It was a long and winding journey through three countries but it was worth every effort and energy.
Despite the fatigue and flight challenges, three young people who represented South Sudan at the recently concluded Youth Connekt Africa Summit 2022 shared their experience after the Kigali meet.
Three days of reinvigorating discussions and sessions attended by heads of state and high-ranking officials and experts from across the globe also featured some fun activities which gave the ultimate experience to the South Sudanese youth who represented Africa’s youngest nation.
Supported by UNFPA South Sudan, the trio travelled from Juba to Kigali on October 12 to attend the summit which kicked off on October 13 under the theme “Accelerating investments in Youth: Resilient Youth, Resilient Africa”.
The YouthConnekt 2022 Summit brought together over 9,000 youth from more than 30 African countries and leaders including President Paul Kagame, Kenya’s Deputy President Rigathi Gacagua and was addressed by Presidents Hage Geingob of Namibia and Macky Sall of Senegal on the opening day.
For Awel Lam Mathiang, the executive secretary to the Vice President for Gender and Youth of South Sudan, the experience was beneficial in many ways, pointing out that she used the opportunity to learn about what is happening in other parts of the continent.
“My experience has been dynamic. I was very happy to attend YouthConnekt 2022 to hear and see the developments in East Africa and Africa as a whole and pick ideas that can be replicated in South Sudan,”
“It was a great experience. The lessons that I’ve learned include innovative strategies for youth to get involved in agriculture. Youth can be involved in the agriculture sector and contribute to food systems on the continent,” Awel said.
Overall, she expected to learn, connect and broaden her perspective on what other people are doing across the African continent, learn as much as she could and carry the information back to South Sudan and that’s exactly what happened.
“I want to thank UNFPA South Sudan for this experience and I hope that the Office of the Vice President will continue to partner with UNFPA on engagements such as this one,” Awel said as she headed back home.
Emmanuel Kuku, who works with African Youth and Adolescents Network (AfriYAN)- South Sudan Chapter said that his participation in YouthConnekt 2022 was a great opportunity for him to interact with people from other countries and pick best practices to advance sexual and reproductive health in South Sudan.
“We’ve learned a lot from the summit. We were able to interact with youth from other countries, to know what other their countries are doing in terms of youth empowerment, boosting creativity of young people in different sectors and other key areas such as SRHR,”
Among other things, Kuku was impressed by how young people were attentive during YouthConnekt 2022 and showed determination to play their role in transforming their respective countries and the African continent at large.
Precious Arkangelo, a Youth Advisory Panel member, representing People with Disabilities and was part of the South Sudan delegation which participated in YouthConnekt 2022, said that despite the long journey and fatigue, she learned a lot of lessons in Kigali.
“I learned many things from YouthConnekt 2022, including how to cooperate and how to build your confidence in everything that you do,”
“I just want to encourage PWDs that whatever you are going through in this world, do not lose hope. Do not give up,” Arkangelo said, adding that Kigali she looking forward to actions geared towards supporting youth with disabilities to achieve their potential,”
“We able and we can do it. All we need is a chance and policies that favour us. No one should be left behind,” she said, advocating for favourable policies for youth with disabilities to be part of the development process.
The summit, which was officially closed by the Prime Minister, Dr. Edouard Ngirente, on October 15, ended with a call to African countries to invest in the youth if the continent has to achieve its development targets.
YouthConnekt Africa is a continental initiative with the mission to empower young people by enhancing their knowledge, experiences and skills while investing in their ideas, innovations and initiatives to harness Africa’s demographic dividend which aims at contributing to the achievement of Africa’s SDGs mandate, the AU 2063 agenda, and AU Youth Charter.
It was initiated in 2012 by the Government of Rwanda in partnership with the UNDP and is a multifaceted youth empowerment model focused on leveraging youth employability, entrepreneurship and civic engagement through innovation.
Kenya is poised to host next year’s edition.