First Lady Jeannette Kagame on Friday made a case for the youth in Africa, saying that they were well positioned to determine the course of the continent's transformation.
She was speaking on the last day of the YouthConnekt Africa Summit during a session entitled 'Pathways to Development: Civic Engagement and Volunteerism.'
"You are poised to be a determinant factor in the transformation of our continent and the pathway to sustainable peace and prosperity," she told young people gathered at the Kigali Conventions Cebtre for the Summit.
"Your presence must count for something; your energy must define and shape the destiny of our continent; and yes, our continent belongs to you," she added.
Currently, the youth make up 1.8 billion of the world's population. In Africa, they represent 60 per cent of the population under the age of 25, making it the most youthful continent on the globe.
Mrs. Kagame said that these numbers matter, emphasising that, when translated, they reflect the opportunities available for youth, and also the challenges they face.
The First Lady also highlighted the importance of youth volunteerism, saying that, "Volunteerism is noble as it speaks directly to one's altruistic nature to contribute to causes that especially result in the development of those around them."
While volunteerism is a new concept on the continent, she added that traditional practices are rooted in the importance of the community, and the "resulting duty we owe to one another, to alleviate the inequalities of this world."
"As we all know and can confirm from its impact on our economies, volunteerism has shaped our health systems, education, agriculture, science and technology and many other sectors, while enhancing the capacity, skills and knowledge of youth," she noted.
The First Lady stated that it was important to acknowledge the institutions and organisations that work tirelessly to offer opportunities to youth to volunteer in this era of youth unemployment, underemployment, quest for self-actualisation, and to eliminate the risk of resorting to crime and violent extremism in frustration and despair.
Mrs. Kagame insisted that the active engagement of youth in all spheres of life is essential for collective development and growth. "They are a large percentage of the labour force, and policies that do not integrate them, are compromising overall development."
"In the case of Rwanda, our government built national policies rooted in our cultural values of volunteerism, to ensure more effective mobilisation - and channeling of community efforts - for measurable impact, in a more conducive environment," she said.
In Rwanda, 70 per cent of the population is below 35 years. The Government decided to invest in them in order to, among other things, reinforce their sense of national unity, and ensure they get a seat at the table of leadership.
The First Lady said they also decided to placing the at the centre of our transformation journey, which is done through strong political will, inclusive and youth-friendly policies and programmes - especially promoting education for all, access to universal healthcare, finance and political representation.
For the past 10 years, the First Lady through her organization, Imbuto Foundation, has been recognizing youth innovative spirits, through programmes such as the YouthConnekt Champions and Celebrating Young Rwandans Achievers (CYRWA) Awards.
The award has been recognizing young Rwandans striving for social and professional excellence.
Meanwhile, Rosemary Mbabazi, the Minister of Youth said the YouthConnekt Africa Summit brought together over 4,000 participants representing over 91 nationalities.
Many of them were young African leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators, "who are working tirelessly to support the development of their communities."
Also present were government officials representing over 30 countries and 16 of them are led by ministers of youth.
A ministerial steering committee composed of ministers of youth, development partners, private sector, young people, the civil society, was also held.
"We witnessed an enormous commitments and greater political will from leaders, looking forward to partner to take YouthConnekt beyond the 12 countries where its being implemented," she said.
Four countries - Ethiopia, Liberia, Ghana and Uganda - expressed interest to host the next edition of the YouthConnekt Africa Summit.