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Youth Connekt Africa summit opens in Kigali

Over 2500 delegates are convening in Kigali for the inaugural Youth Connekt Africa summit to look into ways to realise the potential of the continent’s youthful population.

The first day of the meeting yesterday served to create networks among delegates from all over the continent.

With Africa estimated to have the world’s largest youth population, there have been concerns on the need to address issues such as skills development, entrepreneurship, access to finance and employment.

This, experts say, will ensure that the continent’s youthful demographic becomes an advantage as opposed to a challenge.

The United Nations estimates that there are over 226 million people aged between 15-24 on the continent, making Africa the most youthful continent.

However, this has come with challenges, such as high unemployment rates currently estimated at about 60 per cent.

“Lack of employment opportunities, low levels of education and skills combined with limited access to sexual and reproductive health services, have resulted in a generation of young people with limited association to the formal job market,” organisers said.

The delegates’ profiles are diverse and include top executives from multinational companies that operate in Africa, leaders of civil society organisations, Africa’s development partners, members of the academia, successful entrepreneurs, artists and youth opinion leaders from across the continent.

During panel and side sessions, the delegates will seek solutions to review policies, and establish programmes, among other things.

The panelists include Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, African Development Bank chief Adesina Akinwumi, US singer and businessman Akon, former AfDB president Dr Donald Kaberuka, and billionaire Tonny Elumelu.

The summit will also see the launch of the YouthConnekt Africa Empowerment Fund, an initiative that seeks to empower young people to have an impact in their communities.

The fund will be supported by private sector, donors, national governments, foundations and civil society organisations.

It’s expected to offer regional support to youth empowerment initiatives such as grants, financing and training to youth-led projects, investment in creation of innovative and highly scalable start-ups, among others.

The summit’s concept was born from an initiative launched in 2012 by the Government of Rwanda in collaboration with One UN Rwanda.

The concept came up as a solution to address concerns of Rwandan youth.

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