The Sunday Mail

THE global youth organisation, Junior Chamber International (JCI), a fortnight ago hosted the Africa-Middle East Conference in Victoria Falls. Attended by over 400 delegates, the convention sought to equip young people with business and leadership skills. Our Correspondent TANYARADZWA RUSIKE (TR) spoke to JCI national president MR SAMUEL NEHUMBA (SN) on outcomes of the conference.

TR: Briefly explain what Junior Chamber International is all about.

SN: Junior Chamber International is an organisation that provides leadership opportunities to young people, which in turn, empower them to create positive change measured in economic and societal growth. It is a membership-driven global network of dedicated young leaders aged 18 to 40.

Active in more than 5 000 locations across nearly 115 countries, JCI takes its members on a leadership journey, providing an environment for them to develop their true potential through four types of actions — projects, events, trainings and programmes — aligning these four areas as an opportunity. JCI gives members the practical experience to become global communicators, entrepreneurs, change makers and networkers. In a nutshell, our organisation is all about developing the next generation of leaders in Government, the private sector, civil society and other spheres of life.

TR: How many members are affiliated to your organisation locally?

SN: Currently, our organisation has 500 active members, who include senators and alumni. JCI Zimbabwe also works in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation and the Zimbabwe Youth Council.

TR: Recently, you hosted the Africa-Middle East Conference in Victoria Falls. Can you outline issues that were set for discussion?

SN: The conference sought to discuss formal JCI business that sought to advance the work of JCI in member countries and further expose young people to the organisation. The conference ran under the theme “Leadership, Sustainability and Resilience” to underscore the important role young people have to play as leaders of tomorrow.

The event was graced by various keynote speakers and leaders from Government, business and the civic society. JCI executive vice president for Africa and the Middle East Mr Achille Sonehekpon chaired the conference, whilst the 2023 JCI world president Viktor Ómarson was in attendance.

TR: How many delegates attended the conference and from which countries?

SN: We had close to 400 delegates. Forty countries from Africa and the Middle East were represented, plus up to 10 countries from Europe, Asia and America.

TR: How has Zimbabwe benefitted from hosting the conference?

SN: The conference was an opportunity for Zimbabwe to boost its national image and brand in the eyes of the visitors. It was also an opening to boost local tourism. Potential investors were also keen on finding more about the business opportunities in Zimbabwe and there was a plenary session on investing in Zimbabwe in which the relevant Government departments were represented.

Also, the conference was a platform to take stock of progress that we have made as an organisation and what more we need to do to groom the next leaders of tomorrow.

TR: Can you outline some youth empowerment projects that JCI is spearheading in Zimbabwe?

SN: JCI members in Zimbabwe are running projects centred on the JCI RISE initiative. The projects re based on three pillars: business recovery through supporting entrepreneurial ventures by young people and supporting small businesses. The other pillar of these projects focuses on workforce empowerment through professional reconversion and upskilling of the workforce. In line with this, JCI Zimbabwe is running the Skill Up drive, which seeks to encourage and promote young people to take up new skills relevant in the new economy. The last pillar of the projects focuses on raising awareness on mental health issues in society.

Furthermore, JCI Zimbabwe is running the Creative Young Entrepreneur programme that seeks to celebrate young enterprising people and the role of innovation in the entrepreneurial climb to global success.

TR: What were some of the highlights of the conference?

SN: Firstly, the JCI Zimbabwe report was presented and adopted. Also, the general assembly passed the proposed board of directors, who are candidates for 2024. The approved candidates are all women, demonstrating JCI’s stance in intentionally seeking to actively produce renowned world leaders who are women.

Furthermore, we had a global village exhibition of all represented countries showcasing their products. Another highlight was that our Government was well-represented and we had the Deputy Minister of Youth, Sport, Art and Recreation Tinomuda Machakaire in attendance. I can, therefore, say, we had a successful conference.

TR: When is the next conference going to be held?

SN: Rwanda was given the mandate to host the 2024 conference, whilst South Africa got the nod to host it in 2025. So, the next area conference will be held in Kigali, Rwanda, in May 2024.