First Lady urges Rwandan youth: Take lead in creating solutions to health challenges

25 May 2017

KIGALI, Rwanda – Rwanda’s First Lady Jeannette Kagame urged young people to take the lead in creating solutions to address some of the most prevalent healthcare challenges. Youth have played a role in the nation’s efforts to transform the country’s health sector using digital technologies, she said.

It is our duty to empower our youth with life-saving information, while encouraging them to take a front seat in the efforts aiming to curb health issues.

“Issues affecting the wellbeing of this demographic group, which makes up 40 per cent of our population, simply cannot be ignored. It is our duty to empower our youth with life-saving information, while encouraging them to take a front seat in the efforts aiming to curb health issues affecting our communities,” she added.

She was speaking at a Youth Forum Series, themed ‘Smart Health Opportunities in Africa’, on the sidelines of the Transform Africa Summit 2017 in Kigali.

Her words were echoed by Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, who said that while it was important to invest in young people, it was equally important to equip them with skills and knowledge that enable them to innovate. “As long as Africa is young, giving opportunities to the young people to innovate and invent is probably one of the most important thing we can do,” she said.

As long as Africa is young, giving opportunities to the young people to innovate and invent is probably one of the most important thing we can do.

Young entrepreneurs pitch potential solutions

At the event, four innovative entrepreneurs who won UNFPA’s Innovation Accelerator (iAccelerator) bid in Rwanda pitched their ideas to attract investors to their health projects, at a Demo Day marking the end of the iAccelerator cycle.

The four winning groups were Umbrella, Girl District, and the ‘Tantine’ and ‘Tubiganire’ TV series, all of which used technology-based solutions to address sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) challenges. Each winner was awarded a $10,000 grant and an entrepreneurial training and mentorship package.

The iAccelerator approach is a smart model to tackle SRHR issues in the region, while creating opportunities for reaping a Demographic Dividend by investing in social enterprises led by young innovators, said Davide Piga, Knowledge Management and Innovation Specialist at UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO). He was speaking during a panel discussion on Smart Health Opportunities in Africa around business opportunities in adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH), ‘Big Data’ and healthcare delivery.

The iAccelerator is a mentorship-driven acceleration programme that seeks to promote an entrepreneurial spirit among young people and encourage them to think critically and creatively on issues related to sexual reproductive health. The programme is an initiative of the Imbuto Foundation and UNFPA, with funding from UK aid.

The Innovation Accelerator programme is being implemented in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.

By Maureen Twahirwa