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Mentoring and Funding for Youth Empowerment: Dr. David Wachira, Public Sector Specialist, World Bank, and Co-Founder Youth Engagement Society

"We have been able to fund 11 startups that work to find solutions to local and global challenges."

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"We have been able to fund 11 startups that work to find solutions to local and global challenges."

The world is evolving, and it requires impactful solutions. The next generation of young leaders needs to take up the opportunity and build a better future in the years to come. Though there are many that lack the necessary resources and access to opportunities, we still see the youth’s powerful impact on advocating for social responsibility and civic participation. The youths have a voice, dreams, and future. They are more than just voters. Is there a logical and practical way to empower and support them? I had a rare opportunity to talk to Dr. David Wachira, a globally influential yet down-to-earth man, who is not only passionate about the youth but also co-founded an organization to help the youth build a better life for themselves and their society at large.

Who is Dr. David Wachira?                                                                                                

Dr. David Wachira is a Fintech entrepreneur, Public Finance Specialist, Mentor, and Philanthropist. I am currently the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Fintech startup Wayapay. I am also a Public Sector Specialist at the World Bank and served as the Co-Secretary for the World Bank Group's Youth to Youth. In 2017, I co-founded the Youth Engagement Society (YES), to empower the youth through connections with successful role models by providing resources and opportunities to network with leaders and young professionals from various settings and careers.

I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, a master’s degree in History from Tarleton State University, and a Ph.D. in Public Administration and Management from The University of North Texas. I also have several publications on transparency, e-government, organizational culture, fiscal sustainability, and spending efficiency.

What motivated you to start the YES organization?  

Effectively addressing the special needs of these youth is a critical challenge for the future. Unfortunately, hundreds of millions of youth—especially young women—lack education, skills and job training, employment opportunities, and health services effectively limiting their futures at a very early age. As a result, youth may react by unleashing risky or harmful behavior against themselves or society.

Although youth may often be perceived as contributing to society’s problems, they are, in fact, important assets for the economic, political, and social life of their communities.

The Youth Engagement Society (YES) was the result of addressing the need to empower our generation and their aspirations. YES thus strives to engage, inspire and empower our youth to live a life of fulfilled aspirations. We are all in need of role models and mentors and recognize that our accomplishments are the result of standing on the shoulders of giants. More importantly, we recognize that our youth are in dire need of individuals who recognize the best thing each of us can do for ourselves and for society is to pour out into others. We hope that by connecting with youth and other professionals, we will all be better informed and inspired to pursue our dreams and a life of fulfilled aspirations. 

What are the objectives of the YES organization?

We focus on three main objectives:

  • Engage and leverage youth for solutions to local and global issues.

  • Inspire and better inform youth to pursue dreams and lives of fulfilled aspirations.

  • Empower youth through connections with successful role models by providing resources and opportunities to learn, network, discuss and interact with leaders, young professionals, and organizations from various settings and careers

How have the youths so far benefited by being part of YES? 

The Youth Startup fund has been one to accelerate the growth of youth-based initiatives. We have been able to fund 11 startups that work to find solutions to local and global challenges. The fund has enabled these startups to reach key technical or commercial milestones by allowing them to gain considerable exposure and opportunities to meet potential partners, investors, key audiences, and stakeholders. Additionally, we have been able to reach thousands of people by facilitating training that offers skills-building and mentorship to the youth. By using transformative leadership, we are able to take youth through holistic ways of being great people in this world. 

During the 4th annual Kenya Youth Summit that was just concluded, what were some of the issues that were addressed?

This year’s Virtual Kenya Youth Summit focused on the following subjects:

  • Jobs in the New Normal- we covered how youth can effectively search for jobs despite an economic and health crisis. As well as some of the key challenges graduates are currently facing when it comes to the world of work.

  • Social Responsibility and Civic Participation- we covered how youth can actively contribute in social and political spheres and bring change.

  • Networking 101- we covered how youth can effectively network in this new digital age. Additionally, we will also look at how they can leverage their networking skills for their career growth.

  • Youth in Underrepresented Sectors: STEM and Agribusiness - In STEM, we discussed how we can improve the involvement of youth in STEM. We also looked into how to mitigate the gender gap in this sector. In Agribusiness, we discussed how we can improve the involvement of youth in the agricultural sector. Additionally, we looked into the challenges youth face in this sector and how to mitigate them, so as to maximize returns for the young people in this sector.

Wow! That is quite in-depth. In your opinion by engaging with the youth, what can they do to feel empowered and overcome the challenges they face? 

Whether through social media or in person, they need to connect with other individuals whose identities, cultures, values, languages, and lifestyles are different. How youths can make sense of this depends on the degree to which they are prepared to live in diverse societies. Experiencing cultural diversity is an opportunity for exchange and collaboration. And it is in this exchange that ideas flourish. You see, global competence isn’t as much about knowledge of other cultures, nations, or tribes, as it is about the skill of relating to people of diverse backgrounds.

Where do you hope to see the YES movement in the coming 5 to 10 years?

The implications of underinvestment for growth and well-being provide a strong incentive to allocate sufficient resources for youth development. I expect that our SME and Startup Fund will grow and continue to meet this demand for impact investing. Additionally, looking back at the previous four years, YES as an organization has continually strived to create a platform for youth engagement and development. As such, I expect that our trajectory will continue to place us with like-minded individuals and organizations so that we can continue to improve the status of youth not only within the country but on the continent as a whole. 

Parting shot on life lessons you learned as a youth…

I have learned that a substantive understanding of the world is the foundation for packaging yourself for the next level and creating a compelling global image. With that in mind, here are my four life lessons that I believe the youth can learn and act on:

1. Investigate the world beyond their immediate environment such as framing significant problems.

2. Recognize the perspectives of others and their own. While carefully articulating and explaining such perspectives thoughtfully and respectfully.

3. Communicate ideas effectively with diverse audiences through bridging geographic, linguistic, ideological, and cultural barriers. 

4. Take action to improve conditions by viewing themselves as players in the world and participating reflectively.

Written by

Cindy Nyagah

Cindy Nyaga is a passionate writer with diverse skills and communications and media expertise. Her hobbies include; writing, volunteering and travelling.

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