More Than Just Research: Youth Think Tank Member Embraces Diversity to Achieve a Common Goal

As an economics graduate and a young monitoring and evaluations (M&E) professional from Malawi, I strongly believe research can be used to spur innovation, particularly among young people in the tech, health, education, and energy sectors.

During my time with the National Youth Council of Malawi, I worked as an M&E associate. Having noticed the passion I displayed for research and youth development work, my supervisor at the time recommended I join the Youth Think Tank (YTT). Restless Development Uganda, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, was offering a chance to work with 27 other young researchers from different African countries and diverse backgrounds. This opportunity could not have been more compelling. I received the call for applications in December 2016 and said to myself “I cannot afford to miss out on this life changing opportunity.

Advancing teamwork to achieve a common goal

Being on YTT is about more than just research; it’s also about advancing team work and embracing diversity to achieve a common goal. My experience as a member of the Youth Think Tank has increased my capacity to lead teams and communicate better with my peers — fellow young people — whom I closely interacted with throughout the research process. It was amazing to work with like-minded young people who had their countries at heart and carried a strong commitment to be seeds for change in their respective communities. Being on the same team as these energetic young people, most of whom had founded or run their own organizations and other development initiatives, motivated me to go the extra mile, and do more to solve social and environmental challenges in my own community. I became more aware of the power I possess as a young person, and the change I can bring about, if I step up, and lead from the front.

Youth perspectives on employment in the hospitality and tourism sector

While interacting with young people in Lilongwe during the research, it was intriguing to hear their perspectives on life and employment in the hospitality and tourism sector. For me, one of the notable highlights from the data collection phase was from a Lilongwe based youth organization through a focus group discussion. During the discussion, one young entrepreneur who runs a crafts shop acknowledged that the foreign currency he earns through the sale of various crafts to tourists goes a long way in contributing to the Malawi’s development.

It was remarkable to note that young people realize the contribution they can make to the tourism industry and the nation’s development at large, through their enterprises. This not only helps them earn an income from doing the things they are most passionate about but also, enables them to create jobs for fellow young people who are affected by the high unemployment rates in the country.

Young people role in building employment opportunities in Africa

As a YTT researcher, I came to realize the role young people can play in contributing to the nation’s development, as well as, the achievement of sustainable development goals through different initiatives. Being part of the economic and employment opportunities research team, I was amazed by the untapped potential that the hospitality and tourismsector presents.

In order to take advantage of these economic and employment opportunities, young people need to develop and possess soft skills such as good work ethic, communication, integrity, and a positive attitude.

My future ambitions are to scale up my eco-inclusive enterprise, Charcs Eco Briquettes, to increase the impact I’m having in my community, on the environment, and on creating job opportunities for young people in Malawi and beyond.

Elevating youth voices through the Youth Think Tank

The voices of the young people I interacted with have been elevated through this report. Findings from this report can be used to inform governments, policymakers, and the private sector on the challenges and opportunities that lie in the hospitality and tourism sector, and how they can best be addressed.

Finally, I am ecstatic to be a part of the report launch in Kigali, Rwanda, and to share the findings in this report with young people and stakeholders around the globe. My experience as a member of the YTT is priceless, and will play a critical role as I take up more leadership roles in various initiatives that benefit my community, country, and Africa at large.

Charles Mankhwazi is a member of the 2017-2018 Mastercard Foundation Youth Think Tank.