The Future Forward partnership, between Ashoka and The MasterCard Foundation, aims to identify and convene innovators, thought leaders, and youths to discuss about solutions that can move #AfricaYouthFwd. The 21st century has witnessed a massive growth in terms of pioneering discoveries and innovations which are changing the lives of millions around the world. From the Americas to Europe and from Africa to Asia, young people have been at the heart of this transformation with many of them gradually becoming masters of their art. One of the hottest debate topics across the African continent is centered around ”the 21st century African youth and how he/she can contribute to the growth of a continent in need of its young people to take it to another level”. One of the new additions to the 2016 Ashoka Change Makers course was the creation of Future Forward Eco-System Exchange Events with the aim of bringing thought leaders to learn and share experiences in their journey to changing the society. From Harare to Johannesburg, Nairobi to Dakar, Accra to Lagos, these events witnessed the participation of stakeholders with a passion for development in their countries and in the continent as a whole. After a six weeks online professional training on;The Future of Work in Africa: Innovations in Youth Employment; Cameroonian course participants graduated and branded as “AshokaChangemaker Scholars”. Alongside other young leaders, they gathered in the coastal city of Limbe on the 9th of July to discuss how to move #CameroonYouthFwd.Limbe provided the perfect setting for the beginning of a new journey for change makers in the country as they examined the problems facing the Cameroonian youth and how they could provide solutions to these problems.
The early morning breeze from the Atlantic Ocean welcomed participants from different regions of the country as they made their way to Savoy Palmz Hotel for the Cameroon Future Forward Eco-System Exchange Event. The event brought together 68 emerging innovators with mentors, thought leaders, leading social entrepreneurs and youth serving organizations working for a journey of learning, inspiration and connection. This was focused on scaling the impact of social innovators to transform the youth employment landscape in Cameroon and beyond. It featured capacity building and peer-to-peer feedback sessions; workshops led by thought leaders; and networking opportunities between organizations working on improving youth employment conditions in Cameroon.
In his opening remarks, Gabila Franklin the coordinator for the Limbe exchange called participants to make good use of the event by building networks and partnerships for development. To him, the challenges faced by the society provides an opportunity for a unique solution and the search for these unique and sustainable solutions were some of the reasons for bringing innovators to Limbe.
The event had as guest speaker Achaleke Christian- 2016 Commonwealth young person and Coordinator Local Youth Corner who spoke on youth employment and peace, to him, an entrepreneurial and employment creation ecosystem is the best platform to prevent youth radicalization. Moreover, the only way to move the future forward is to be the change we want to see. The next speaker Morfaw David- Queen’s Young Leader for 2016 and the C.E.O of Poult-Vault; a social enterprise which deals in chickens and related by-products spoke on Social Innovation. To him, it is from impossibility that there is social innovation and moving the future forward would require a change in the mindset.
Two focused panel sessions on Thinking Big: Scaling for Organizational Growth and How to relate from the Top. The different speakers highlighted the points of partnership, leaders grooming leaders, consistency in performance, patience in times of adversity and how to effectively deal with failure. An Agro-Innovation by Atem Ernest CEO of Agro-Hub-winner of the 2016 Nestle Prize in creating shared value and Gabriel Ashu Arrey – Ashoka 2016 Changemaker Scholar,Founder of Wealth Farms on Wealth transfer in Africa ended a very interesting series of talks.
The Limbe Eco-System Exchange was the first formal event organized by Ashoka and the Mastercard foundation in Cameroon. Youths with different views and solutions made their voices in a series of thought provoking and ground breaking sessions. The big question obviously had to be; what next from Limbe? For sure, networks and partnerships were made during the event and this led to another question of ‘How’. However, this, according to the coordinator of the event – Gabila Franklin, is the beginning of better days to come in youth development activities in the Cameroon. As young leaders departed from the shores of the Atlantic city, the hope would be that, as they go back, the power of the waves in their dreams and hearts should be a shining light directed towards working together for an emerging Cameroon in 2035.