At the age of 21, Awadh Juma Milasi and Harrison Antony Mbugi from Loyola Secondary School formed an NGO in 2009 called Youth For Africa (YOA).
Youth For Africa(YOA) is a youth-led non-profit, non-faith- based and non-governmental organisation aimed at uniting youth by identifying, building and reviving useful capacities in youth towards the African Youth Charter (AYC).
It is a motivated group of young people who believe they can make an impact on their peers as well as the older generation who may draw motivation from their message.
Speaking with Success, the group’s acting executive director, Abdul Lukanza, says YOA has 15 active members on its board and management. They also have more than 500 members from their networks in secondary schools through African Union Youth Club as well as six youth development groups in Ifakara and Kiberege, Morogoro.
As many youth groups do, YOA offers guidance and practical support to young people by helping build potential through education, training or work-based learning. This helps young people gain the skills to find a job and have an independent future.
YOA believes it differs from youth organisations in the country in terms of vision, innovativeness and its approach to reaching youth directly in their environment. “We believe in peer to peer education and learning by example. It’s only another young person who knows what a fellow youth is going through in this world of technology and globalisation. Other youth organisations in most cases do not directly reach their target groups as they focus on policy advocacy,” notes Lukanza.
Apart from that, the group has managed to change the lives of over 1,000 youth all over Tanzania. They have conducted more than five projects including the Under-30 Youth Awards, a Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme, a Youth and Employment Initiative Dar Es Salaam, as well as the Skills Development for Agricultural Sector and Each Reach One programmes. They have also managed to foster strategic partnerships with local and international organisations, the private sector, and governmental bodies.
Under 30 Awards
The Under 30 Youth Awards is by far their most successful initiative. “This is the biggest project for us. It is a youth led awarding initiative, the first of its kind in Tanzania. The Under-30 Youth Awards is a continuous programme and the largest youth awards to identify, honour and promote youth under 30 years of age who have excelled in their field of work,” notes the 25 year-old
He adds that the Under-30 Youth Awards recognises and honours Tanzanians who have had a remarkable impact on their society. The programme stimulates and triggers more youth to believe in themselves from an early age which comes as a result of finding new ways to advance in their career and impacting the society.
“Despite its emergence in the very competitive edutainment industry it is very successful and shows even a greater need for recognition of exceptional young Tanzanians and those in East Africa Region,” says Lukanza
Last year’s award which was themed, “Born Talented Living to Do It,” had eight categories and winners; Social Impact (Grand Award) which went to Adam Antony, Environment Activism, MD Dailet Company. Innovation, Richard Kazimoto, founder and CEO of Kazi Tech .Fashion, Jokate Mwegelo, CEO of Kidoti Fashion. Entrepreneurship, Michael Mbwambo, co-founder and COO of Popote Media. Entertainment Ben Pol as best male vocalist of the year .Sports Mbwana Samatta of Taifa Stars/ TP Mazembe Footballer. Media, Millard Ayo, a Clouds FM radio presenter. Art and Design, Joachim Ainaso, managing director at QM Concept)
“If you track all of last winners you’ll find that they have developed and continued to succeed in their fields and motivate other people to believe in themselves.
If you take the examples of Jokate Mwegelo, Millard Ayo, Ben Pol and Mbwana Samatta you will see ambitious people who are focused to succeed,” he says, adding:
“Nomination for the award is open to anyone who meets our criteria, a person can be nominated through our website www.youthawards.or.tz. If things go as planned, the next awards will be either in May or June.”
Lukanza says that YOA aims to take the under -30 Award to the international sphere where we they believe the contribution of young people to global development is needed. “Young people who make a remarkable impact on their society need to be recognised and honoured this will encourage others to follow their dreams.”
YOA has received both financial and technical support from different partners such as (TCRA), Uongozi Institute, KINU, Smart Codes, Africa Media group Clouds TV and radio station.
“Financially, once we have a good idea like the projects we have been implementing in Dar and beyond, we have been able to approach different partners with similar interests and they have assisted us with the funds to implement such projects and programmes.
The other kind of support is in the form of manpower and technical skill to the implementing members of the programmes.
We started very small and with little experience, all we had was a vision and a mission. We now have fully qualified professionals in different areas. This kind of support has been very important and helpful,” says Lukanza.
Their vision for young people in Tanzania is to have a youth population with a purpose. “This way we will be half way there. The rest will be making our dreams come true. If we all know what we really want and develop the drive to get us there, nothing can stop us,” he says.
What young people need
However, the group believes that young people need skills. Therefore, any avenue such as places of employment or even informal education which impart skills among youth are important for the development of young people in Tanzania. “Formal education that does not produce skilled youth, is a waste of time.
Formal education is just another stereotype to make people think that knowledge is only found in the classroom,” says Lukanza. YOA believes any avenue which provides skills to young people can be used to help them achieve success.
“We want a young person to absorb any form of education they can get. Be it formal or informal. This way they make an informed decision on the path they want to pursue.
Let it not be because of lack of opportunity in the formal sector that a young person goes to the informal sector, we don’t encourage reactionary decisions. It should be out of self belief and confidence that one decides to opt for the informal sector or the formal one whatever the case may be,” he said.
Lukanza says that the major challenge that Tanzanian young people face is struggling with self realisation.
“ Self realisation goes beyond waiting for leaders to push us into action; society needs to change not change its leaders, so with self realisation every young person would know their position and start doing something without waiting for a leader,” he explains.