Why does it largely seem like there are no opportunities? The short answer is – unavailability or lack of access to real-time information on opportunities. That is what separates many young people from their future. In this article, I introduce to you Youth Opportunities Hub (YOH) which is intent on addressing that challenge for you. Here is a recent interview I had with its founder, Shingirayi Kondongwe.
Kindly Tell Me Who You Are…
My name is Shingirayi Kondongwe, a 30-year-old entrepreneur, young researcher, innovator, policy specialist, and international civil servant with a strong passion for sustainable development.
I am the Founder of Youth Opportunities Hub, a start-up that seeks to connect young people with opportunities. I am also an international civil servant working for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the Regional Bureau for Africa, headquartered in New York, USA.
I am also a fellow of the United Nations 57th Graduate Study Programme Geneva, Switzerland (class of 2019). I am also an African Union Scholar, having graduated from the Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (PAUWES) with an MSc in Energy Policy under the African Union Commission Scholarship. I am also a holder of a Bachelor’s degree in Politics and Public Management from the Midlands State University, class of 2016.
What Are Your Business And Career Goals?
There is value in living a life of serving others; hence, my goal is to become a serial philanthropist and entrepreneur. The long-term goal is not only to create a digital platform for youth opportunities but also to position YOH, as a regional pool fund or a multi-party fund trust where different actors (local, national, international) can come together to finance youth activities. Another long-term objective is to set YOH as a pan-African platform with the vision of connecting African youth for socio-economic transformation.
What Gave Birth To The Idea Of Youth Opportunities Hub?
When I came back from the diaspora last year (2020) in March where I was doing my Master’s degree, I realized that not much was done when it comes to the dissemination of information regarding opportunities. The biggest problem we have today is getting information to young people, and that is how Youth Opportunities Hub was born.
Information is indeed power, but what does it profit when the young people do not know where and how to access it? It is so painful when you hear someone saying, “I did not know about this particular opportunity…” That is why YOH exists, to provide information to every youth.
The information is delivered digitally via YOH’s website. The interest in tech-entrepreneurship stems from our goal to leverage technology for the greater good to bring about a positive social impact.
YOH believes that access to information is the passage to success and achievement. Despite advancement in Information Communication Technology (ICT), there is still a serious lack of awareness among youth about different opportunities relating to youth development. Therefore, thousands of youth are missing out on important opportunities for self-development in the form of education, grants, international exposure, and employment just to name a few. YOH is working to create awareness through the sharing of these opportunities via its online platform.
What Can People Expect From Youth Opportunities Hub?
So many people out there especially the youth lack access to critical information regarding opportunities that can change the course of their lives. Therefore, we offer the following services:
- An online platform that connects youths to live changing opportunities. It is a website categorized into the following sections:
- International Scholarships
- Grants & Funding
- Online Courses.
This information on various opportunities can be accessed for free. One just needs internet access to visit the website and access the information.
- Providing a one-stop portal for African youth access the opportunities to achieve their dreams
- Career Hub – the career hub seeks to support young people on how to prepare scholarships, jobs, internships, fellowship applications. We come in to assist and this is free of charge.
Tell Us About The Team Behind Youth Opportunities Hub
We have a strong, gender-balanced and diverse team. We have the Executive Team that is composed of myself (Founder), Mr Emmanuel Muzingwani (Chief of Communications & External Relations – Zimbabwean), Miss Kundai Manjonjo (Chief of Planning and Projects – Zimbabwean), Miss Djalia Umtangampundu (Chief Advisor – Rwandese).
We have a team of 13 volunteers from 6 different African countries: Fanny Chidoola (Malawian), Leslie Rumbidzai Siyamachira (Zimbabwean), Lilian Elochukwu Efobi (Nigerian), Josh Edem Kojo Dotse (Ghanaian), Eng. David Joel Nuhu (Nigerian), Rick Kyando (Tanzanian), Brendan Ugwu (Nigerian), Bongani Madziwa (Zimbabwean), Jessica Afeni (Nigerian), Neema Kambo (Tanzanian), Ishmael Cole (Liberian), Bibiana Raphael (South Sudan), IIdephonse Nteziyaremye (Rwandese).
What Challenges Are You Currently Facing?
The coming of the COVID-19 was and is still the biggest challenge we are facing. Our business model is benchmarked on physically reaching out to young people at tertiary institutions including high schools by organizing career events, career guidance activities and teaching them how to leverage opportunities on our platform. The pandemic is a stumbling block since public gatherings are severely limited. As a result, we are not able to reach as many youths as intended.
On the aspect of our website we also realized most young people do not have adequate internet data to access the opportunities. Therefore, we are working very hard to introduce a WhatsApp Chatbot that will enable young people to access opportunities via WhatsApp. This will also include a bulk SMS service in which they will be able to receive opportunities via SMS.
I also think that the youth technology adoption rate is still very low in Zimbabwe. Among the reasons include lack of adequate resources and scepticism. Most youths are sceptical especially if the nature of the business is digital/online. Most youths always ask me the same question, ‘are these opportunities legit’? This is the reason why most youths are anxious to try their luck. The good thing is we have testimonials of people who benefited as a result of YOH; some got jobs and scholarships in Canada, South Africa just to name a few.
Any Business And Investment Partnership Prospects For People Interested In Partnering With You?
YOH is open to prospective business partnerships. Businesses or organizations of any nature are welcome, whether public, private, NGOs, civil society, or international organizations. At the end of the day, it is not about whom are we partnering with but the end goal is to advance youth empowerment.
Currently, we have a partnership with ZINTA Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development Africa (ZINTA Africa) an international, non-profit NGO registered in The Gambia with a mission to promote peace-building through tolerance, respect for human dignity, and peaceful coexistence. We also have a partnership with Climate Science, a global charity creating and providing educational resources on solutions to climate change to 100,000s of people worldwide. It is a UK-based charity driven by volunteers from all over the world.
Anything You Feel Is Important For People To Know?
People should know that legitimate opportunities exist. They must not be limited and think that when they are done with their course of studies they can only find opportunities or jobs in Zimbabwe. We are living in a global economy where it is possible to get an opportunity anywhere in the world. If people are sceptical, they must look at me as a testimony of what I am talking about. I am currently an employee of the UNDP headquarters in New York because I just simply applied online! I also won the Tony Elumelu Foundation USD 5,000 award because I applied! I also received a fully-funded scholarship to study abroad because I applied! My word of advice is opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss. Seize the moment!
YOH can be accessed via its website. It can also be accessed via Facebook Page, Facebook Group, Twitter, Linked In, and its Telegram Channel. Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. People can also reach out on the following number (+263) 771 644 502. YOH plans on launching a standardized prospective leadership programme across the country. I am big on sharing opportunities, something I do daily so kindly spread the word about YOH.