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Youth Empowerment Program Interview With Enid Edroma

Youth Empowerment Program is aimed at designing and delivering practical knowledge and skills experience for youth and young adults in preparation for 4IR.

MTN Uganda through its Foundation Arm, MTN Foundation Uganda at the tail of 2020 launched a youth empowerment skilling program with a goal of preparing the youths for the evolving digital world. Implemented in partnership with Uganda-based software firm Ubunifu Systems, 100 youths were selected from a call of application to receive technology training in the key thematic areas of: Agriculture, Education, Health, Technology and Youth Empowerment .

While announcing the winners in February this year, MTN Uganda CEO; Mr. Wim Vanhelleputte said, the overwhelming numbers of the applications was a good indicator that the youth are keen on technology and are eager to become the very instruments of growth and development in their communities. He explained that “the initiative is one of the many that the telco has put in place to enable the youth tap into the limitless possibilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to the benefit of both communities and businesses in the country.”

Sparing a few minutes of her time, MTN Uganda General Manager Corporate Services, Ms. Enid Edroma briefly enlightened us about the empowerment program and why the telco is undertaking this auspicious initiative to empower the youth.

Briefly tell us about the Youth Empowerment Program and what it entails.
The Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) is an initiative by MTN Foundation Uganda to invest in the country’s biggest social capital that is the youth of this nation to enable them not only to contribute positively to the growth and development of this country but to also enable them to create employment through equipping them with the necessary job skills. In a nutshell, the YEP is aimed at designing and delivering practical knowledge and skills experience for youth in preparation for the 4th Industrial Revolution.

What is MTN’s motivation for undertaking such a project?
MTN has a responsibility to the communities within which it operates. As a corporate citizen, MTN prides in its robust Corporate Social Responsibility programs that are executed under the MTN Foundation, which is also rolling out the YEP as a way of giving back to the community. So in doing this, we are able to give back to the community but most importantly, we are also empowering communities to thrive. This is embedded in our vision which is to ‘deliver a bold digital world to all our customers across our footprint’.

Why did MTN choose to work specifically with the youth?
As a matter of fact, we have many initiatives that cut across the gender divide. But in this particular case, our decision was centered on the fact that the youth are the majority of Uganda’s population most of them remain unemployed due to the lack of the requisite skills that the job market demands. Therefore as MTN Uganda, we took a conscious decision to supplement government’s efforts in filling this gap by choosing to empower the youth of this country by giving them skills that will enable them to become a building block of this country, starting with their communities.

What kind of youth are eligible for this program?
The program targets youths who are passionate about harnessing the practical application of innovative ICT solutions to solve their communities’ most pressing challenges. It may interest you to know that in this cohort, we have youths of various academic qualifications ranging from the Masters’ level of education to even those with no academic qualifications, but rather a profound interest in the field of technology and innovation. I am happy to inform you that we have a pool of trainees from various fields of practice.

How will the training be carried out in the face of this pandemic and how long will it last?
The training will be largely online with very limited and controlled small group sessions. The total training time frame from initiation to graduation will be 6 months. With the actual training in ICDL taking 3 months and the other 3 months dedicated to business incubation.

What are some of the challenges that the youth on the program are hoping to solve for their communities upon their successful completion of their training?
The problems will be identified by the youth groups themselves. However, they have to be in line with our five thematic areas namely; Agriculture, Education, Health, Technology, Youth Empowerment which are also the MTN foundations focus areas.

Having concluded your first cohort, when will the next round of applications begin and do you expect bigger number of participants since the work [YEP] is out there?
This is going to be an annual initiative. We will be announcing the 2021 intake this July. And yes, we hope to reach out to more young people. Our vision is to grow our annual intake to 200  youths per year but for now the second intake will also target to admit only 100 participants.

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