I wake up every day to go meet with entrepreneurs and work with them to grow their businesses and solve the operational challenges they face. That is my daily hustle; supporting start-ups and SMEs to increase their productivity, grow and contribute to our national GDP as well as address the issue of youth unemployment through job creation.
But on this day the 7th of June 2016, I woke up to go out for a different mission; the #WBGOpenDay organized by the World Bank Kenya at the Royal Nairobi Golf club. I had my expectations right; the World Bank was going to give me another of their many positive surprises yet again, but I did not know how or what it would be exactly.
The World Bank #Blog4Dev contest finalists had their own stand; among the very many others that were present from different government agencies through which the bank funds development projects locally. I found my other fellow finalists at our designated stand and in a short while people started stopping by to make various inquiries. I had my laptop on and ready for the day to keep everyone in social media engaged with the proceedings at the #WBGOpenDay.
However, after posting my first tweet, I realized the numbers were growing bigger and the youths at our stand needed more attention. I left my laptop and went right ahead to start answering the questions the youths had about the blog for development contest among others. That is when the surprise World Bank Kenya had for me this day started unfolding!
When we talk of Africa Rising and the African Youths steering the liberation of Africa from economic dungeon; to many it sounds like a far-fetched idea at the bottom of our wish lists. Nothing could be far from the truth though!
What started as an inquiry into what #Blog4Dev was about ended up as a heated discussion about youth involvement in the development agenda in our country, Kenya. Some youths shared about their ongoing projects in different communities across the country and how they are actively involved in transforming their villages and estates through initiatives that are founded, funded and led by the youths.
The zeal in their voices, the passion in their eyes and the energy in their expressions spoke of a generation of youths who are going out of their way to make a difference and build the Kenya and ultimately the Africa we want!
As I sat listening to the young brilliant minds share their experiences, my other hidden talent started surfacing. From being the one answering questions from the visitors, I automatically turned into a moderator of sort coordinating the heated discussions among the youths, most of whom met for the first time at our stand. The conversations took their own course and were naturally in sync as the youths listened to each other, challenged each other, positively critiqued each other’s views on development agenda for Kenyan youths and amicably came to an agreement on whatever development topic we found ourselves discussing.
Truth be told, I have never had such an enriching intellectual intercourse in a day all my life! The diversity in professions and careers for the different youths who came at our stand complemented the conversations we had with divergent perspectives; but we could all end up converging on workable solutions as learned friends always do. We touched on different topics based on what the youths wanted us to discuss; from behavioral economics, agricultural commodities exchanges, derivatives and hedging as a risk mitigation measure for agribusiness, financial markets, private equity and venture capital funding for start-ups and SMEs, renewable energy, marketing strategies for small businesses and customers segmentation, to agricultural technology and its application in rural Kenya, agribusiness market linkages among many other topics.
I gathered lots of lessons from each and every youth who came by our stand and engaged in our debates. One of the youths (18 years old) shared his experience on how they have organized themselves as a team of youths to deal with post-harvest loses of mangoes (read post-harvest loses management); by buying the mangoes from the local farmers and blending them into juices (read value addition) and selling them to the local people when going home from church on Sundays, and in other different functions where they have large number of customers. This has led to a reduction of their post-harvest loses by more than 50% and the venture has become a sustainable money making business. So when you ask me about what the Kenyan youths are doing to create opportunities for themselves and others in their communities, think about my 18 years old new friend!
My apologies for my apparent bias towards agribusiness, but this one too caught my attention and it was so awesome not to share. Another youth at our stand shared about their start-up which is linking up the agricultural research institutions and other farm inputs suppliers with the farmers through a mobile platform that can be used both on USSD and android platforms. At that point, I realized, we have all the solutions we need to streamline our agricultural value chains; and all we need is to empower these young brilliant innovators to scale their solutions country wide, and agribusiness will be on its rise again to its former glory of being the back bone of our economy!
Youths are the voice of Africa today
You will never know how much wealth of information the youths have until you give them a genuine listening ear! Listening to the youths and moderating the random debates we held all day at the #Blog4Dev stand was the best thing that ever happened to me on that day. But of-course being invited to the podium to share my views on youths’ involvement in economic development was a humbling experience too!
Inspired by the wisdom and the dedication the Kenyan youths have today in actively getting involved in economic development of our country, I went home a challenged young man to be more patriotic and do more for my country Kenya! I was impressed by the young Kenyan minds that have embraced development consciousness and are shunning political rhetoric to join our constituent of young African leaders actively involved in shaping the sustainable economic development we want to see in Africa.
#Blog4Dev might appear to have been a simple 500 words essay contest, but it keeps hitting me with more positive surprises each day; while shaping my thinking and transforming me into a stronger #AfricaYouth leader. By sharing we grow, and that is what my fellow Kenyan youths surprised me with during the #WBGOpenDay; lots and lots of intellectual nourishment!
As I have said it before, the Africa Rising narrative shall be told by the African youths this time round. And we shall not need to publish it in international journals; the productivity of our youth-led development projects within our communities will tell the story for us. Those with eyes shall see and those with ears shall hear; for nothing is stopping us from the second liberation of Africa – the economic liberation! #VIVA_AFRICA_YOUTH!…#ALUTA_CONTINUA!!!