YouthConnekt: How connected is Africa?

Eva Nishimwe, a Rwandan aeronautical engineer, speaks at the YouthConnekt Africa Summit 2019 at Kigali Arena, in Remera, Gasabo District on Wednesday. / Emmanuel Kwizera

On Wednesday, during the launch of the 3rd YouthConnekt Africa Summit at Kigali Arena, a group of young African influencers debated on Africa’s most pressing issues. “Building a more connected Africa” was one of the themes discussed.

The discussion panel comprised Gerald Chirinda, a Zimbabwean entrepreneur and founder of Future Africa Forum, Eva Nishimwe, a Rwandan aeronautical engineer, Issam Chleuh, a Malian entrepreneur and founder of Africa Impact Group, and Edith Yah Brou, an Ivorian blogger.

The interactive discussion revolved around the question, “Is Africa really connected?” asked by Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa, a Zimbabwean journalist, who moderated the panel.

Referring to the recently enacted African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the visa-on-arrival policy in countries like Rwanda, panelists welcomed the steps that have been taken to improve Africa’s connectivity.

“Africa is seeing development in regional trade and social economy, an important way of connecting,” said Chleuh, the Malian entrepreneur.

Preventing illegal immigration

President Paul Kagame, who was also present in the audience, contributed to the discussion when he was asked by one of the panelists for his view on Rwanda’s experience in the country’s continued opening up of its borders to Africans.

He argued that migration is not genuinely a bad thing, urging that governments should commit to making movement of people as easy as possible.

“People should feel free to move whenever it makes sense. We should create countries where people don’t wish to illegally flee to other countries.”

He emphasized the role of African governments to collaborate with citizens for policies to be effective.

“Governments are not animals to be feared. People should approach and even join. That way, we will create accessible opportunities to prevent people from breaking rules.”

President Kagame las week attended Rwanda Day in Bonn, Germany, whose aim, too, is to ensure that those outside Rwanda and those in Rwanda work together to expedite the country’s transformation.

Social media as a better way to connect

A young Rwandan aviation engineer who is also among those behind the design of the new Bugesera International Airport, Eva Nishimwe, raised her concerns over the connectivity of Africans through social media.

She also pointed out that social media should be seen as the broadest way to connect since other means of connecting such as transport are relatively poor in terms of infrastructure like roads, air, and water.

The panel discussion was themed “Taking our Continent Forward”. It revolved around some other issues like continental integration, social media influence on the continent’s development and industrialization in Africa.

YouthConnekt Africa Summit was in 2017 adopted as a continental gathering inspired by YouthConnekt that had been held in Rwanda since 2012.

It was designed to connect the youth for socio-economic transformation.

Its purpose is to provide solutions for challenges faced by African youth by providing them with opportunities through the initiative.

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