The youth will be on the agenda when thousands of Rwandans convene today in Kigali for yet another edition of the annual National Dialogue Council, best known as the Umushyikirano.
The event, which has taken place since 2003 under the chairmanship of the Head of State, has led to several initiatives that have impacted the people of Rwanda in one way or another, resulting into improved livelihoods.
As well as discussions revolving around the need to actively involve the youth in all aspects of national development, the dialogue will assess and chart the way forward regarding the national transformation agenda, and values for prosperity.
While issues related to youth empowerment have featured at previous editions of Umushyikirano, it appears that this time round, there is renewed momentum and urgency to address challenges that impede young people from reaching their aspirations and living up to expectations.
Just Saturday, the governing Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) doubled the representation of the youth on its National Executive Committee and now they occupy ten commissioner positions up from five – out of a total of 22 commissioners.
In October, President Paul Kagame created a separate cabinet ministry in charge of Youth, in a move that pointed to his commitment to deliver on his pledge shortly after his re-election as President in August to scale up efforts to create opportunities for the youth.
About three-quarters of Rwandans are believed to be youth. This presents tremendous potential to the country as well as challenges, as the line between leveraging this demographic dividend and failing to do so is often small.
The good news for the Rwandan youth is that the present government has demonstrated the necessary political will to nurture and empower them, while they also have the opportunity to learn from the older generations of compatriots that used their youth to serve their country faithfully and nobly.
Yet, even with the abundance of goodwill, it is not a given that the youth will maximise their potential. To make the most of these opportunities there is need for the youth to rise to the occasion. Yes, they will need continued guidance, nurturing and financing, but, most importantly, they are required to think outside the box, be innovative, work together, and observe high levels of self-discipline in everything they do. Short of that, efforts to empower the youth will be in vain.