Most young people who join the Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) project hope they can turn their lives around. The training they receive turns their hope into confidence and their ambitions into a reality. Seven of these young people attended the Youth Connekt Africa (YCA) Summit that was held from 19-21 July in Kigali. The event attracted top executives from global companies that operate in Africa, leaders of civil society organizations, members of academia as well as young people, all from 90 countries across the globe.

The summit was an incredible experience for the OYE graduates as they learnt to get out of their comfort zone and network with other people. They could also connect with potential customers or investors. People visiting the SNV OYE stall at the summit, were able to witness the knowledge these young people had about their vocation and the company they represented. The summit was also an opportunity for the OYE graduates to see what other exhibitors from across the continent were doing, learn a thing or two about their businesses and get inspired.

The YouthConnekt main hall

Vedaste Hagerimana, an OYE biogas entrepreneur working in Bugesera District, found this experience beneficial as it gave him the opportunity to meet his fellow OYE peers from other districts and companies. They were able to share ideas on the advantages and disadvantages of working in their individual fields and talk about what marketing initiatives would attract the most customers.


The second and final day, the summit was hosted in the main auditorium and OYE participants attended the most anticipated sessions: musician and businessman Akon Thiam talked about the “Akon Lighting Africa initiative”, active now in 15 African countries. He was followed by entrepreneur Jack Ma who shared his journey to success and the lessons he learned. The OYE representatives were surprised that Jack Ma’s motivation came mainly from the mistakes he made throughout his journey. His advice to young people was to never be afraid of working with or hiring people who are smarter than they are; these people can challenge them to do more.

H.E Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, and Jack Ma at the summit

After seeing the energy and excitement around entrepreneurship, Jack Ma stated “I want to show my confidence in Africa,” and announced that he will donate $10 million from the Jack Ma Foundation to an African young entrepreneurs development fund “to help them realise their dreams and ideas.” His Excellency President Paul Kagame welcomed young people at the summit and encouraged them to use the opportunities available now, opportunities that were not available to previous generations.

Vedaste Hagerimana explaining how a bio-digester is installed

The Youth Connekt Africa Summit was a successful event. The OYE representatives felt that the experience and knowledge they gained will help them boost their own enterprises.