Representatives of Fourteen African countries met in Rwanda from 27th to 29th September 2016 to discuss the best practices of Rwanda’s YouthConnekt initiative and how it can be applied in their respective countries and on the continent. The three day Regional YouthConnekt was co-organised by the Rwanda Ministry of Youth and ICT and UNDP with the aim of sharing Rwanda’s experience and supporting the development of YouthConnekt initiative in those African countries.
YouthConnekt is a successful multi-faceted programme seeking to empower young people and connect them with opportunities in the public and private sectors and civil society. The programme engages youth in national dialogue, and works with them to find or create their own employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. It has a strong gender and technology focus.
Speaking at the opening of the Regional YouthConnekt workshop, the Minister for Youth and ICT, Honourable Jean Philbert Nsengimana, thanked all participants for showing their interest in the YouthConnekt initiative and for coming to learn from Rwanda’s experience.
“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,” Minister Nsengimana said.
Minister Nsengimana further said that YouthConnekt has been a platform to bring youth together to connect, empower and educate themselves, among other things, and that his dream is to have it grow into a global network.
Also speaking at the event, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Lamin Manneh noted that on average young people make up more than 50% of the population of most African countries and sadly they are too often prevented from fulfilling their potential as the change agents and social entrepreneurs we need. He further noted that to get out of this gloomy situation, there must be a realisation that young people now and in the future can play a big role in development if they are provided a supportive environment and opportunities.
“With the strong leadership of HE Paul Kagame, in Rwanda, this realisation was transformed into an opportunity. The Ministry of Youth and ICT in Partnership with One UN Rwanda embarked on a mission to not only connect its youthful population to domestic and regional socio-economic opportunities, but to create a platform that will serve as an easy but impactful channel for the government to work with CSOs, entrepreneurs and the private sector in tackling the issue of youth unemployment and exclusion,” Mr. Manneh said.
To conclude his remarks, Mr. Manneh reaffirmed that scaling up the YouthConnekt initiative will also contribute to strong and successful implementation of SDGs in Rwanda.
Ernest Amoako, who participated in the workshop from Ghana said that as a Director of National Youth Authority he is going back with good ideas learned from Rwanda’s experience which he believes if added on their other existing youth programmes can have a good impact.
"It is a good experience being here in Kigali this time especially attending the Youth Connekt workshop. I am going home with good stories from the workshop. I believe that the best practices we’ve heard from Rwandan Youth Connekt will have a good impact on the lives of Ghanaians if it is implemented as well in Ghana. Although we have other youth programmes, the Rwandan experience would enhance the youth programmes we have in Ghana,” he said.
Countries that were represented at the workshop were Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Lesotho, Sao Tome, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Liberia and Uganda.
Since its launch in May 2013, YouthConnekt programme has been fruitful in terms of connecting young people with peers and role models, skills development, access to finance and entrepreneurship.
More than 20 YouthConnekt debate known as Hangouts have been organised raising awareness among more than 13,000 youth on different issues such as employment, entrepreneurship, ICT among others. 46 TV shows were produced and broadcasted on both Rwanda national television and radio raising awareness among more than 1 million young men and women on the importance of technical and vocational training, ICT skills and attitudes to boost youth entrepreneurship and job creation.
Four YouthConnekt boot camps were organised to coach 360 young innovators selected from the 30 districts of the country, awarding a total of 120 innovators. Within only 3 years, the YouthConnekt boot camp has resulted in the creation of about 1000 permanent jobs and 2700 temporary jobs.
Four YouthConnekt conventions have been organised gathering 12,000 youth around the national dialogue platform discussing youth related issues with opportunities to contribute to national policies.
Five ICT competitions were organised aimed at boosting the ICT and mobile application environment in Rwanda including the MsGeek competition, encouraging women to showcase their skills in ICT and a mobile app competition to improve public service delivery provided by the Government of Rwanda. All these competitions resulted in the training of 100 youth and the creation of 25 startups. More than 4 million youths have participated in 3 YouthConnekt months organized to engage them to actively participate in the country’s development.
In 2013, YouthConnekt Rwanda Initiative won the UN Innovation Award.