahunna said.

Launched in 2012 during the National Dialogue, the Youth Connekt, is a Rwandan homegrown initiative.

So far, eight countries have adopted Youth Connekt, including Liberia, Republic of Congo, DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Gambia, Zambia and CapeVerde.

Ahunna commended President Kagame and the Government of Rwanda for initiating the platform, through which young Africans are nurtured to drive Africa’s transformation.

She also noted that there’s need for African leaders to listen to the needs of their young people, which could potentially save the continent from exodus of talent.

“Young African people should and deserve to live their dream in Africa instead of dying in the Mediterranean Sea fleeing the continent. Let the voice of the youth be heard,” Ahunna said.

She added that the continent needs to invest in its youth to empower their mindset and skills instead of leaving them exposed to the continent’s enemies such as rebel groups.

Zakariyyah Musa, a Nigerian youth based in Kenya, said that African youth’s main challenge is restricted mobility across the continent, yet it’s largely easy for the non-Africans to move across the continent.

“It is a shame that for Africans to move from one country to another they find it as difficult as going to heaven. Why should it be hard for someone from Egypt to travel to South Africa? We can’t prosper, we can’t relate if we can’t freely meet and connect.” Musa said.

He added, “I commend Rwanda and some few other African countries who have made is easy to get visas.  It shouldn’t be hard for Africans to get visas on arrival in Africa?”


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