Zimbabwe once again asserted its presence on the global stage at the ongoing World Youth Forum here when a young female entrepreneur from Masvingo was the only presenter from the country. Fari Makanda is a marketing graduate of the Midlands State University in Gweru. Her presence brought some relief to the little clutch of Zimbabweans present at the summit, who have to contend not only with uncooperating technology, but a cultural barrier manifest in language differences that make communication with locals a struggle.
She is one of about 3 000 youths gathered in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el Sheikh for the conference running from November 4-10. The diminutive Ms Makanda said she had been invited to the summit through a chance acquaintance. But it is her area of enterprise that is even more intriguing for a country such as Zimbabwe: she is into cattle rearing and beef retail, a territory generally viewed as a preserve of men.
"After I completed my studies at Midlands State University I got a job with a local (Zimbabwean) company," Ms Makamba told her audience of about 60 in one of the smaller halls focusing on the theme "Innovative youth experiences in entrepreneurship". The pay was good but I was not happy working for someone," she said. "I wanted to do something for myself."
Ms Makamba said she took advantage of the fact that her family already has a farm and she grew up in an environment where cattle are highly prized. She started buying cattle and fattening them for resale to local butcheries in Masvingo.
"This called for courage in my culture given that this is a male-dominated sector. But I decided to give it a try. I have the passion and the drive. That is what has kept me going and I don't regret the decision I made to get into this male-dominated sector." She said her decision does demonstrate that with determination, young people can start enterprises in any sector of the economy and make it," said Ms Makamba.
She has become a beef supplier to major retailers in her home town of Masvingo and beyond. She is now working on diversifying her product line by venturing into tanning to make shoes and other by-products from cattle. The summit has brought together about 3 000 youths from 52 nations across the globe. President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi officially opened the forum on Sunday evening amidst tight security, something that appears to be a standard feature throughout this beautiful coastal town of white-walled mainly-single storey structures on the Red Sea.
President Al Sisi called on the youth to be wary of the dangers posed by terrorist organisations to global peace and security, saying only by working together could developing nations overcome the challenges of poverty, ignorance and unemployment. He slammed countries, which accuse his administration of dictatorship, saying they were misinformed about the security challenges facing the region in the face of religious extremism and the threat of terrorism.
As it turns, security has turned out to be one of the biggest preoccupations of officialdom in a region wracked by terror attacks as a fallout from the destruction of the states of Iraq and Libya in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring on 2011. The summit is being held under the theme "All for Peace, All for Development, All for Creativity" to try and engage the youth positively to stop them being lured by terrorist groups because of high rates of unemployment and joblessness.
Among the topics under discussion are: differences among cultures and civilisations: conflict or integration; challenges and issues facing world youth: means to overcome towards building a better future; entrepreneurship and innovation: youth shape the future of the world; role of civil society organisations in achieving sustainable development goals; impact of technology on education; women's role in decision making circles; promoting youth participation in decision making; dialogue among generations; the cultural dimension of globalisation and its impact on youth's cultural identity and youth contribution to building and keeping peace in conflict and post conflict zones. The summit ends this evening after adopting a number of resolutions emanating from the discussions.