Representatives of at least 14 African countries are convening in Bugesera District to discuss how the YouthConnekt, a youth empowerment programme, can be adopted in other countries across the continent.
Participants, who are largelt technocrats, are discussing the viability of having the initiative incorporated into their respective national youth programmes, and how best it can be implemented.
YouthConnekt initiative was inaugurated in 2012 by the Ministry of Youth and ICT, together with One UN Rwanda and other partners, with the primary goal of empowering young people and connecting them to the public, private sector and the civil society for entrepreneurship and employment opportunities.
Through its various components, the platform links young Rwandans to role models, resources, knowledge, skills, internships and jobs.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting, the Minister for Youth and ICT Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, commended the move by African countries to pick interest in the initiative.
“I want to thank all the participants for the efforts made to come here and learn from what Rwanda has done. We are here to make the impossible possible, and I believe that when the private sector meets the civil society, government, international organisations and development partners, not only to talk but to walk the talk, then miracles happen,” he noted.
The minister explained that YouthConnekt has been a tool that brings youth together to connect, empower and educate themselves, among other things, and that his dream is to have it grow into a global network.
“This started as an idea but at a small level, but today we are here to make it work elsewhere, and I don’t see why it can’t be a global initiative because there’s still a gap or a deficit in terms of what young people can achieve,” he said.
So far, YouthConnekt Rwanda has reached out to the youth, expanded opportunities for entrepreneurship, and opened up space for dialogue on issues of discrimination on grounds of gender, disability, ethnicity and region, among others.
The platform has also been used at national, local and decentralised level to push for stricter accountability and transparency from elected officials, according to the UN Resident Coordinator, Lamin Manneh.
“Beyond the several awards and recognitions gained by the YouthConnekt Rwanda Initiative within and beyond One UN, the simple but innovative approach has supported and uplifted many “reluctant entrepreneurs”, for whom self-employment is not a choice, but rather the viable way to make a living as there are few jobs in the formal sector,” Manneh told participants.
Today, one in every three people alive in the world is under the age of 30, and around 90 per cent of young people live in Africa. IParticipants said that this generation is the one that presents the opportunity to eradicate extreme poverty and to deal with other challenges once they are empowered with opportunities.
Mariano Nkogo, a delegate from Eqatorial Guinea, said that the initiative is a great tool to link the CSOs and private sector to the government to be able to address most of the challenges they face.
“Specifically, in our country where there’s less connection between the CSOs and the government, we can use it to increase our understanding between each other, hence solve the youth unemployment issue, being one of the biggest issues that our young people face,” he noted.
Countries that are presented at the workshop include Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Lesotho, Sao Tome, Congo-Brazzaville, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Swaziland, Liberia, Egypt, Uganda, Ghana and Equatorial Guinea.