YouthConnekt Africa Summit 2019: Commitments, partnerships, new membership

KIGALI, October 9 – 12 – The 3rd YouthConnekt Africa Summit came to an end on Friday October 12, bringing down a curtain to a three-day sequence of activities held in Kigali, bringing together over 8,000 youths from over 90 countries. President Paul Kagame officially opened the forum, saying the summit is in the spirit of bringing together young people irrespective of gender, religion, borders and this means integration and connection.

He said this would expand their context of ‘home’ from their individual countries and regions to the entire continent. President Kagame said: “So to be able to connect people across the world, you should have a starting point. The starting point maybe home, home means home, whether in Rwanda, Mali or Cameroun, or from where you have all come from.”

“That word, connect, starts from home and then you go beyond home. You have initially someone you call a neighbour or a neighbouring country and that too becomes home as well and a neighbour feels like you’ve provided a home to him and that’s how people connect. Connect expands the definition, expands the home, home stops being Rwanda for me, and home becomes Africa for me.” He added

The event saw numerous activities such as panel discussions on different issues, motivational speeches from influential people and exhibitions. The highlight of the final day was a speech by the First Lady of Rwanda Jeannette Kagame, who tipped the youth on the African continent on having the right vision to steer the continent's transformation agenda.

The conference, the largest gathering of African youth, was held under the theme: “Boosting an Industrious Young Africa” with diverse speakers from different backgrounds, from all walks of life.

Former Ivorian veteran footballer Didier Drogba was one of the key speakers at the event. He inspired the young people to go for what they want to pursue in life.

The UNDP Goodwill Ambassador shared his story playing for teams like Chelsea FC, how we was discriminated as an African player and the many challenges he faced in life, saying that it is what made him a great achiever.

Drogba: “My first challenge was my dad who never wanted me to play football and at that time, no one believed that football can be a source of living. Another thing was the several injuries that affected me often at a young age.”

“My other big challenge was the discrimination (in remuneration) that we African footballers abroad used to face in terms of contracts. When I asked the people in charge, they would tell me that the reason was that I played for an African national team while those paid much were playing for European national teams. I took this as a challenge and committed to proving that Africa is the right place to invest.” He added

Three days of ideas

The three-day forum, whose idea was crystalised in Rwanda, saw experts and leaders from different organisations from over 90 countries, pushing for partnerships and collaborations to address the many challenges youth in Africa face.

A Ministerial Committee Meeting took place and Rwanda’s Youth Minister, Rosemary Mbabazi highlighted that member countries left with commitments to youth YouthConnekt as platforms to promote youth development in their respective countries.

For instance, Mauritania, the newest member of YouthConnect Africa, pledged to launch the initiative in their country.

UNDP Resident Representative for Rwanda, Stephen Rodriques, said YouthConnekt was indeed growing “bigger”.

“Nationally, we are going bigger with more partners. A range of new partners have joined, including KOICA, Liquid Telecom, Imbuto Foundation, UNFPA, and so on,” he said in reference to growing support for the national-level YouthConnekt editions as well as the continental version of the summit. “We are also expanding our job creation programme. In the past few years, the programme has generated over 8,300 jobs. We have a target in the next four years, to get to a minimum of 20,000 jobs,” he added. UNDP is among the main sponsors of the annual forum.

The event culminated into a music concert that featured Nigeria’s celebrated artiste Patoranking and Rwanda’s US-based star Meddy, which took at the recently inaugurated Kigali Arena.

Mohamed Orman Bangura, Sierra Leone’s Minister in charge of Youth Affairs: “YouthConnekt is bigger than we think. Bringing the whole of Africa in one setting. As people want to know Africa, we strive to bring the entire Africa together. We can't wait for this to happen magically.”

Four countries – Uganda, Liberia, Ghana and Ethiopia, bid to host the next edition of the YouthConnekt Africa Summit, which is expected to take place on October 9 – 12, 2020.

Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP's Regional Bureau for Africa said: “One of the most important things we are looking to do with YouthConnekt is looking to infect Africa with this movement. We are involved with YouthConnekt because Africa is the continent with the youngest population in the world.”

YouthConnekt Africa (YCA) has emerged as a high-impact solution for African countries to realize the demographic dividend. Launched in Rwanda in 2012 by HE. Paul Kagame, YouthConnekt has been embraced for its innovative design and implementation providing youth with the skills, networks and information needed to scale their initiatives and gain meaningful employment. To date, 12 countries have already launched YouthConnekt and many others are in the process of implementing the model.