Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Youth to lead in the transformation agenda

University students from some of the country’s high learning institutions will in the coming weeks engage in series of debates geared towards a youth inclusive transformation agenda. This was revealed this week as Debate Botswana launched their annual debate sessions.

Kaene Disepo, the founder of Change Africa, which is responsible for Debate Botswana, said the thought-provoking debates between the country’s top learning institutions will be  premised on ‘strengthening Botswana`s national- international linkages to enhance a youth-driven transformation agenda’  with the aim to bridge the implementation gap, by supporting both national and international stakeholders in establishing, implementing, and monitoring local and global policies.

“Through the support of our strategic partners and funding, Debating Botswana will train and enhance capacity building for young people to play an influential role in synchronising national plans and global priorities,”  said Disepo.

He said while the COVID-19 pandemic led to many disruptions, the grievances and plights of young people predated the pandemic. “Young people, even before the onset of the crisis, suffered greatly from the lack of social and economic integration. It was here, that I decided that now, unless urgent action is taken, young people will likely continue to suffer severe and long-lasting impacts from the pandemic.”

Disepo added that it was in August 2020 when Debate Botswana started to create safe spaces for meaningful engagements by young people, debating on key development issues, but having the right leading industry experts as adjudicators. He said it has become evident that young people’s challenges are systematic, deep, and most incredibly, disproportionate.

“The lack of inclusive policies and leadership during the pandemic, made worse the challenges faced by Adolescent and Young People. Young people were concerned about their future and their place within it. I was concerned about my future and my place within it. Therefore, it was when we started, the theme for our debates, was Youth Engagement Reimagined: Amplifying youth voices for inclusive leadership during COVID-19,” the founder said.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Resident Representative, Her Excellency Dr. Joan Matji, said that the conversation has now shifted from talking about the youth as the leaders of the future to now acknowledging that young people are the leaders of today.

“I think that it is very important because sometimes when we speak as development partners, we talk about the youth as the leaders of tomorrow. I think there is  an urgency in leading today. I also learned that this is all about inclusive leadership and that we need to be socially relevant,” she said.

“I think that Debate Africa provides an amazing opportunity for young people in Botswana to amplify their voices. Nothing for us without us. Within the development community, we hear that all the time that we have no right to formulate programmes interventions that respond to society’s needs without ensuring that they are youth-lead.”

Dr. Matji highlighted that the UN family is in support of President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s, initiative on Generation Unlimited, which is a public-private partnership and youth partnership that looks at opportunities to move young people from learning in academic institutions and elsewhere to earning and to learning how to be entrepreneurs themselves.

“That not all of us should be looking at being employed either within government or within the private sector, but that young people themselves can become entrepreneurs translate their ideas and innovations into ideas wherein they can generate their own businesses, and in so doing respond to societal challenges,” she said.

The country’s biggest commercial, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), which is one of the main sponsors to Debating Botswana, says it continues to engage all critical stakeholders especially youth by participating and actively engaging the youth community through mindful engagements and activities, as a way of driving the fulfilment of a knowledge—based economy.

“We are committed to expanding our footprint from traditional banking services to actively supporting the sectors that present an opportunity for the youth inclusive of the student community,” said FNBB’s Director of Retail, Boitumelo Mogopa, during the launch of the debates.

“FNBB has sponsored this competition in an effort to encourage progressive dialogue and provide a platform for deliberate engagement on issues that affect the country’s youth. This is part of our mandate to providing positive change in the communities in which we serve. Our slogan ‘how can we help you’ is our way as a bank to understand our individual customer needs and offer them banking solutions that add value to their lifestyles and help fulfil lifelong dreams.

Mogopa said the bank has been deliberate in empowering young people in Botswana, in particular, the bank’s commitment to providing innovative and progressive banking solutions to the youth by responding to the evolving needs of today’s youth.

“The bank has been providing banking solutions to government sponsored students and has enabled access to solutionist services that enhance their banking experience. In the journey towards offering real help, FNBB has invested at least 1 percent of our profits after tax to the FNBB Foundation to support our local communities inclusive of youth through various creative projects.”

FNBB’s business development manager for youth banking, Maemo Baleseng, said youth banking is not just part of their business but an opportunity to empower young people by introducing them to the financial system early. Many young Batswana were introduced to banking through disbursement of tertiary allowances which for a long time were traditionally administered by FNBB.

“FNB has also continued to offer solutions to the wider youth community through the introduction of the FNBy and FNBy Next youth transactional accounts targeted at customers aged 0 – 17 and 18 – 24 respectively. Next generation banking requires a deliberate effort by the banking fraternity to participate in the education on money matters from a younger age as part of a child’s developmental journey,” he said. Baleseng added that by sponsoring Debate Botswana, they are giving future though leaders a platform where they can express themselves through   meaningful  engagements.


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