By Sylvia Sefakor, UNDP Economics Analyst
“The future of humanity and of our planet lies in our hands. It lies also in the hands of today's younger generation who will pass the torch to future generations.” (Agenda 2030, paragraph 53). A recent experience from attending the Regional YouthConnekt Planning Event in Rwanda left me so impressed. Noteworthy is the spelling of connect with K and T at the end. K represents Knowledge and T, Technology.
YouthConnekt was initiated in 2012 by the Ministry of Youth and ICT in partnership with One UN Rwanda and other partners, to empower young people and connect them to the public, private sector and the civil society for economic opportunities. Aligned with the UNDP Youth Strategy and the Global Programme on Youth Empowerment, YouthConnekt provides an African context-specific approach to what works in addressing issues of youth unemployment and inclusion in socio-economic and political processes.
The initiative is made of 7 different but interconnected components.
1. YouthConnekt Hang Out is a Bi-monthly program which leverages ICT to connect the youth with their peers, leaders, experts and role models via media networks. A platform to INSPIRE and connect Youth to opportunities by sharing their dreams and challenges with government, developing partners, Private Sector and Civil society.
2. YouthConnekt Dialogue provides a platform for young people to address the issue of restoration of their identity and enhance unity and reconciliation that will free their hearts and minds and restore truth and trust given their history.
3. YouthConnekt Convention is an annual platform for the youth to showcase their potential for nation building. During the convention, there are exhibitions by youth companies as well as panel discussions on government programs. The YouthConnekt Convention is connected via internet with the National Dialogue for the voices of the youth to be heard.
4. YouthConnekt Champions celebrates young Rwandan achievers. An initiative by the first lady and her Imbuto (Seed) Foundation invites applications from the youth for an in-depth vetting, voting and shortlisting. This biennial Awards is currently one of the most prestigious awards in the country recognizing exemplary youth, leaving a real impact in their communities.
5. YouthConnekt Boot Camp and Award is a 2-day event aimed at encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship amongst the youth. Three best innovators from all 30 districts (90 innovators) are trained in development of business and are given opportunity to pitch their projects. The 30 innovators are awarded (500,000Rwf) with the best 3 being awarded (3, 2 and 1 million RwF respectively).
6. YouthConnekt Month & Holiday Programme targets youth in and outside school. It takes place during vacations at the district level. The youth are mobilized to conduct patriotic and voluntary activities. They construct bridges, schools, sport grounds etc.
7. YouthConnekt Mentorship connects the youth to role models, resources, skills and economic opportunities.
All these function in a broader business friendly environment. Support systems include: Business registrations online within a day, Start-ups for young business is interest free, Provision of ICT infrastructure and Provision of youth friendly and very resourceful youth centers. YouthConnekt is a holistic and integrated approach to youth engagement and empowerment. It is a catalyst for spiking innovation and motivation to serve and develop the country. It is simple but holds the potential to visibly transform the lives of the youth and the economy of the county. YouthConnekt is a model for youth engagement worth emulating.
This blog has been originally published on 23 January 2017.