Event Reports

Emerging Leaders Discussing the Post 2015 Era

The Potential of the Sustainable Development Goals for Young People in Uganda

The LéO Africa Forum in cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator organised a conference for emerging young leaders. The Emerging Leaders Forum gave youth representatives, CSOs and political and economic stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the role, challenges and potential of young people in the post 2015 era.

The Founder and Senior Director of LéO Africa Forum, Mr. Awel Uwihanganye, gave welcoming remarks and introduced the topic of the conference. He explained that the conference functioned was a platform where young people exchanged their ideas. He appealed to the participants to structure youth engagement in order to reach the 17 Sustainable Developing Goals (SDGs), which have been ratified by the UN on September 25, 2015 in New York, and to discuss how they could benefit young people.

Following this, Ms. Ashunna Eziakonwa-Onochie, the UN Resident Coordinator, gave a speech on the SDGs and how they are going to be implemented in Uganda. She pointed out the new tone of the goals, which replaced the old Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), shifting from charity to dignity. Under the motto “no one is left behind” the goals went beyond and tried to improve the life of any individual on earth. She described poverty as a symptom of other problems like absence of peace, human rights abuse, bad governance, and elements of discrimination. According to her, Uganda had already reached some of the MDGs and Ms. Eziakonwa-Onochie was optimistic, that Uganda was going to fulfill the new SDGs. She mentioned that a lot of research needed to be done in order to identify those who are left behind in this country and how they could be reached. Therefore it was necessary to clarify the role of the youth in the whole process.

Mr. Yusuf Kiranda, Director of the University Forum on Governance and moderator of the conference, then started a conversation with Ms. Eziakonwa-Onochie on the role the youth is playing in the implementation process of the SDGs in Uganda. In that, she engaged young people to question the international community and promoted more youth engagement at the grass roots. Moreover she explained that the UN was willing to give young people the opportunity to monitor its work, give advices, and challenge the UN in order to include concerns and suggestions of the young generation in the implementation process of the SDGs.

In three break away sessions, the participants had the possibility to discuss different aspects of youth engagement in the post 2015 era in smaller groups.

In Session I the moderator, Michael Niyitegka, Personal Development Facilitator with CEMM Group, lead a discussion on how to accelerate youth engagement and participation in the post 2015 era in Uganda. The panel consisted of Mr. Ahmed Hadji, Youth Policy Analyst, Isabella Akiteng, Uganda Youth Network, and Cyrus Kawalya, Founder of Vision-I and 2014 YALI Fellow. First of all the panelists answered the question what acceleration in the post 2015 era means. Mr. Cyrus highlighted that information was accessible much faster today and that the young generation was able to form the future of this information era by connecting each other via internet. Ms. Akiteng pointed out that growth needed to be defined differently and that not everyone had the same idea and concept of growth. Therefore, young people needed to share their views and concepts of growth. Mr. Hadji focused on the need of changing the mind-sets in Uganda. According to him, there were only a few job opportunities for young people available and hardworking alone was not a way out of poverty. The youth needed more space to make mistakes, to fail, and to connect with others to learn from their failures. He explained that the so called wait-hood-syndrome reduced innovation and age should not matter when trying to reach a high-level position, be it in business or in politics. Ms. Akiteng added that negotiations with the elders were only successful when the young generation was able to bring leverage to the table. That was only possible when the youth made a meaningful contribution to the community – for example by paying taxes. In addition, Mr. Kawalya noted that young entrepreneurs had no idea how politics work and they were lacking the necessary diplomacy. Moreover, politics was seen as a career option instead of an area where the basis of development and growth for all citizens is provided.

In the following discussion among the audience, most participants agreed on stopping to complain all the time and starting to be proactive. Many challenges, but also a lot of potential, platforms and processes where young people are already included, were outlined. These channels should be used more efficiently and ongoing youth movements supported by a higher number of young people. The participants admitted that it was their duty to inform the young people in the rural area and include them in the discourse on youth engagement.

In session II, the panel and the audience approached the role of young innovators in strengthening data collection, analysis and dissemination to monitor SDG implementation in Uganda. After a short presentation by Ms. Esparance Fundira, Country Representative of the United Nations Population Fund, the moderator, Mr. Albert Muchunguzi, Founder and Managing Director of PC-Tech, moderated the panel discussion with Mr. Josepyh Owino, Owino Solutions, and Mr. Richard Zulu, Founder of Outbox Hub.

Session III focused on the opportunities for partnerships that will strengthen youth development and be instrumental in the implementation of the post 2015 agenda in Uganda. The moderator, Mr. Rushogoka Wa-Mpiira, Member of the Forum Faculty, lead a discussion with Ms. Mildred Apenyo, Founder of Fit Clique, Mr. John-Bosco Nzeyi-Mana, Founder and CEO of Habona, and Mr. Joachim Ewecu, Unreasonable East Africa. Just like in Session I, in the other two sessions the panel and the audience had very lively discussions.

After lunch, Ms. Patricia Nsanze Nzeyi, Governance Advisor with the British High Commission, invited Mr. Andrew Rugasira, Founder of Good African Coffee and Author of a best-selling book, to tell his success story of entrepreneurship in Uganda. Mr. Rugasira gave a small overview of the resources and the economic potential lying on the African Continent. However, most of the profits from these resources were made by European and US-American companies. Mr. Rugasira impressed the audience with his endurance, efforts, and passion to establish the first African-owned coffee brand. He motivated the audience to dream big, be innovative and have the courage to use the economic potential in Uganda.

In a final debate, Mr. Henry Rugamba, Communication Manager of UMEME, moderated a panel consisting of Mr. Yusuf Kiranda, Ms. Ruth Aine, Blogger and Social Activist, and Mr. John-Bosco Nzeyi-Mana. Mr. Kiranda explained why youth engagement remained ineffective while political structures for youth participation were in place. He suggested promoting the existing structures to make sure that youth in the rural areas are aware of such platforms. Ms. Aine motivated the participants to play an active role in the participation process and either be a change maker, an innovator, or a leader, but to never be passive.

In the following discussion with the audience, the question why good governance and democracy were not included in the goals, was raised. While all the panelists and the audience agreed that this was a very important question, it remained unanswered. It was established that it could be one of the goals of youth engagement to champion for good governance and democracy in the implementation of the SDGs.

At the end of the conference, Mr. Mathias Kamp gave closing remarks. He noted that addressing the challenges only would not lead to any solutions. Therefore, he motivated the audience to take action and use this conference to connect with other emerging leaders. He supported the idea of forming a policy-group, which came up during one of the discussion in the breakaway sessions, and suggested to use existing platforms to coordinate the group.

Author: Nele Krüger, KAS Intern

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