Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself: Your full name, what you currently do, where you currently live and all ..
My name is Robert Kasenene. I am a son of the Tanzanian soil. I grew up in my native town of Bukoba in the northern part of Tanzania called Kagera…right on the banks of Lake Victoria.
Life took me to many places in this world, where I met many people like those comprising the African Youth Panel. I now work as a Development Consultant in the areas of Documentation, Organizational Development, Development Communications and much more. I live and work from Tanzania.
Q: What led you to start the connect African blogs
I am happy you have heard of the Blog. That means there is something right we are doing. The name is Connect African Development Blog. The URL is www.connectafricandev.blogspot.com. We will be moving to our own domain soon.
Now why it was started is simple. There is practically now place on the World Wide Web at the moment where Civil Society and development actors overall can connect, share and dialogue on experiences, challenges, lessons and successes. Granted there are likes of Facebook today, but nothing strictly dedicated to this purpose.
So CAD Blog was established to fill this gap. To provide a place detached from the confused and general chatter that platforms such as facebook have. At CAD, we hope to provide a provocative environment where thinking gearing towards solutions to the challenges we face on the continent can be shared. We welcome all who would like to contribute content on the blog to visit us and drop us an email.
Q: What led you to become involved in youth development? Can you trace the background?
Indeed I can trace the background. I can trace it quite well.
I gave up if not chose a path towards development work over becoming an aeronautics engineer and pilot. Both of those together are quite a mouthful and would have been quite a challenge. But that is not the reason I chose this path. I chose it because with time, I felt even more connected to the work in this arena that working with aircrafts. But at the same time, I remain a stout devotee of all things aircrafts and hope to pursue at least a commercial flying licence someday.
But what led me to this field is perhaps something that may lend me less believable. The phrase “youth participation” actually worked with me. I thank everyone who gave me the opportunities and guidance back in the day, because they shaped my skill-set, knowledge-base, passion and purpose.
Q: What has been your biggest impact so far?
I would like to think of myself as being somewhat humble of whatever good I may have caused. For this I am unsure of what to position as the biggest impact I may have had. What I can say is that I have had memorable experiences working with people from diverse backgrounds. I have made lasting friendships and work-relationships that continue to help me grow in person and professionally. I believe, if anything, this is one of the biggest impacts one can have.
Q: What has been your biggest regret till date?
For such a classic question, I will also have a similarly classic answer I am afraid. I have no regrets I think. Truthfully speaking, everything we do each day and every decision we take leads us somewhere and to a particular result. If there was something wrong I did somewhere, it came back to haunt me (big or small). I dealt with the result and the circumstances that followed helped me move on with little stress in that respect. Hence in all respects, I feel all that has happened and all that I have done will remain as marks that will help me better shape the steps I continue to take each day.
Q: What will you advise young people who are interested in pursuing a career around youth development?
Here I will quote a friend on something powerful he said along the lines of a similar question. To be believable, respected and influence agendum in the arena of youth development requires that you decide to do it, decide an area of specialization, know the issues and identify/ develop solutions to the challenges in the area you are working in. Do not be a jack-of-all-trades. You should not be known for being a youth development activist, but rather of a particular aspect of youth development. For that, you will have leverage and you will be credible…and these two for me are qualities needed to be able to “influence change”…something we are all working towards.
Q: How did Tanzania succeed in ratifying the African Youth Charter? Were young people involved in pushing for the ratification?
I think the country succeeded because finally, someone somewhere decided to have political will. It makes no sense why we had to wait 5 years, but it has now happened. It did not take much for the ratification to happen, but I hope this is not indicative of the ensuing domestication process. I hope the reservations voiced for the clauses on “pregnant girls returning to school” will be addressed with immediacy.
Now, were young people involved in pushing for ratification? Yes, we were! But it seems all the many excellent ideas and loud voices were falling on deaf ears at the time. But I would like to commend UNFPA, some staff of the responsible Government Ministry, young and active members of parliament for keeping the subject afloat. We attended many gatherings, sent many emails and made a lot of noise in the social media space. Perhaps most notable are the young Africans who attended the AU Heads of States Summit in Malabo last year, who must have shown the Tanzanian President the need to expedite the process.
In any case, this is but the first step for me. Domestication of the charter is critical and I hope consulting and utilizing the thinking, ideas and resolve of the large youth cohort will be foremost in the process.
Q: Where do you see the African Youth Panel in the next 5 years?
The Panel has an immense amount of potential in my view. The diversity in the membership base is indicative of this. In the next 5 years, I see the panel as being a critical roundtable group continentally on issues of youth employment. Africa is the youngest continent in the world today and will be for decades to come. We also have the largest unemployed youth population…a recipe for trouble if you ask me. Strategic policy, financial, education and capacity building actions need to be taken now and the panel can help decoding the equation around this today.
If we can make a contribution, for instance, in defining how the continent can reduce youth unemployment by 2% annually, as agreed by AU Heads of States in 2011, and actually see these actions being taken, then we would have cemented our position as such.