Nothing for the youth without the youth!

Gilber Tarus  YPARD Mentee/YAW delegate

How many youth-related conferences have you been to where youth issues are being articulated by an older generation? For me, there have been so many I have lost count.

That’s why being at the Young Africa Works Summit 2017 was a breath of fresh young air.  This Summit was a departure from the norm in four key ways:

The  Youth Delegates

Fifty young people were invited to attend the conference either as speakers, delegates or session panelists and even more were attendees. At a Summit of more than 300 people, young people were well represented in a number of diverse roles.

The Keynote Addresses

Imagine being at an event where keynote addresses are delivered by young people and they introduce their peers.  Now stop dreaming because that was the reality at the Young Africa Works Summit.

Youth co-hosts Laetitia Mukungu, Founder of Africa Rabbit Centre and Rita Kimani, the Co-founder and CEO of FarmDrive introduced the keynote speakers, three young people causing ripples in the agricultural arena in Africa. Meet Jean Bosco Nzeyimana, Founder of Habona Limited, a climate-smart company that transforms household waste into fuel; Pilirani Khoza, Founder and Coordinator of Bunda Female Students Organization (BUFESO) an organization working to empower young women in Agriculture; and Brian Bosire, Founder of UjuziKilimo, a company modernizing farming through the fusion of technology and data.

The Youth Centered Discussions

“Nothing for the youth without the youth” and “Inclusion! Inclusion! Inclusion” were phrases that found their home at the Summit. Young people were not only plenary panelists but participated in the breakout sessions as well.  Francis Arinaitwe, a youth delegate on the Policy in Practice panel made it clear that policymakers need to incorporate youth in the policy process and stop seeing them as beneficiaries. The session sought to explore how policies and legislation can better support youth to become the engines of agricultural transformation.

Additionally, Alesia Ofori, another youth delegate, was one of the panelists during the Breaking Down Gender Barriers breakout session. They explored the various gender barriers that women in agriculture face that create and reinforce inequality.

Finally, Janet Maro, through her own initiative dubbed Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania made a case on how to incorporate climate-smart agricultural practices into youth livelihoods programming during the Building Resilience to Climate Change breakout. The session also explored how youth are uniquely poised to respond to the challenges of climate change.

Youth participated not only on the panels, but often drove the audience discussion as well. Representing a heterogeneous group of young people offering a wide range of skills and experiences in agriculture across twelve African countries, many of the youth delegation travelled for their first time outside of their home country to attend the event.

 But how was this possible? How could so many young people attending an international conference for the first time navigate the Summit with so much ease? How were they able to network, engage and ask compelling questions this easily? Let me take you to the behind the scenes.

The Youth Pre Summit Session; The Icing on the cake

Pamela Yieke, the YAW Pre summit workshop facilitator

On February 15th, the day before the Young Africa Works Summit kicked off, YPARD partnered with The MasterCard Foundation to deliver a one-day pre-Summit workshop. The aim of the workshop was to equip the youth delegates with practical skills relevant to their participation at the Summit. These skills included communication, networking, pitching and live tweeting just to mention a few. They built upon a series of webinars that young people participated in prior to their arrival in Kigali.

In addition, the workshop featured a conference plan called Making the Most of the Summit where youth delegates prepared a conference participation plan detailing their interests at the Summit, identifying individuals they would like to meet and what they hope to achieve by the end.

 To support the continued professional and personal growth of the young delegates, YPARD designed two mentoring programs for the Summit. The Summit Mentoring program matched 14 youth delegates with 14 mentors. Together they set Summit specific goals for networking, critical listening and exchanging ideas. The second mentorship program paired 15 youth delegates with 15 mentors for the remainder of 2017. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with some mentees stating that the pre-Summit workshop helped them to prepare how best to participate in the Summit, while for the mentors, they admitted that the Summit was unlike any other conference they had attended.  One mentor was happy to have the added ‘responsibility’ of helping in the development of a young person. We couldn’t be happier either!

Coming soon:  An exciting five-minute video on the pre-Summit workshop. In the meantime, read through the best of the Summit proceedings on Storify (Day 1 and Day 2) as well as view the Summit photos on The MasterCard Foundation Flickr stream.

Photo credits: Illume for The MasterCard Foundation