“YOUTH” The Ticking Time Bomb...or is it a Gold Mine?
An Address to the Commonwealth Conference on ‘Investing in Youth Employment’
9th-10th May 2011, Marlborough House, London
By Emmanuel Dennis Ngongo, CEO - Green Teams Initiative - Africa
Mr. Kamalesh Sharma - Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Dr. Paul Otuoma Hon. Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports of Kenya, Ms. Poonam Ahluwalia, President YES Inc., Mr. Sridhar, Central bank of India, Your Excellencies the Heads of Missions to the Commonwealth, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am humbled and honoured to address this distinguished gathering. The title of the conference resonates well with what drives me as an individual and other people that have inspired me in the last decade. Having started off in the children’s rights advocacy in villages in Kenya, I have grown to join the youth development world at YES, and now moving towards bigger responsibility of national and international leadership addressing entrepreneurship among other global development issues. It is to me a lifelong learning journey.
Youth Unemployment is huge a challenge that poses serious threats to the co-existence of humanity today. We are witnessing best practices which started off in the Middle East and North Africa, to Central Africa, they have their tentacles to the East side of Africa. This continuing series of revolutions will dominate the world’s agenda for as long as we continue to ignore the youth who are the common denominator for our present and future.
Research and statistics show increase in Youth population. In Africa, persons under the age of 35 form a paltry 75% of the populations. They are well educated and majority unemployed. A recipe for Social conflict.
The current financial and ecological challenges will continue to hit hard. These pressures mean that we need to device new business unusual models. We must come up with short term imperative frameworks to address youth unemployment. This must be supported by long term imperative to create sustainable value chains that resolve the problems of tomorrow driven by innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Living in poverty, one meal per day, kicked out of school due to lack of $80 school fees, a young man from Masitala village in Malawi; the country having gone through the worst drought ever; with no help coming, William Kimkwamba devised an innovative way of creating opportunity... the Wind. He started off scavenging in waste materials, he became the laughing stock of the village as he collected rusted iron, car batteries, tractor fans, bicycle parts among other scrap materials. From 2002 courtesy, his village now has 5 windmills that generate electricity and pump water for use by hundreds of villagers.
Many youth like William come up with innovations that are life changing but due to the lack of capital, technical knowhow and support structures, their dreams have been swept off without caution.
The Green Teams initiative started to organize young people into positive community building forces, that are creating revenues and at the same time resolving the ecological challenges that the world faces today using a bottom up approach.
When we began the Green Teams conversation at the Rework the World Summit hosted by YES and Tallberg Foundation in June of 2010, many sceptics shot down the idea as half baked. However the GTI Revolution is taking Africa slowly becoming a positive storm because it speaks to the needs of the youth who desperately require the kind of skills training we offer to get them into economic independence. We now have Green Teams in Mombasa, Kampala, Nairobi and soon Kigali, St. Louis courtesy of UNHABITAT CCCI Program. A GTI is coming to Washington DC as well.
With support structures in place to incubate emerging ideas and value chains, not only will we be planting the seeds of hope, but also investing in a promising future. It is to the uncharted waters that the Green Teams seek to explore. To create the path where others will come and walk through.
My appeal to the Commonwealth Secretariat and other Global initiatives. Listen to the voices of the youth, they call from remote villages of the world, they reckon with virgin ideas, they seek a helping hand. They need support to realise their dreams. They seek investment for sustainable social impact. Otherwise, every skewed development agenda that we pursue will be shuttered by the looming revolution. We can no longer continue to ignore the youth; as such ignorance will be to our own peril.
The Youth Enterprise Development Fund in Kenya has shown and proved that Youth are bankable and investable. The loan repayment portfolio surpasses that of established businesses. However, the fund needs to be reworked to a Guarantee Fund. This way to support the emerging enterprises, incubate and nurture promising ideas and invest in the young people who lack collateral. The fund would build the capacity of the youth to become entrepreneurs able to compete established businesses and at the same time protect their ideas from the plagiarists with patents and intellectual property protection.
We support the credit Facility by the Commonwealth, such an idea will far more support youth employment and should be replicated in more countries. Creating Youth Enterprise Generators as originated by YES to support in scale change ideas of organized young people will achieve immeasurable results into enterprise movements. The Commonwealth Secretariat should support ideas to scaling up and replicating promising practices in all its member states.
Kenya will be holding the National Youth Council Election by June. I am sure the Hon Minister Paul Otuoma who is here with us will take a lead in working with young leaders to make it a model that the rest of the world can learn from. We should allow young people to lead such state offices to set international standards and become models for learning and replication. Supporting member states to come up with youth friendly policies, the commonwealth should insist that such policies should be devoid of skewed political agendas.
A good idea grows by itself. We have an option to make the right decisions from their onsets. As in Entrepreneurship, Fortune favours the Bold. Indeed the brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all as was articulated by Sir Richard Branson, one of the most successful business moguls of our time who started off at age 16 to build a global diverse brand that is Virgin. He has proved that you can chew and cross the road at the same time.
Barack Obama is my role model that speaks my kind of Language; An astute believer in the power of the youth to change the world. He is promoting Green Issues such as developing a green economy. He wants to create 5 million jobs in the green energy sector. A green grid where homes will take power from small, local solar and wind powered generators, and home generators will push surplus energy back into the grid. This must happen as the price of fuel skyrockets, changing our energy and business models as the recession bites. Barack is a more than talk guy.
By the year 2015, the youth bulge will be at its high with the current economic pressures escalating. Initiatives like the Grameen, YES Bank in Bangladesh should be emulated and scaled to offer sustainable loans to consumers. Young people with green businesses should be supported. Africa was not hard hit by the economic downturn, because, our conservative banking practices have saved our economies. African Companies and ideas will thrive in the next decade. Investing in ideas as Green Teams, will propel a country like Kenya to start giving aid money to the USA and the UK in hard times, such as when the Economic Recession is on. My prediction is that if given a chance, this will be a reality in the next two decades.
Creating the Green Teams Business model is to do something positive for the deserving livelihoods; to connect to the rest of the world; to partner with institutions as the Commonwealth. With your support, I am sure we will thrive and reach our desired goals so that future generations can enjoy. That is the legacy that all of us should be working towards.
I hope that this Workshop will help us have honest talk and concrete action based deal breakers to gain value to why we are gathered here today. Let us not allow this to be another talk shop. In conclusion, I would like to thank the Commonwealth Secretariat for setting up this conference; it has been an onerous task to be at the place where we are today. Thanks to Rajkumar Bidla for creating stories of hope. Let us change the ticking social time bomb that is youth into a gold mine. The future depends on them.