The 1st EAC Youth Conference held in Arusha, Tanzania on 5-6 December 2014, focused on the importance of technology and communication, while stressing leadership and creativity skills.-By Yves Didier Irakoze
The main goal of the Conference is to provide a platform to disseminate the East African Community’s Youth Policy, strengthen existing pillars as well as set new strategies for more sustained and meaningful engagement of the youth in the overall EAC integration agenda. One of the plans is the establishment of an EAC Youth Council, since young people constitute over 60 percent of the total East African population.
The EAC representatives call upon the youth of the EAC to work hard in order to develop their region. Gilbert Ndayishimiye, President of the EAC Youth Ambassador Platform of Burundi, was present at the conference and explains that the youth of the regionwere told to be creative and innovative;to develop themselves by creating their own jobs. “Youth should develop their knowledge and potential and look for opportunities, instead of waiting on the government to fix things”, he says.
“But before you create your job you have to think what you are going to do and think about the outcomes. For instance, one has to think about the potential he has. As a football player, one can earn a living with his feet. Someone with a good voice can sing and create anart enterprise”, says a Kenyan who participatedin the conference.
The youth of the East African Community was urged to focus on how they should develop the domains such as Economy (business), ICT, technology and the environment (using the solar energy, access to clean water), says Yves Nduwayezu, EAC Youth Ambassador Platform from Burundi.
Gilbert Ndayishimiye states that the Ambassador and Secretary of the EAC urged them to communicate effectively, not wasting time with social networks. “He said that he didn’t understand why youth waste time exchanging greetings on Facebook, whereas they have to exchange information, share experiences to develop their community learning how to use the solar energy, build roads.”
Arielle Bukuru, from AgenceUmuringa, a Burundian Fashion Agency, exchanged ideas with other youth on how to create a regional culture, so that when a Burundian goes to Kenya or Tanzania, they feel at ease. “A Rwandese sitting next to me at lunch, told me that previously she thought Burundians like to copy western culture, but realizes now that Burundians are starting to appreciate their roots and have begun to showcase their culture especially in fashion events.”
Burundian youth should set up new principles
According to Ndayishimiye, Burundian youth have to change their mentality to create their own employment and they have to learn the English language to compete with others in the region.
“The education system in Burundi should be reorganized by creating the departments such as business, marketing and fashion design, rather than merely focusing on mathematics and languages”, mentions Ndayishimiye.
Nduwayezu adds that the government has to create partnerships between universities in order to facilitate internships for Masters and PhD and invite professors of the region to teach here.
The EAC Youth Conference brought together over 200 youths drawn from diverse backgrounds taking into account gender, marginalised youth, rural youth, youth living with disabilities and youth in slum dwellings. Other participants include government officials, young parliamentarians, civil society members, academics, media representatives, members of EAC organs and institutions and other interest groups.