World Youth Alliance Africa hosted the sixth Africa Emerging Leaders Conference at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya from 11th to 13th of November 2015 with the theme Empowering Youth to shape Africa’s Future. The event brought together over 165 young leaders from thirteen African countries; Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The conference brought several policy makers, experts, international lobbyists and leaders who tackled and addressed issues and initiatives pertinent to the youth in Africa today which provided an eye opening and enriching experience for the delegates.
The three day conference was opened by the Regional Director, Hannah Moturi, who also later introduced WYA. The first speaker of the day Dr. Wahome Ngare, gave a keen and vivid presentation Health and Education: Setting the Right Priorities for Africa. He outlined seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as set out by the United Nations to be achieved by 2030, with a particular emphasis on targets for good health and quality education. He reiterated that in Africa, this can be achieved by centralizing the values of human dignity and protecting the environment for future generations.
Dr. Luis Franceschi, Dean at Strathmore Law School, offered the Keynote Address under the theme Leadership in Motion: the Art of Becoming Original Thinkers. He emphasized the need for leaders to conquer themselves before they seek to conquer the world, to subdue the passions and conquer the greatest empire that is within them. He suggested the need for men and women of character, to stay clear of manipulation.
Mrs. Caroline Maingi later gave a presentation on The Idea of Human Dignity in Everyday Life. Her presentation demystified the abstract nature of human dignity and made it more relatable by illustrating its application in daily life. She expounded on the role of human dignity in conscience formation, reflection, judgement and action. She also explained the various ways in which dignity is violated and emphasized that the vulnerable, less privileged members of society also have dignity and hence should be treated as such.
Mr. Julian Kyula, CEO of Mobile Decisioning gave a talk on Harnessing One’s Full Potential. He touched on things that every entrepreneur should be aware of: understanding their role in a business as well as their comfort zone and frustrations; keeping their eyes on the ball and fighting procrastination; having thorough knowledge. He suggested that growth was a process and not an overnight achievement.
Dr. Lucy Njogu then presented on Empowering the African Woman: A Case of Health, Education & Enterprise Development. She suggested that health, education and enterprise development were interrelated. Education and fertility involved the availability of information related to fertility. In order to educate the public, we needed to consider: (a) The level of information; (b) Access to information; (c) Understanding of the information; and (d) The timing of information.
Day Two was flanked with panel sessions, starting with Improving the Africa Leadership and Governance Narrative. Ambassador Yvonne Khamati, the Deputy Head of Mission at Kenya Embassy, Somalia, explained that for there to be change there is need for more young people to be trained. The youth themselves could shape the governance narrative. This required the youth to analyse whether they have contributed to insecurity and declining of the state of their countries. She concluded by saying that the youth have a right to vote and participate in governance. Africa is growing and the youth have a vital role to play in helping Africa rise. Thus, there is need for the youth to be involved in leadership.
Chambers Umezulike further expounded that Africa has resources but there is underutilization, explaining that the reason we have challenges in Africa is because of poor leadership. Issues such as nepotism, lack of vision and limited development policies has caused underdevelopment. Where leadership is concerned, there are rigging leaders who want to stay longer in power which causes implementation problems as African dictators have not supported development. He concluded by saying that the youth and embracing pan Africanism will change the wave of leadership in Africa.
The second panel composed of Moturi Philip, Carl Kachale, and Judy Chege looked at Bridging the gap of Education and Industry. These spoke of simple skills such as expressing one self, time keeping, and teamwork as vital for the work place. They explained that there is a need for schools to shift from a results-oriented focus, as a possible means to remedy unemployment. A challenge exists because the economy cannot accommodate the number of persons graduating. They suggested that employers were seeking creativity and originality in potential employees.
The third session of the day looked at the issue of Voluntarism, Service and Mentorship. Dr. Tapiwa Kamuruko, Mercy Wanjiru, Christine Chacha and Mr. Gekonge gave heart-warming presentations on the importance of youth volunteers, and their role in development of the society as a whole. Mercy, a volunteer with VSO and third year law student also gave a very inspiring speech on the importance of community service. She underscored the need for volunteers to work with a clean and humble spirit while being willing to do the dirty jobs. Dr. Tapiwa, who heads the UNV Program, ended by quoting Mahatma Gandhi as “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
A session on Justice, Peace and Equality as a Prerequisite for Development followed, which was graced by Daniel Juma of Global Peace Foundation Kenya, and Mr. Samuel Kimeu of Transparency International Kenya. They laid emphasis on the need for the existence of justice, peace and equality for Africa to achieve proper development. Juma, Kenya spoke about the nexus between peace and development in Kenya and how the youth may either be used for destruction or as a valuable resource for sustainable development. Emphasis was laid on the relevance and quality of education in order to foster peace, stability, economic growth and integrity. Collaboration among NGOs, African governments, private entities and communities were vital in order to ensure involvement at all levels. Collaboration also eased the pressure at any one level due to shared efforts. Justice and equality were central to development. Importantly, it was suggested that if serious progress is ever going to be achieved in overcoming extreme poverty in Africa, the poor must enjoy the rule of law and functioning institutions of justice.
A panel session on Entrepreneurship in Africa and African Start-up Narratives started the day with Pascalia Kitusa, Dr. Raul Figueroa, Olivia Otieno, Leonida Mutuku, and Kevin Tuitoek. This panel gave an introduction to the various start-ups of which they have been a part of; from lending schemes to tech systems. Listening to the stories of this panel was rich and inspiring.
This was followed with a panel session on Youth and Social Entrepreneurship with Dr. Vincent Ogutu, Perrin Clark, Caren Wakoli. It was explained that a social entrepreneur is someone who comes up with an innovative solution to a problem in a community. Mr. Perrin Clark, the founder and CEO of The Dev School, the first East Africa coding school, defined an entrepreneur as one who possesses a special innate ability to sense and act on an opportunity. The challenge for entrepreneurs is creating a new solution that improves the quality of life of Africans, cultural apathy and creating sustainable change for future generations. Caren Wakoli, the founder and CEO Emerging Leaders Foundation, which mentors young women and men suggested ways to succeed as an entrepreneur: knowing and believing oneself; having a dream and taking action; letting go of fear and embracing failure; believing in others; and leaving a legacy.
Thereafter, selected fifteen delegates presented various initiatives, projects and undertakings they were involved in.
The final session of the day touched briefly on Authentic Sustainable Development, by Geaorge Waigi of the International Labour Organization. He affirmed the opportunity for development with the the SDGs, and suggested them as a very inclusive development framework, not without. ILO aimed at achieving higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation to boost employment.
All the speakers successfully tackled and engaged issues of health, education, empowerment, leadership and entrepreneurship. Delegates made friendships, which will be continued on varied social media platforms.
We would like to sincerely thank our partners; Strathmore Law School, The Dev School and the Emerging Leaders Foundation; all our speakers, volunteers, interns, team from WYA Africa, for their commitment towards making this conference successful. We thank Charlene Migadde and Ritho Andrew Mwangi for gracing the conference as our lovely masters of ceremony. We uniquely thank all delegates and their sponsors for making it possible to come together and understand how we all can shape Africa’s future. We look forward to seeing you next year.