By COLLINS MWAI, 21 May 2015, New Times (Rwanda)
At least 700 Rwandan youth in North America will this weekend convene in Dallas, Texas for the inaugural Rwanda Youth Forum, an initiative that aims at engaging the youth living abroad in national development. The event, slated for May 23 and 24, is being organised by the Rwandan community in the US, with support from the embassy, and majority of the participants are from the Americas and Canada.
A section of young people from Rwanda and government officials will also participate.
The organisers hope that, through the forum, the youth living in the Diaspora can gain insights on Rwanda, and identify the opportunities and roles they can play in nation building. According to a statement from the forum organisers, by bringing together the youth based in the Diaspora, they hope to reflect on Rwanda’s achievement to date and the role of the youth in nation building.
“The Rwanda Youth Forum aims at inspiring young professionals to be part of the country’s development momentum and provide real-world examples of how young professionals have contributed to the country’s development,” the statement reads in part. Speaking to The New Times on phone ahead of the forum, the Rwandan Diaspora Global Network president, Alice Kabagire Cyusa, said the forum would increase the involvement of young Rwandans living abroad, in the national development agenda.
“As a Global Diaspora leader, my hope and expectations are that this Forum will serve as an eye opener for Rwandan Young Professionals and will help create a dialogue, a networking space, they need to inspire them, to innovate, to bring about change through shared knowledge, research and cementing their role in Rwanda’s development,” Cyusa said. The forum will feature presentations by different government officials, panel discussions, presentation by young people based in Rwanda and a job desk that will highlight available opportunities in the country as well as a networking session for the youth.
Cyusa added that they hoped that the event would be replicated throughout the Rwanda Diaspora community. Highlighting how the concept came into existence, Cyusa, who lives in the US, said that the forum came out of the need by a large section of Rwandan professionals based aboard to build a network to work closely and contribute to efforts back home. The Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, who is expected to attend, said the forum’s spirit and intentions remain the same as that of Rwanda Day; engaging the Rwandan community abroad so that they can be part of nation building despite living abroad.
“This time we have the specificity of targeting young people not only because they are the majority but also because they are the most dynamic and the most innovative. They also would be the one at risk most if they were not well engaged because some may not have enough information about Rwanda and its culture,” Nsengimana said. The minister added that they would also connect young people living in Rwanda and the young people abroad through a live interaction of the people in Dallas and the people in the Innovation Village – situated at the Kigali Public Library rooftop.
“There will also be a job desk for the interest of those who would like to return to the country and serve in either the government or private sector,” Nsengimana added. Marie Ange Rukundo, a Rwandan who recently returned from Canada – who will also attend the forum – said as a result of the forum, there was likely to be a greater interest by Rwandans in the Diaspora in local development efforts.
“I believe this event will create a bridge between the youth abroad and Rwanda. I think that following this forum, the youth will become more enlightened and interested with what is going on in Rwanda. After exchanging stories and experiences with the delegation from Rwanda, some participants of the forum might consider moving home,” Rukundo said.