H.E Jakaya Kikwete gave a keynote at the Opening ceremony of the 41st World Scout Conference in Baku, Azerbaijan. Shortly before his keynote address, we sat for a brief interview to discuss his ideas on solutions to tackling challenges young people are facing today and how he thinks the Scout Movement plays a pivotal role in the lives of the Youth.
As the fourth and former President of Tanzania, His Excellency Jakaya Kikwete is internationally acknowledged as one of Africa’s pristine Leaders for efforts in promoting Democracy, Peace, Health care and Education. In his youth, as a graduate of economics from the University of Dar es Salaam, he was a student leader and active participant in African liberation politics and youth movements. In working towards the Sustainable Development Goals, UN Secretary-General Banki-moon appointed President Kikwete in 2016 as one of twenty-nine (29) Global Leaders to Spearhead the Fight Against Malnutrition and also appointed the former President to Co-Chair the Highest Panel on Women and Children Commission.
Generally speaking, the former President Kikwete’s efforts and role in promoting women, children and youth development is the meritorious reason why he was invited to deliver an inspirational keynote at the opening session of the 41st World Scout Conference in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The conference is said to go down in World Scouting history as its largest yet with representation from at least 160 National Scout Organizations, accounting for 90% of the Member Organizations of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) worldwide. His remarkable keynote, addressed the importance of Scouting as the leading non-formal education youth movement, the need for raising active citizens and making youth aware of the key role they play in improving the lives of people in their local communities.
During his speech, Kikwete said, “Your strength is not only in your numbers, but in the spirit and energy that you have decided to invest in this noble course. With a strong Scout Movement, no challenge in this world is insurmountable to solve and no barrier impossible to overcome”.
Scouting + Education
Adedayo: Given your efforts in promoting education during your tenure and the World Scout being the leading non-formal education youth movement in the world, can you talk to us about the importance of scouting and why you think the Movement matters for young people?
H.E : Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity of being a boys scout. I was born in the rural area in 1950, I went to secondary school and saw some friends who were active in the movement. However, my four sons are active members of the movement. They went to camps in and out of the country. In our structure, the President is patron of the National Scout Organization (NSO), so I’ve been working with them on the things they want assistance with. The scout movement is a useful thing. The non-formal education trains them to have skills to be good citizens, serve communities and serve humanity.
“global Citizen” is a term young people use most often today. Our generation regard themselves as change makers but unfortunately leadership In governments seem to be lacking, leaving young people to sort of cater for themselves. As a leader, what words do you have to encourage youth to be active citizens?
H.E Kikwete: It all depends by what you define as “leadership in government.” There is always leadership in government but today’s world is quite different. Today, the nurturing of young people is multifaceted. We are in a world that is always reinventing. Many Governments are investing a lot into the education of their young people! I don’t know any Government that is not investing in the education of their youth or listening to the young people. To be active citizens, I encourage young people to engage with the Scout, be involved in community service and share their experiences to inspire others. Through these activities and projects, Scouts contribute to their communities and that is how they become leaders of positive change.
Adedayo : How can young people get the government to pay attention to them?
H.E Kikwete: Of course there are many ways. They have to be organized. The Government can’t just cater to every young person on the street. 63% of the population in Tanzania are young people — where they are over 50 million people, so that means 30 or 40 million young people. Organizing through youth organizations like the Scout movement is a way to get their voices heard where they present and discuss the issues. In many countries the youth organizations like Boys Scouts and Girls Guide are there for them to put their information across.
How did you engage with young people during your presidency and now post presidency?
For example in our structure in Tanzania we have the youth led Councils. That’s a strong movement because I also grew up in this movement. They discuss issues not only related to party interests but of concern to young people then they present them to me as president. I was quite active, I’ve always been meeting with the leaders of the student organizations. I meet them, talk to them and we have the National Youth Council who present their ideas to us. We have forums where young people sit down and discuss their ideas to us.
Young people attend forums but what happens after these conversations have been had? How can it become effective?
“Follow-up” is the responsibility of those who are attending the forum. You got your forums and received resolutions then follow up on those resolution. If you do not follow up on those resolutions then you have no one to blame but yourself. I am talking from my own experience, I have had meetings with student leaders and national youth councils , with some organizations predominantly youth like those in the movie or film industries where they talk about the issues that concern them and we try to find solutions to them.
Can you share some Success stories?
Let us talk about Youth Empowerment, I made a commitment to youth empowerment in my tenure. Some of them who had just finished University, I made them District Commissioners and they never let me down. I took a lot of risks giving positions to young people because I grew up that way. The founding fathers gave me responsibility at a very tender age which made me believe in young people—that the only thing they need is just to be given the opportunity. In my government, we showed concern for the youth in being able to provide them avenues for loans and funding. We also tried to address issues that present challenges to them by the system.
Adedayo: “ African scouts need support from government”— a concern a delegate brought forward during the forum you had yesterday with the Africa Scout region. Africa has a booming youth population, over 200 million but yet only 5 million engaged scouts. What are the positives of having a booming youth population?
H.E: 226 million youth , 320 million by 2030 and a billion by 2050. Those are the predictions. Young people are an asset now and in the future. Of course they are a challenge when you have to invest in preparing them to be productive citizens — that is why we invest in education. If they have access to quality education then you have an effective workforce. Whether in employment or in self employment. That is why it is imperative that we invest in their education. The Scout movement also is the non-formal education which empowers them with confidence to become good citizens. First, invest in their education —this I am sure the government is doing and the Scout movement is helping with that; then of course they need job opportunities. The answer to that is growing the economy. You cannot create jobs when the economy is not growing. When you have sound economic policies, it promotes growth and development in the country which is how you create jobs for the young people.
Young people have to be educated to match the skills required by the job market and/or if they want to be self-employed. Creating access to venture funds is another key.
How can the governments from various African countries support their respective scout movements?
In the case of the Scout movement in Tanzania, the President is the Patron of the NSO and the minister of education is the president of an NSO. So you have full involvement of the government in the development of the scout movement. I do not know what the issues are in the other countries but I am sure the issues would not be raised by our NSO because there is close cooperation between the government and the NSO there. Minister of Education in Tanzania recently gave instructions to all schools to ensure that the Scouts are properly factored in schools. Every country is different .
Adedayo: On a global scale, what is your message to young people ?
To take formal and non-formal education seriously because it prepares them for active citizenship. Unemployment is everywhere in the world but that does not mean you cancel going to Universities. There are two issues, one being that education should not ever stop because at the moment there are 261 million young people out of school and 131 million are in Africa. These people are in the age gap of the the boys scouts and girls guide. Do not stop education but rather deal with economic growth and development so that you will be able to absorb the situation. Full employment may be difficult to attain but also what you do is reduce unemployment. Train young people so they can become entrepreneurs—they become creative and think about what they want to do, mentor them and create the possibilities for them to access finance. Secondly, accessing finance is one of the key challenges which Tanzania and everywhere else has been facing. I tried to create a financing facility but I think it was not done well. We spent a lot of money but the result was not that good. So we really have got to refocus on that.
How can young people stay motivated?
I was a young person once. So if I can make it, a young person today can make it. There are opportunities for young people. We should not get to the point of assuming that because some are not employed then all the young people have no future. That’s a terrible assumption. The challenges are there but a lot is also happening. New jobs are also being created, old people are retiring and young people are taking over their positions. Not everyone is unemployed!
One of the challenges we have is how to help young men and women get skills to match the job market? Why get a Sociology degree or International relations degree? Tailoring our education to meet the needs of the job market is a very strong factor. Also how do we build capacities so our young people can become entrepreneurs? How do we train, mentor and support them? We should not create an impression that nothing is really happening with young people. There are so many getting employed but we have not reached a point where the employment opportunities can absorb all the young people that is why we have unemployment everywhere. My conclusion is to give them the education and skills such that they can continue to work and cater for themselves ; be self employed so they can be empowered citizens. The Scout movement’s role in global citizen education also helps to motivate and shape young people in becoming productive in their communities.