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EAC youth plot leadership role

East African Youth Parliament in session in Arusha on Nov.14 (YouLead)

Events were spiced up with performances from Tanzanian artiste Vitali Maembe whose guitar skills wowed the audience throughout the summit. Maembe’s music is laced with political consciousness and he has had several run-ins with Tanzanian authorities; especially under the reign of John Pombe Magufuli.

The Tanzanian president is accused of targeting political opponents and journalists in what observers say is a rapidly deteriorating political situation.

A young Tanzanian businessman, Hamis Said Hincha, on a discussion on politics differed and said Magufuli is doing wonders. “Magufuli is kicking out corruption in Tanzania and reforming the way of doing business. For the first time, you can walk into a Tanzanian office and feel you are treated with respect.”

There were also performances by Javan De Poet from Kenya, Uganda’s star duo ‘Ester and Ezekiel’, winners of the East Africa’s Got Talent Competition. They got a rousing welcome from the audience and brought the house down with their several karaoke performances starting with Whitney Houston’s When You Believe and other classical hits.

Ugandan opposition politician Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu, Ugandan journalist and political commentator Andrew Mwenda, Deputy British High Commissioner to Tanzania Rick Shearn, Cyrus Nkusi CEO Governance for Africa Rwanda, gave varied accounts of how the youth can make the best out of their situations in politics, business and the social scene.

Panels and discussions on the first day were meant to establish whether policy choices, priorities and initiatives by political leaders in East Africa are responsive to the youth population of East Africa.

It also included discussion on building a cross-cultural and multigenerational feminist movement in the region that can transform structural causes of gender inequality. Femme Forte, a feminist organisation in Uganda, facilitated the discussion.

On the second day, held at Mount Meru Hotel in Arusha, participants deliberated on dividends of East African regional integration, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and globalization. Young people bemoaned the continued border closure by Rwanda on its common border with Uganda as a hindrance to trade and opportunity. The viability of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (ACFTA) was also interrogated. Young leaders brainstormed on creating a better world for migrants and refugees given that East Africa is a refugee haven.

Talks on current global trends like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and the future of work were held to enable youth have a wholesome appreciation of leadership and governance in this age.

Day 3 marked deliberations a Post-Summit agenda which include updates on the establishment of an East African Youth Council, updates on an East African Youth Leadership, Mentorship and Development Program and formation of the East African Under 40 CEOs Network under the auspices of the East African Business Council and Trade Mark East Africa.

Ivan Atuyambe, the You Lead summit director said the summit is a program for leadership development in East Africa and said the challenge for the summit is on the caliber of leaders it is raising; more visionary and hardworking ones.

East Africa Youth Parliament

After the summit, participants were inaugurated as members of the East Africa Youth Parliament also called ‘Vijana Assembly’ under the tutelage of Faraja Africa Foundation, a youth empowerment organisation. This was at the East Africa Legislative Assembly. For two days they debated motions on the Africa Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, a proposal for the acceptance of use of any East African currency as accepted legal tender in the six countries.

The summit was a mix of cultures from the six East African Community (EAC) countries as the vibrant youth took part in traditional dances from their home countries, plus a showcasing of attire and talent. “I am definitely coming back for this summit next year” a first time participant from Uganda said.

Uganda had the largest delegation at the summit and dominated in other creative aspects. The South Sudanese were assertive, political and were always quick to say something about the peace process in their country. The Burundians were a guarded lot, it was hard to break into their ranks but party time always brought out the best in them. The Tanzanians on the other hand, were the perfect hosts- always reaching out to make new friends and make everyone comfortable.

The YouLead summit 2019 was mainly hosted at MS-Training Centre for Development Cooperation (MS TCDC) in Arusha. The summit partners were EAC, ActionAid, Trade Mark East Africa, Faraja Africa Foundation, The Open Society Initiative for East Africa, International Republican Institute (IRI), Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), and Restless Development Uganda among others.

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