May 28th 2017

Magazine / Entrepreneurship

Obama-inspired programme unleashing potential of African youth

Joining Yali is very easy. One can just visit the website and apply from there. In fact the 12th cohort has just been closed. It is the only such centre in East Africa and covers 14 countries and for every selection, 81 are shortlisted for the training.

By Derrick Kirakadkiraka@kenyafreepress.comThursday, 21 Jul 2016 21:11 EAT

The ongoing UNCTAD conference session has particularly been keen on the young population, and with themes like ‘From Decision to Action’ and ‘Walk the Talk’, this year’s conference seeks to not just proclaim support for the youths but also prod action from the policy makers. 

But the assembly, which has seen over 7,000 delegates from all over the world converge in an effort to pool ideas and resources also sought to put the youths to scrutiny and answer to their inaction, with focus shifting to how the young generation lacks the character to see through their initiatives to maturation.

Speaking exclusively to the Kenya Free Press, Chairman of Yali (Young African Leaders Initiative), Collins Togom, explains the programmes Yali is involved in and how anyone between 18 and 35 interested in mentorship can join the team.

KFP: So what exactly is Yali?

Mr. Togom: Yali is a programme that was launched by US President Barack Obama in 2013. In full it stands for Young African Leaders Initiative. It focuses on training the youths on civic leadership, public management on leadership as well as entrepreneurship. It is a program that trains the youths between the ages of 18 to 35 for a period of 12 weeks and gives them experience in those areas.

KFP: So how can one be part of Yali?

Mr. Togom: Joining Yali is very easy. One simply visits the website and applies from there. In fact the 12th cohort has just been closed. It is the only such centre in East Africa and covers 14 countries and for every selection, 81 are shortlisted for the training. It is very competitive and so I would encourage the youths, especially the students, to apply for this programme because it is a very good programme with beneficial content and an eye opener for your career.

KFPAnd how is the response from the youths? Are they coming in in large numbers?

Mr. Togom: Yes, we have a very huge response. For example, a single application can have around 4,000 applicants from all the 14 countries and out of those, we select 81. It is very competitive and the response is good.

KFPWhich kind of business ideas do most youths have? For example, one has an idea to start a clothing line. Is it a viable option? Or what kind of enterprise do you focus on?

Mr. Togom: What Yali does is to provide the principles and the business models for those interested in entrepreneurship and business. It also provides you with the network. Yali has partnered woth KCB in a programme called tujiajiri (popular as 2jiajiri) which focuses on agri-business. This is one of the many partnerships that we have but our bottomline is, we are challenging the youth to be innovative in terms of what is it that they can do to create employment for themselves and the rest of the youth in Kenya and the rest of the countries.

KFP: So Yali just gives the youth basic ideas on how to be innovative.

Mr. Togom: Yes. The aim is to push the youth to think outside the box, to think of solutions to the challenges they and their communities are facing. We encourage them to be innovative in ways that can create employment in the community and to themselves.

KFPFor many youths, the problem is not coming up with ideas. We have the ideas but the problem is finances, like say the capital to start a business. As Yali, how do you address this issue? How do you help them actualise their idea?

Mr. Togom: For us, we do not look at it like that. We look at it as the youth themselves, not the finances, as the challenge. KCB along with Equity and a few other banks have set aside funds to help youths in agri-business and other ventures. There is also the Uwezo fund and the Youth fund and many others. The challenge is, are the youth ready to take up the responsibility and commit themselves to grow that business or that idea? They have a lot of ideas but growing that business idea and actualising that idea and the patience it takes to grow that business is lacking. And if it is present, it is not in the magnitude that is expected. We ask  the youth take up the responsibility of growing that business.

KFPYali is there basically to encourage the youth to take the initiative and follow through their business ideas?

Mr. Togom: Yes but it is not just for business and entrepreneurship but also for civic leadership and public management. For those who want to be in politics, its all about principles so Yali is there to train them too, in terms of values, of how to handle and manage themselves in public and how to lead Non-governmental organisations and how to manage resources and also do programmes that are need-based, programmes that focus on the needs of the community and not on the donors.

KFP: Are there any expenses incurred when one is applying for Yali?

Mr. Togom: Joining Yali is free. All you need to do is visit the website, make your application, and due to the nature of the competition, it is upon you to be very smart in the way you answer the questions.

Note: For details on the next application cohort and more on the initiative, you can visit their website at www.yalieastafrica.org

The above report was gathered by Derrick Kiraka and Cyrus Mutai

Compiled by Derrick Kiraka

Kiraka is a student of journalism at the Technical University of Kenya (TUK). His interests are business, politics, sports and media criticism.





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