Earlier this month, leaders from around the world gathered in Kigali, Rwanda for the 26th annual World Economic Forum on Africa under the theme of “Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation.”

On the margins of the meeting, Coca-Cola hosted a breakfast discussion with 50 Global Shapers across Africa. Tekeste Negga, a Global Shaper from the Addis Ababa Hub, moderated the session on innovative youth empowerment programs around the world.

One panelist, Susan Mboya, president of the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, spoke about the Foundation’s focus on initiatives that help youth seek and create jobs, improving the quality of life in communities in Africa and beyond. She highlighted Coca-Cola’s Youth Empowered for Success initiative (YES), which aims to help 25,000 youth find jobs by 2018 and 500,000 by 2020. Mboya, who founded the Zawedi Africa Education Fund to provide scholarships to academically gifted girls, stressed the importance of teaching women to be strong and successful in male-dominated environments as a key to achieving complete social inclusion.

Simon Winter, senior vice president of development at TechnoServe, drew upon his experience in TechnoServe’s work to link people to information, capital and markets to help men and women in developing countries build businesses and create lasting prosperity for their communities. “At TechnoServe, we empower people to know that they are of significance, no matter what their background is,” he said. 

A great project that came from a partnership between TechnoServe and Coca-Cola enabled more than 50,000 small fruit farmers in Uganda and Kenya to participate in the Coca-Cola supply chain, creating a new market for them through locally produced fruit juices. This partnership allowed the fruit farmers to increase quality and production, and therefore, their incomes.

The STRYDE program is yet another great project launched by TechnoServe in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation. The goal of STRYDE, which stands for “Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise” is to economically empower rural young women and men in East Africa to be independent through training and mentoring. The program has impacted more than 15,000 rural youth and aims to reach nearly 50,000 by 2019 in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. Simon invited the Global Shapers to get involved in the e-mentoring program for rural youth.

Global Shaper Event Panel

Anne Githuku-Shongwe, founder and CEO of Afroes Transformational Games emphasized that in order to tap into this generation’s world, it is necessary to embrace their preferred forms of communication: “heads down and on their phones.” She explained how she noticed her son spent more time on video games than anything else, which inspired her to use gaming as a tool to educate and empower young Africans.

“Afroes” is short for African heroes, and its mission is to position African youth for productive futures. Muraba, inspired by the Morabaraba game in South Africa, is a mobile game that aims to empower youth to prevent and act on Gender Based Violence. Anne believes that we have to help kids reimagine Africa to fight existing harmful acts such as parochialism and patronage.

Emmanuel Nzeyimna, Rwanda country manager for the Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT), believes technology is an enabler for youth, since the market is only creating half the number of jobs for fresh graduates. DOT is a social enterprise that trains new graduates to deliver technology and business trainings in their local communities, while developing their own soft skills, to be ready to enter the job market. Through DOT, Emmanuel is committed to making new graduates in Rwanda, experienced and fully equipped professionals ready to join the national workforce and be agents of change.

We were certainly inspired by this discussion. At the end of the panel discussion, Tekeste asked the audience if we believed we could eradicate poverty in Africa during our lifetime, everyone raised their hands for a unanimous “yes”.

Touria Benlafqih is program director of Enactus Morocco, an international nonprofit organization focused on social entrepreneurship, and a member of the Global Shapers Rabat (Morocco) Hub.