Promoting youth leadership in Africa

No-one encapsulates the potential of youth leadership better than Benjamin Mwape, a dynamic and charismatic 27-year-old Zambian whose professional career is on an ascending path since its start in 2005.

Benjamin joined Restless Development as a volunteer in 2005 fresh out of high school. Restless Development is an international youth-led development agency with its headquarters in the UK and country programmes in 11 countries globally, including Zambia. Restless Development’s work focuses on civic participation, livelihoods and employment, and sexual reproductive health education, targeting the youth. Since joining, Benjamin has risen through the ranks to becoming Program Coordinator responsible for leading national policy and practice work for Restless Development in Zambia.

Benjamin links part of his career success to training funded by the Australian Government. “Training helps to unlock one’s potential and this is what the Australia Award has done for me. It directly relates to what I do and has had a direct positive impact on my work,” he explains.

Benjamin received a Scholarship from the Australian government and completed a four-month Australia Awards – Africa Postgraduate Fellowship in the HIV Programme Delivery Stream at Sydney University in 2011. On his return, his role as Program Coordinator at Restless Development was dramatically reviewed to focus on policy advocacy and practice following his presentation to management of what he had learned on the award. Subsequently, Benjamin, a Communications Specialist by profession, became the face and voice of the organisation in policy forums at both the national and international level.

Advocacy work has focused on putting youth issues as a priority on the agenda of policy making in Zambia. Results of this work include participation as Restless Development’s representative in the review of the National Youth Policy (2013). The review involved national-wide consultations with the youth to set priorities for the new policy, which is now with Cabinet for approval. Equally, Benjamin has a seat on the Board of the National Youth Development Council (2013-2015), under the Ministry of Youth and Sports, where he represents Restless Development. The Council coordinates youth development work in Zambia and advises the Ministry on national youth development programming.

Besides becoming the spokesperson for the organisation in policy forums in Zambia and elsewhere, such as a post-2015 high-profile United Nations forum held in London in 2012 and the high-level meeting on Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) held in Mexico in 2014, Benjamin has become a voice for the youth by hosting a weekly radio show. The show focusses on bringing young people and policy makers to dialogue on issues affecting them.

Benjamin produces and hosts the show, called Tikambe “Lets talk”, which is aired weekly by Radio Phoenix, one of the largest privately owned radio stations operating in Zambia. Program topics are shaped and informed by issues relevant to the youth and listeners call in or send text messages to be aired.

Benjamin brings fresh energy and commitment to the work he does, and is himself an exemplar of the potential of youth leadership to shaping the agenda in matters that lie at the heart of youth interests.

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