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My Journey to the Youth Think Tank

2015-2016 Youth Think Tank Member, Augustine Malija, shares his experience.

In partnership with Restless Development, the 2015-2016 MasterCard Foundation Youth Think Tank consists of 15 young women and men between the ages of 15-24 from across East Africa. What unites them is a commitment to contributing to their communities and understanding the challenges and opportunities facing young people as they enter the labour market. This is one of their stories.

In early September 2015, after a one-hour walk from my internship office through the busy Kariakoo market in Dar es Salaam, I refreshed my emails. It took me five minutes to read it as I did not believe that it was a congratulations email. I got accepted into the Youth Think Tank program!

Ten days later, I stepped on to my first flight. It was my first time leaving Tanzania. I had embarked on a journey that has significantly developed my thinking around world issues.

The 2015-2016 Youth Think Tank started with a two-week training session where I met my fellow teammates from across East Africa. We learned about life-skills, research methodologies and ethics. My major takeaways were designing research questions and mapping the East African region. I also prepared Youth Think Tank hangouts, birthday parties and ensured everything went as planned during sessions.

The field experience developed my communication skills as I met different stakeholders, from young people to government representatives. The fact that we had elections in October made stakeholder availability very unpredictable. So I had to be very flexible in deciding on an effective stakeholder approach. It gave me a first-hand experience of the realities of local governments and the private sector.

In the midst of data collection, I had a privilege to represent the Youth Think Tank at the inaugural MasterCard Foundation Young Africa Works Summit. A team of 50 young people, delegates with interest in agriculture, and Foundation staff met to build upon ways to engage African youth in sustainable agriculture. It was a privilege to meet with a network of youth and representatives from various development organizations.

During the data collection workshop I learned how to apply critical thinking skills. We worked very hard for one week in December, sorting through piles of data to develop country report drafts.

It was then time to go back to the field and seek more information to fill in the gaps we found after our first analysis of the data. Throughout this process, I learned that culture can have a significant impact on youth livelihoods, both positive and negative. For example, I learned about a group of motor bike drivers who helped themselves market their business and saved to purchase new bikes in order to hire other youth.  This showed me how collaborative and harmonious my community can be.

I am excited for the last week of the program this June where we will officially launch our report in Kampala. This has been an experience of a lifetime!