The hottest season of the year brought Salar Shahna, World VR Forum’s CEO to YouthConnekt Summit 17’ on youth development themed From Potential to Success, hosted by the Rwandan President, his Excellency, Paul Kagame and organized in collaboration with UNDP, UNCTAD, and the Ministry of ICT and Youth at one of the world’s hottest destinations at the Kigali Convention Centre, in Kigali, Rwanda, 19 – 21 July, 2017.
YouthConnekt was attended by Jack Ma, CEO and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, UNCTAD’s Special Adviser on Young Entrepreneurs and singer icon investing in a lot of the development in Africa, and gathered thousands of delegates, government leaders, leaders of civil society organizations, executives from multinational companies, members of the academia, entrepreneurs, artists and youth opinion leaders from all over the sun-kissed continent. All African countries were represented, 6,531 people registered, 2,813 accredited and 1,984 of the international attendees were from 90 different countries.
Shahna got introduced to YouthConnekt by the ITU team in Geneva during WSIS and the Minister of ICT & Youth, Hon. Jean Philbert Nsengimana. Shahna’s role was to participate as a delegate to understand better the key numbers of Africa, the situation with the youth and to host a VR workshop for young kids ages 9 -12 in one of the wings of the event dedicated to technology and hackathons, hosted by K-Lab, incubator in Rwanda.
A two day K-Lab hackathon on robots for young kids and young adults cultivating their creativity and innovative skills in high-tech and a technology exhibition were among the highlights of the Summit. Also, Salar held two-day long workshops on VR where he introduced the kids to the medium of VR showing educational content to them to spark their interest in becoming potential creators of VR content, one during the event and another after the event on Monday at K-Lab.
According to Shahna, “VR is a medium that can be very compelling for education because it allows to focus better and to be able to learn and memorize through experience. When you are in VR, you have the sense that you are exploring and visiting faces physically, so it’s much more powerful than just reading something out of a book. Nevertheless, nothing can replace the relationship between teacher and pupils, so VR should be seen not as a finality but as a tool to support the classic way of teaching, an add-on that can allow the teacher to transfer his message, VR is especially good for those who cannot travel as they can explore the world from their country and city.”
Currently, there are 226 million young people, 15 – 24 years of age in Africa today, and there will be a billion young people in Africa by 2050. The main purpose of this event was to highlight the huge potential developments that exist in Africa, all these young people are the new blood, the new generation that grew up in Africa. Therefore, many jobs need to be created for these young people. The Summit was not only dedicated to innovation but also to agriculture and education, in general to youth empowerment in Africa and on how they can impact their continent and the world as well.
“We need a new generation of problem solvers who see further and work smarter,” stated the Rwandan President, his Excellency, Paul Kagame during his speech at the closing panel.
Also, it was interesting to witness the involvement of China, Alibaba, one of the main sponsors of the event was a Chinese company called Star Times, delivering digital television to the majority of the country.
Though several YouthConnekt events in other African countries have taken place in the past, this was the first YouthConnekt Africa. One of the big challenges addressed at the Summit was that Africa is not a unified market, it’s about 54 different markets, so there is a lot to be done in terms of uniting the continent for strategic topics.
“We are very excited to start collaborating further on VR education not in words but with action by implementing innovative and cutting-edge programmes in schools both public and private,” said Shahna.
The quality of the event was outstanding, both in terms of editorial and organization, and with excellent hospitality, musical entertainment and delicious food. The Summit highlighted the potential of Africa for building their own giants for ecommerce, messaging, digital payments and startups that can grow and grow.