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LEI Annual Summit 2020: “Youth Economic Empowerment in the Digital Era”

Jan 26, 2020

The Leadership and Entrepreneurship Incubator (LEI) Annual Summit 2020 was a unique one and a first for many. In the run-up to the summit, the world was fighting a global health crisis.  As the unprecedented events unfolded, the future looked bleak for most activities and top of the agenda for everyone was survival. Resilience threshold was put to test. As such, there was an urgent need for organizations to be agile and flexible enough to help those that they serve, maneuver the pandemic, and offer sustainable interventions. Asante Africa Foundation rose to the challenge.

A Broad Agenda

Asante Africa’s Leadership and Entrepreneurship Incubator (LEI) Program is a three-phased program aimed at preparing the youth for the rapidly changing and expanding socio-economic landscape. It compliments academics and strengthens non-academic skills with the goal of creating a new generation of change agents through fostering entrepreneurship awareness, leadership and life skills, business competencies, job readiness and community engagement helping the youth overcome life challenges and thrive in the East African community.

Aligned with UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #8, ‘To promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’, the LEI program empowers young people in rural communities with the leadership skills and tools needed to explore local opportunities, start their businesses, and/or seek well-paying jobs, as well as enabling them to pursue their personal dreams.

A Successful Summit

Traditionally, Asante Africa Foundation conducts a one-week intensive summit delivering an advanced curriculum in one of the countries it operates in. This enhances cross-border collaboration among youth who learn and share experiences through a physical convention. However, cognizant of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 LEI summit adopted a blended approach where a few selected youth from each country attended physically while others were encouraged to interact with the facilitators and various speakers virtually. Proper safety guidelines and measures were observed.

Held from 14th through 16th December 2020, The objectives of the 2020 summit were;

  • Build entrepreneurship and financial skills to foster youth’s economic activities.
  • Support recovery from COVID-19 by building mental health.
  • Expose youth to the digital world and cope with the current technological world.
  • Enhance youth with employability skills to secure a job, retain employment and move flexibly in the labor market.
  • Build cognitive skills such as reasoning, critical thinking, communication and team building.

The students were eager to learn about digital tools after being confined at home for many months requiring them to only access education online. The circumstances thus made ‘Digital literacy’ a favorite topic among students. Tanzania had a total of 116 secondary students, Kenya with a total of 24 LEI alumni across from four regions and 6 scholars, and Uganda had 29 participants. Each country was supported by Asante Africa Foundation staff, teachers, and a support team. 

The keynote and career speakers exposed the participants to digital literacy in the 21st century, digital opportunities, mental health, innovation and ideation, personal branding and business canvas model. The various facilitators and career speakers were able to motivate and inspire youth with skills to start their own businesses, cope with the current job market, and act as change agents in their communities.

The Road Ahead

As we adapt in the current times, the 2020 LEI Summit challenged the organization to capitalize on the growing technology by utilizing online platforms to connect the youth with facilitators and speakers. Participants were elated to use tablets for the first time as they undertook pre-surveys, learnt how to use their digital tools to advertise their businesses, and manage their mental health. They were also taught on how one can utilize digital tools to further their economic activities using social media, digital payments, and E-commerce, since the majority of them are already carrying out small income-generating activities in their communities.

Additionally, as an adaptive measure, virtual learning was highly advocated for last year across the globe. Unfortunately given the pronounced digital divide, not every young person was able to access digital tools, broadening the gap in skill sets among the youth. This only affirmed the urgency for the need to upscale digital literacy and bridge the gap ensuring that no one is left behind. Mainstreaming digital literacy in the curriculum is no longer an option in the interest of better aligning short-term progress initiatives with the imperative of longer-term change. With the right tools, young people are able to work smart, be agile, and adapt in dynamic times.

To learn more about the LEI program, please visit Leadership Skills & Entrepreneurship Education in East Africa (asanteafrica.org)

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