Visit from the Youth Think Tank (pt. 1)

Africa’s position as a rapidly growing frontier in the global economy has been discussed at length by journalistspoliticians and economists alike.  The remarkable growth and resulting entrepreneurial opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa are also of particular interest to us at the Legatum Center. About one year ago, we announced a new initiative with the MasterCard Foundation, with a focus on entrepreneurship in Africa.

Since its inception in 2006, the MasterCard Foundation has worked tirelessly to promote financial inclusion and prosperity in 48 developing countries around the world, through microfinance and youth empowerment programs. Thus far, our involvement in this mission has been manifested in our 12 MasterCard Foundation Fellows, working on entrepreneurial projects all over the world.

Last week we had the pleasure of welcoming the next generation of African entrepreneurs, educators and leaders to MIT’s campus. Five members of the MasterCard Foundation’s new youth initiative, Youth Think Tank, visited us at the Legatum Center to learn about MIT and interact with our Fellows.

The Youth Think Tank was founded to engage young people from Africa in coming up with solutions to the problems faced by developing countries. This year the nine members of the Think Tank, chosen from a large applicant pool, came together in Nairobi to devise answers to the question, “How can we increase youth employment in growth sectors such as agri-business, green growth, ICT, and financial services?” Through this initiative, it is clear that the MasterCard Foundation understands that the answers to these questions are best found not with established bureaucrats, but with the young people who will be shaping the continent’s future.

(from L to R: MasterCard Foundation Youth Learning Program Manager Steve Cumming and Youth Think Tank members Rafiatu Lawal, Eyram Adedze, Peris Mwangi, Eddy Matagala, Olivia Kyomuhendo) 

The five members of Youth Think Tank who visited Boston are Eyram Adedze, a 19 year-old African Leadership Academy graduate from Ghana who is passionate about education and entrepreneurship; Olivia Kyomuhendo, a 22 year-old member of the Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents program from Uganda who was also selected to attend the 12th International Forum on Women’s Rights and Development; Rafiatu Lawal, a 24 year-old teacher from Ghana who is an avid blogger and believer in the power of social media; Eddy Matagala, a 20 year-old social entrepreneur, youth advocate and motivational speaker from Uganda; and Peris Mwangi, a 20 year-old from Kenya who is involved in the Secondary Education Scholarship Project with Equity Group Foundation.

The group in front of the Stata Center on MIT’s campus

The members of Youth Think Tank were joined by Steve Cumming, Program Manager of Youth Learning at the MasterCard Foundation. Together with members of the staff, the group toured the MIT campus, the MIT museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and sat down for a lengthy, in-depth discussion with four of our African Fellows and Legatum Center staff on the challenges faced by the continent and the most effective solutions. For the sake of brevity, we will save a recap of the fascinating conversations that transpired for a later blogpost. For now, we can just say that everyone—Fellow, staff member and Think Tank participant alike—left inspired and equipped with new knowledge and ideas about the best path to inclusive growth and prosperity in a rapidly expanding part of the world.