By Elie Mutangana, Kigali
Just recently, instances aimed to underscore youth energies and allowing viewers to get a glimpse of initiatives for leveling up African youth development took place in Rwanda’s capital Kigali.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame along with other speakers appeared in the striking events to disclose game-changing tips to youths who are gearing up for transformation of the African community. Obviously, African youths crave for reshaping the continent and are striving for better endeavors.
In the 20th anniversary of the Giants of Africa Festival (GoA) celebrated in Kigali, over 250 youth participants from 16 African countries were in attendance. They shared experiences, even as the event ignited youth dreams and fostered connection, togetherness and learning from each other’s singularities.
It was really thrilling to see African youths together, sharing experiences and exhibiting their respective cultures. With the help of African music Giants, different performers, sports and many more, African youths demonstrated excitement and pride while they connected together.
Nigeria’s Masai Ujiri’s Passion To See Youths Fly
But beyond the celebrations, inspirational speeches such as the one delivered by Masai Ujiri, evoked the realization that Africa can be where it ought to be.
Masai Ujiri, is a Nigerian- born Basketball executive who owns the Toronto Raptors Basketball team and co-founder of the Giants of Africa Festival.
Ujiri explained that Africans themselves, especially youths, should love the continent and strive for its transformation instead of depending on external pitying supports.
A man like Ujiri sees the youths as the future of the continent. He teaches that everything that is done over other continents can possibly be done in Africa.
Notably, as a pan-Africanist, Ujiri pledges to contribute to African growth through several activities he plans to initiate on the continent. As a result, he firstly partnered with the Government of Rwanda to build a recreational hub in Kigali for nurturing African talents and promoting healthy lifestyle that is believed to be the catalyst for development transformation.
It was a response to complaints from youths that absence of sports and internment facilities can attribute youths to involve in damaging lifestyles.
Named “Zaria Court Kigali”, the sport and entertainment hub by Ujiri in Kigali is expected to create jobs for youths and help with talent elevation. The founder’s mission is to overstretch the facilities in many others African countries for reach out to a large demand.
“It creates an incredible environment. So I will say that we have to look at ourselves bigger and well come ourselves more. We have to believe in each other more than fighting each other. The Africa’s precious jewel is its people,” said Ujiri.
Rwanda’s President Kagame also underscored that the feeling of Africa as home for every one can fuel what is intended to be achieved by the continent’s agendas. He always emphasizes that nobody would build Africa except Africans do it themselves with the spirit of oneness.
“I was born in Rwanda, raised in Uganda. My wife was born in Rwanda raised in Burundi, then we met for date in Kenya and now we are in Rwanda. It means not only Rwanda is our home but also other African countries are our home,” Kagame said to youths during the GoA Festival.
Also on August 23, YouthConnekt celebrated its 10th anniversary in Kigali. YouthConnekt is now a continental movement with presence in over 30 African countries.
The purpose of the initiative is to facilitate interactions, nurturing talents and connecting to opportunities, as well as building a more diverse inclusive community.
Resulting in a robust wake of young transformers, the initiative has triggered the creation of more than 36,000 direct jobs, nurtured 24,000 policy advocates, and 4 million community activists in Rwanda.
Over the past ten years, the program has invested Rwf 2.5 billion in over 2000 youth-lead businesses, contributing $4.8 billion to the Rwandan economy in return.
With unwavering support from the United Nations Development Program, the initiative has supported several youth-lead projects around Rwanda and across Africa.
During the event, Kagame stressed that youths should get education, as the pivotal factor for achieving African potentials. Governments and their stakeholders in fostering education should allocate more efforts to make sure that youths are equipped with enabling skills at job landscape, he said.
“Youth should get educated so that they can address the outstanding issues on the continent. For example, we should ask ourselves why Africa lags behind in many development agendas while we have everything on the continent. Each one has to ask himself his contribution towards the solutions,” Kagame said.
According to Varsha Redkar-palepu, Deputy Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Program, more efforts need to be allocated to make sure that youths from across the continent access the resources and opportunities to practice their expertise.
“UNDP would continue to co-chair and partner with governments to unleash youth’s dreams and making aspiration realities. The African Union declared that YouthConnekt initiative accelerates the implementation of the African Union charter,” she said.
Lingering Issues Affecting Youths In Africa
African youths are still encountering challenges throughout their transformation journey. Given that some constraints are not outspoken, youths’ potentials remain untapped, thus failing to disrupt changes in the living communities.
Rosaline, Nyirahategekima, a young female agripreneur, and founder of ‘Work Rosaline’ juice manufacturing plant, disclosed that youths in the business ecosystem typically encounter challenges of access to capital for start-ups.
Eventually, due to lack of assets for collaterals, financial institutions tend to hesitate to provide loans to them, prompting them to discard their projects. She adds that in case, one succeeds to start a business, getting markets for their products or satisfying the demands constrain many from moving forward.
“There is a case that you produce more, but reaching consumers across the country or beyond, become limiting. Secondly, you can have the market, but due to low the production volume resulting from limited low materials supply and poor machinery, the starter can dissatisfy the available market”.
According to the experts in African economy, as Africa entered for Africa AfCFTA dockets, governments should explore and help to exhibit all products manufactured across the continent – especially by young entrepreneurs – to empower them, as well as getting all commodities manufactured on the continent to the market for consumption.
On nurturing sports and entertainment landscape, youths lamented that accessing facilities is still limiting young people from reaching their dreams. “Getting playgrounds, kits and coaches is still a headache to youths in pursuing their carriers,” said a Basketball player during the YouthConnekt ceremony.
Moreover, as the world is penetrating the Artificial Intelligence (AI) movement, Africa ranks behind in distributing infrastructure for AI adoption.
“Africans have not yet connected to Artificial Intelligence to a good extent. Mostly, given that AI is still operating in foreign languages like English, it is still a limitation to people who does not understand the language. We request the governments to designate investments in creating African-made AI technologies to help Africans exploit its advantages,” said Audace Niyonkuru, an AI developer.
Furthermore, youths with disability in Africa also have limitations to retaining various opportunities. They are steadily being undervalued in their living communities. Youths with disabilities are frequently not considered potential members of the workplace. Perceptions, fear, stigma and myths continue to limit understanding and acceptance of disability in workplaces.
“For us youths with speaking and hearing impairment, particularly we encounter challenges of reaching out to information after graduating. It is also an issue to express ourselves and be heard due to the fact that our sign language is not popularly known,” said Ezechiel Nziyonsenga, a youth with hearing and speaking impairment.
Untapped Youths Likely To Engage In Social Vices
The UNDP warns that the high rate of youth unemployment in Africa can trigger the increase of extremist groups.
Although the UNDP is leading the calls to address discrimination, inequality and injustice that undermine and constrain youths from reaching the aspirations, it underscored that unemployment surge among youths has actually been more, compared to the adults.
The increase in unemployment is expected to even exceed the unemployment rates of the aftermath of the 2007-2008 global economic crisis. High unemployment rates among the youths in Africa is additionally counting its other significant effects – for instance undermining gender equality and shocking spike in gender-based violence across the continent.
According to the UNDP, the situation is raising concerns over the increasing engagement of youths in extremism act in several African countries. It explored how young people who lack opportunities and feel let down by institutions or governments can be persuaded to join violent extremist groups.
In a Flagship UNDP study, ‘Journey to Extremism’, the striking finding reported that an overwhelming 71 percent of extremist youth who were surveyed, cited the appearance of some unfair arrests of youths by local enforcement and security officers as the immediate cause that pushed them to join violent extremist movements.
Moreover, it added that 80 percent of youth extremists were convinced by recruiters just a few months after the first contact.
According to an AfDB report, in nearly 420 youths aged 15-35, one-third are unemployed and discouraged, another third are vulnerably employed, and only one in six is in wage employment.
While 10 to 12 million youth join the workforce every year, only 3.1 jobs are created, leaving a huge numbers of youth unemployed.
Above all, youths unemployment accounts for failure to capitalize on of the continent’s greatest assets for growth which its large population of young talented people.