Delegation Represents South Sudan at #YouthConnekt Africa to Advocate for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Aug 1, 2017

South Sudan delegates at the YouthConnekt Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, from left to right: Ms. Mary Akech Milla, the Director General for Private Sector Development at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ms. Animu Risasi Amitai, Office of the First Vice President, Ms. Yeni Yenki , Co-founder of GoGirls ICT Initiative, UNDP Programme Analyst for the Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development project Mr. David Deng Maker, and entrepreneur Ms. Martha Bartholomew. Photo: UNDP

A delegation representing South Sudan travelled to Kigali, Rwanda in July to represent their countrymen and share their unique experiences in technology, entrepreneurship, skills development and public service at the inaugural #YouthConnekt Africa Summit.

Co-founder of GoGirls ICT Initiative Ms. Yeni Yenki and entrepreneur Ms. Martha Bartholomew, were on hand to share their experience in youth-led business and innovation activities. Two delegates represented government offices looking to improve access to opportunities for young people, and included Ms. Mary Akech Milla, the Director General for Private Sector Development at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and Ms. Animu Risasi Amitai, from the Office of the First Vice President. The delegates were supported by UNDP.

“This summit brought together 2,500 people from all different geographical areas who share common goals. I realized it would be an opportunity for me to expand my knowledge, learn about solutions to relevant problems in my community, present my ideas and work to others and expand my knowledge beyond my field of interest,” said Ms. Yenki.

One highlight of the summit for Ms. Yenki was the opportunity to interact with other leaders and experts making change in their countries, including Ms. Gwendolyn S. Myers, Founder and Executive Director of Messengers of Peace in Liberia, and Ms. Rachel Sibande, Chief Executive Officer of mHub, Malawi’s first technology hub, among others.

“The sessions were very relevant to the overall situation in South Sudan for youth and innovation,” said Ms. Yenki. “I was able to share my experience and the work I do with my team in South Sudan, and interestingly enough, some people were surprised as they least expect that from South Sudan.”

Youth have an outsized role to play in peace building, economic development and prosperity in South Sudan. More than half of the South Sudanese population are below age 18 and 72 percent are younger than age 30. Unemployment remains high across all demographics in South Sudan but especially impacting youth, with more than 90 percent lacking formal employment.

To further engage youth in the conversation on sustainable peace building, UNDP South Sudan hosted its own pilot Youth Innovation Challenge for Peace in 2016. Ms. Yenki’s organization was one of the winning entries, with their #TTOS-ICT project. The aim of the project is to engage, educate and empower women and girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) based fields through a philosophy of chain-based trainings.

Last year, UNDP South Sudan also rolled out a national entrepreneurship and enterprise development program to train current and aspiring young entrepreneurs. 110 men and women have so far trained in entrepreneurship and business advisory services skills.

Ms. Bartholomew was one of the participants in the first cohort of the pilot program.

“It is not about personal business but it is about what you do to transform South Sudan. For the country to reach a better status, we must have a good environment of entrepreneurship – entrepreneurs are the ones who will build this nation,” said Ms. Bartholomew about her motivation to run her own business.

Opening MarUNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa Mr. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye delivering remarks at YouthConnekt Africa Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: UNDP

Among the high-level attendees at the #YouthConnekt Africa Summit were guest of honor H.E President Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda; Jack Ma, UNCTAD Special Adviser on Young Entrepreneurs and CEO of Alibaba Group; Akon, musician, impact investor and founder of Akon Lighting Africa; Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD and Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa.

“With ideas and innovation our youth can realize their dreams,” said UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa Mr. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, during his remarks at the summit.

The summit was held under the theme “From Potential to Success” and hosted by the Government of Rwanda in partnership with UNCTAD and UNDP. The event was formulated to initiate the rollout of the YouthConnekt Africa Hub and YouthConnekt Africa Empowerment Fund across the continent. The YouthConnekt Africa Program is designed to engage and unleash the potential of African youth by combining elements of skills development, entrepreneurship, access to jobs and finance, awareness raising on issues related to youth development, and promotion of youth citizenship and leadership to foster solidarity, and engaging youth in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals. The YouthConnekt Africa Program aims to oversee the creation of 10 million jobs by 2020.

For the group from South Sudan, they have now set their sights on taking the lessons learned back home. There are plans to create #YouthConnekt opportunities and continue discussions locally, through support from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, UNDP, and other partners.

“I’m taking from the summit more energy and improved ideas to continue involving myself with my community. I do believe if I instill the same spirit in my team, we will be able to work towards the South Sudan we want by writing a different story about our country,” concluded Ms. Yenki.