African businesses and political leaders from different parts of the continent have pledged to continue supporting youth innovations to deal with unemployment.
They were speaking during the opening of the three-day YouthConnekt Africa Summit on Thursday at the Kigali Convention Centre, a gathering that has drawn more than 2,800 youth from 90 countries.
Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, the Minister for Youth and ICT, stressed the need to connect Africa’s youth to opportunities.
“We are united by a great cause. Our shared purpose is to put the youth first. We are connected by a strong passion to bridge the gap between the youth potential and limitless opportunities that Africa provides, and we are ready to persevere until we have delivered the Africa we want and deserve,” he said.
It is projected that the number of youth in Africa will rise to one billion by 2050.
This, Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), said will require bold commitments to serve them.
AfDB has developed ENABLE (Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment) Youth Programme to nurture a new generation of young commercial farmers in agribusiness across Africa.
Adesina said, last year, the Bank invested 800 million dollars in seven countries and this year the plan is to add 15 others.
Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, the regional director for United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Africa, commended Rwanda for believing in cultivating a new generation of innovators and problem-solvers to help create employment and drive economic transformation.
“It is that vision that gave birth to YouthConnekt Rwanda. It is, therefore, our deepest commitment to respond to the wish of the Government of Rwanda and of youth in Africa to scale up, to the regional level, this ground-breaking and pacesetter programme,” he said.
Citing the example of Cephas Nshimyumuremyi and Assoumpta Uwamariya, two local entrepreneurs who have benefited from the YouthConnekt initiative and created jobs for their communities as a result, Dieye said the two “epitomise the transformational power of ideas.”
“With their creativity, ingenuity, and acquired skills, they have shown the way to conquer the future,” he noted.
Nshimyumuremyi is a Musanze-based science teacher and young entrepreneur with a passion to serve his community. He makes cosmetic products out of traditional plants, using his knowledge in science to create products that heal some common diseases.
In 2013, he applied to join the YouthConnekt Boot Camp, and subsequently won Rwf3 million, which he used to build his factory. Today, he employs 15 on full-time basis.
Meanwhile, a 27-year-old, Uwamariya after realising that farmers in her community were growing a large amount of beetroot without ready market, she decided to produce tasty and affordable wine from locally cultivated beetroot.
Uwamariya won the 2016 YouthConnekt award, which goes to the best young innovator in Rwanda. With her Rwf5 million she expanded her business. Today, she employs 10 permanent workers and provides 30 temporary jobs in her community, mostly to women.