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Uganda Launches the YouthConnekt Initiative

By Doreen Kansiime, UN Development Programme (UNDP)

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Uganda in partnership with the country’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development have launched YouthConnekt, a platform aimed at enabling youth to be part of developing solutions to address issues of youth unemployment and inclusion in economic and political processes.

The programme which was started in Rwanda as a platform for bringing young people together and linking them to the public, private and civil society sectors is also a catalyst for partnerships that tap into young peoples’ potential to lead development. Speaking at the launch of the event, Mr. Pius Bigirimana Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development said that Uganda’s problem is not the number of the youth per se, but what proportion of youth are actively engaged economically. He added that the youth in Uganda continue to share a disproportionate burden of poverty, unemployment and diseases, partially as a result of limited opportunities to obtain practical skills and severe challenges in attaining viable employment.

“The concept of YouthConnekt is therefore timely to enhance connectivity of existing youth innovations and building partnerships among all stakeholders in youth development. YouthConnekt should enable us adopt practices and approaches that work well within our legal frameworks, “Mr. Bigirimana said.

YouthConnekt Uganda is aimed at connecting youth to their role models, peers, resources, skills, economic opportunities. The YouthConnekt Uganda Initiative will scale up existing innovative initiatives in the country. Some of these initiatives include the Youth Livelihood Program (YLP), Youth Venture Capital Fund (YEVCF), Skilling Uganda, Green Jobs and Fair Labour Markets, Youth Entrepreneurship Facility, Pakasa and Young Achievers’ Awards among others, all of which were designed to address youth unemployment.

The United Nations System in Uganda has also promoted initiatives that encourage youth Innovation such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s Youth to Youth fund model which allows youth in Uganda to come up with up with innovative ideas and the UNDP led Adjumani design challenge which engaged youth from both refugee and host communities in Adjumani district to turn their challenges into opportunities using Human centred design. The innovative approach enabled the young people to work together to identify pragmatic solutions for existing problems.

“Our hope is that YouthConnekt will give youth space to create novel innovations that will enable them to contribute to reducing the youth unemployment challenge in the country today, Ms. Rosa Malango, the UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator said while opening the event. She added that UNDP has also partnered with Outbox, a youth innovation hub to develop an online youth innovators platform that will allow youth to share their innovative ideas as well as link them to role models and funding institutions which can help them develop their ideas further.

“At this time last week, the world came to Uganda for the first time ever for the Uganda Solidarity Summit on Refugees – which re-positioned Uganda as a place of innovations that respond to development and humanitarian issues. We therefore need to think about how Uganda can influence Africa’s emerging development approach through initiatives such as YouthConnekt,” Ms. Malango said. She also called on youth to use this platform to discuss what kind of solutions they can come up with to address the contemporary issues affecting the country such climate change, environment degradation and refugees among others.
Mr. Njoya Tikum, A Policy and Programme Advisor, at UNDP’s Regional Service Centre agreeing her called on the youth to innovate around the various development challenges that Uganda and Africa face and not just within the ICT sector. He also encouraged them to look out for partnerships that would enable them to promote their innovations. The UNDP and the entire UN family is great at supporting young innovators make this connection with the right partners,” Mr. Tikum said.

Uganda’s YouthConnekt will focus on three out of five components that make up the programme. These include the boot camp for innovators, a hangout to connect the youth to available opportunities and finally a champions’ event to those who excel in the boot camp but also recognise inspirational and innovative youth for their creativity and innovations as well as their ability to create employment and engage their fellow youth. In July 2017, the YouthConnekt initiative was launched as an Africa initiative in Rwanda during an event attended by Heads of State and Youth Ministers Summit from all over Africa. Uganda’s roadmap for the initiative was well received by participants.

UN Agencies in Uganda