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  • A New Dawn For Africa: Imbuto Foundation’s YouthConnekt Africa Summit 2021 Message A New Dawn For Africa: Imbuto Foundation’s YouthConnekt Africa Summit 2021 Message

    A New Dawn For Africa: Imbuto Foundation’s YouthConnekt Africa Summit 2021 Message

    The 2021 YouthConnekt Summit, which took place in Accra from 20th to 22nd of October, was themed under “Africa Beyond Aid: Positioning the Youth for the Post COVID Economy and AfCTA Opportunities”. This theme is particularly compelling in a landscape shaped by a year-and-a-half-long global health crisis and months of lockdown, but also a global re-centering of Africa as a potential-rife continent.

    The African youth is destined to be highly influential to the future of our modern civilization in many ways. For one, it is the fastest growing demographic across the world. Secondly, it originates from the continent that houses some of the most valuable natural resources, which are expected to gain in demand with population growth and industrial development. And thirdly, its creative potential has only just begun to gain recognition on the global stage, and it is positioning itself to attest to the extent of its uncovered talent and skill. If the future is African, it is imperative that young Africans turn to each other for strategies on securing a promising fate for themselves, and their continent.

    South To South Solutions: The Only Viable African Future

    YouthConnekt is an initiative that aims to nurture the African youth by dissecting the challenges it is currently facing, and devising innovative, Africa-centered solutions to any obstacles to its self-development. YouthConnekt was born in Rwanda in 2012, under the leadership of H.E President Paul Kagame, who expressed the necessity of African youth uniting to seize the opportunities for success the richness of our continent offers. This message has been consistent throughout the years that have seen YouthConnekt garner the membership of 24 countries, which have all implemented its model.

    Addressing a crowd of 8000 youths at the 2019 YouthConnekt Africa Summit, H.E Paul Kagame stated: “There is your role to play because you must make an effort to tap into what is available for you to grow yourself; opportunity does not come knocking at your door, but people need to go knocking on opportunity’s door.”

    As a result of its unique demographic structure, heavy colonial history, economic struggles and foreign-drawn borders, Africa faces a particular set of barriers to the development its natural and human resources should entitle it to. Many of these barriers are political. They often result from foreign policies, laws and even loan agreements drafted years, sometimes decades, before the birth of our current youth. And yet, it is this demographic that is tasked with carrying our continent into development. This is where a platform designed by Panafrican forward-thinking leadership, such as YouthConnekt, comes in: it allows thousands of young Africans, in a Rwanda-led project, to connect under one roof, exchanging knowledge on their respective countries’ efforts to improve their population’s welfare.

    A Long Time Coming for YouthConnekt 2021

    It is the first time that a YouthConnekt Summit occurred outside of Rwanda, which has been endorsed by the Executive Committee of the African Union to host the YouthConnekt Hub. This move was likely intended at widening the reach of the project, so it is important to examine the messages that were shared during this first-time outside gathering, particularly by our Rwandan delegation.

    The Rwandan delegation was led by Honorable Rosemary Mbabazi, Minister of Youth & Culture, and featured representatives of Imbuto Foundation from different programmes and departments. The Rwandan First Lady’s foundation has, over its 20 years of life, designed solutions targeted at offering Rwandans from all backgrounds access to healthy and dignified living.

    What initially started as a project catering to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that spread across a Rwanda marked by the wounds of genocide and conflict, bloomed into a holistic model catering to all the features of a healthy society. One such feature, which has been advocated determinedly by H.E The First Lady, is the creation and protection of safe spaces for dialogue on sensitive issues affecting our communities.

    YouthConnekt offers an incredible stage to advance this agenda. Having opened with a conversation on identity dialogue, then introduced the importance of cultivating an Africa-centered development strategy consistent with Vision 2050 and Agenda 2063, and placed a focus, particularly in this last Summit, on mental health awareness in an African landscape, YouthConnekt’s missions very much align with the Imbuto vision.

    The unique feature of Her Excellency Jeannette Kagame’s Foundation is that it rejects static, traditional methods of dealing with education, health and other developmental challenges in Global South Countries. Take the iAccelerator Programme, for example. The Project Officer on this initiative, Orietta Agasaro, described this project as a means of empowering “young social entrepreneurs seeking to better their communities”. The programme focuses on Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health, the social inclusion of people with disabilities, and the protection of mental health. One of its projects, which provides funding to the most innovative proposed “impact-driven solutions to respond to challenges related to Sexual and Reproductive Health”, celebrates and invests in Rwandan youth considering social challenges with dynamic thinking, and a creative eye.

    The iAccelerator Programme isn’t the only emphasis the Imbuto Foundation is placing on nurturing creativity. Bill Nyirimihigo, the Project Officer for ArtRwanda-Ubuhanzi, an initiative known across the country for the support it has provided artists in several fields of creation, spoke to his YouthConnekt panel about the African Arts Scene’s status as a driver of development in the Global South. Nyirimihigo stated that in Arts as much as in any other industry, it is crucial that we learn to consume local, in order to contribute to our country and continent’s economic development.

    Clarity For Our New Dawn

    The modern youth, through its curiosity and interest in empathetic health practices, has fought to defend the importance of mental health awareness, particularly in societies that, while battling mental illness stigma, have known communal trauma. Imbuto Deputy Director General Geraldine Umutesi encouraged the young people present at the YouthConnekt2021 event to prioritise their mental health, as they personify the “New Dawn Of Africa”. She mentioned the necessity for this youth to have “Clear minds, clear hearts, and clear brains”, in order to drive the change they deserve for themselves.

    The Imbuto Foundation’s presence at the YouthConnektAfrica 2021 set the tone for its strategy for the future: engaging communities on all fronts to equip them with the resources to transmit and apply acquired knowledge independently. At the YouthConnekt event, Imbuto hinted at the importance of self-dependence in solutions-devising. Therefore, it should be expected that the model the Foundation is looking to export nationwide is one that centers and empowers the Rwandan citizen beyond care services and trainings. This model aims to empower the vulnerable Rwandan at the core; attesting to their entitlement to a healthy, educated, fulfilling and promising life, and fueling their desire to in turn strive to offer the same to their community.

    YouthConnekt Africa 2021 was a fantastic platform for the Imbuto Foundation to showcase its clearcut strategy for the future. The Foundation being roughly the same age as the majority of the youth present at the event, and, like said youth, looking to have a long and fruitful life ahead, it feels logical that it chose such a stage to expound on its vision for the years beyond our 20th anniversary. Imbuto’s journey is one of hope, and witnessing the sharing of this mix of optimism and ambition with African youth is as ever an incredible experience. Moving towards the self-sustaining, developed and opportunity-filled landscape we all desire may be no easy task, but if anyone can - #YOUthCanDoIt.