Empowering youth by employment – UNDP scaling up YouthConnekt programme in Africa

Nov 30, 2016

Honourable Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana told during the meeting that he would want to see YouthConnekt to grow into a global network.

In 2013, Rwanda launched YouthConnekt, a youth empowerment initiative. Since then, more than 13,000 young people in the country have participated in YouthConnekt debates where they have learned about work opportunities and entrepreneurship. Nearly 4,000 young Rwandans have found work through the programme.

How can that success be repeated elsewhere in Africa? That was the question that over 70 government officials and civil society youth representatives met to discuss in Kigali, Rwanda 27–29 September 2016. The Regional YouthConnekt planning event convened people from 14 African countries to learn how the programme could be incorporated into their national youth programmes.

After the success of the programme in Rwanda, UNDP Africa teamed up with the UNDP Global Innovation Facility, supported by the Government of Denmark, to scale up the programme to other African countries. The UNDP Innovation Facility helps UNDP and its partners to explore new approaches to complex development challenges.

The participating countries will launch their national YouthConnekt initiatives with support from UNDP Africa. UNDP Africa is also helping to build partnerships with the private sector, civil society, national Government and in conjunction with the African Union (AU).

"YouthConnekt programme has been fruitful in terms of connecting young people with peers and their role models, skills development, access to finance and entrepreneurship," said the Honourable Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the Rwandan Minister for Youth and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

Initiated by UNDP and the Ministry of Youth and ICT together with One UN Rwanda, YouthConnekt trains young people about entrepreneurship, youth development, and access to jobs and finance. The programme gives youth a way to contact directly leaders in government and business through social media.

YouthConnekt has arranged boot camps coaching 360 young innovators. Within three years, the boot camps have created about 1,000 permanent jobs and 2,700 temporarily jobs for young people.

Also, five ICT competitions were arranged to encourage young people, particularly women, to show their skills in ICT, boosting the ICT and mobile app environment in Rwanda. Around 300 girls have been participating in the competitions which have resulted in training 100 young people and creating 25 start-ups.

Encouraging youth to participate in decision-making

As youth account for 60 per cent of all African unemployed according to the World Bank, there is a substantial need for creating youth employment initiatives and encouraging young people to participate in innovation and decision-making in their own countries. When young people can’t participate in the decisions affecting their lives, they are more likely to turn to crime and violent extremism.

The planning event provided an opportunity for the participants to discuss whether and how YouthConnekt could be implemented in youth programmes in their own countries. Participating countries included Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Lesotho, Liberia, Republic of the Congo, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

During the event, participants briefly presented in front of the UN Rwanda resident coordinator, Lamin M. Manneh and the Rwandan Minister of Youth & ICT, Honourable Jean Philbert Nsengimana their plan for YouthConnekt program in their respective countries. After a live vote from the audience, the winning teams from Liberia, Republic of the Congo, São Tomé and Príncipe, Uganda and Zimbabwe were awarded seed funding to organise their own YouthConnekt event in preparation for a launch.

Aligned with the new UNDP Youth Strategy and the recently approved Global Programme on Youth Empowerment, the YouthConnekt programme provides an Africa-specific approach to youth engagement. It also contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals. The programme took the top prize at the 2013 RBA innovation knowledge fair and has been widely recognised as a successful and path-breaking initiative.

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