The ITU Generation Connect Youth Summit Inspired Us To Work More Towards Community Development

At the first International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Generation Connect Global Youth Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, The Nigeria Youth SDGs Network was represented by network champions: Shadrach Terese Akpan and Rianat Wahab.

The ITU Youth Summit convened youth worldwide on shaping a safe, inclusive and sustainable digital future. The summit centred around “Engaging, Empowering and Protecting” and prioritizing youth engagement, and digital gender inclusion in meaningful digital transformation.

From representing the Network, connecting with other youth from across the globe, and hosting a partnership session with the International Labour Organization (ILO) on decent jobs in Africa. The champions shared their motivations, highlights and experiences at the Generation Connect Youth summit in Kigali. 

How did you feel getting selected as a Nigeria Youth SDGs representative at the Generation Connect Youth Summit?

RIANAT: Honestly, I was very thrilled to represent the Network. It was a great opportunity because it was my first time flying and travelling to Rwanda.

SHADRACH: I was very excited to receive the news that I would also be representing the Network. I knew it would be a memorable experience participating in the first-of-its-kind congregation of over 500 young leaders and sharing our work at the Network in a side-event session. Of course, visiting Rwanda for the first time was also very exciting.

Lovely! Connecting and creating opportunities are strong mandates of the Network. What were your expectations for the ITU youth summit?

RIANAT: My expectations for the summit were learning and sharing perspectives on digital inclusion. Luckily, it was met as I was able to learn from amazing panellists on discussions around building innovative environments, enabling youth people in digital space and creating digital impact. The insightful conversation has also taught me the need for creating engagement that brings about jobs in the digital economy.

SHADRACH: Connecting with like-minded young people from diverse backgrounds. My expectations were duly met in the course of the summit. I connected with other young people and regional and global leaders with similar interests. Also, I had the opportunity to understand the incredible work and mandate of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Tell us sessions/events that particularly stood out for you at the Youth Summit?

RIANAT: Honestly, the Youth Summit was packed with insightful sessions and events. One of the events that stood out for me was the partnership event we had with the ILO and ITU. It was fantastic to host and speak at the session.

Another event was the Youth for Youth Debate session on Digital Skills and Technology. It was a round-table debate with seven youths from different countries. The conversation revolved around bridging the digital and technology skills gap between men and women to achieve gender equality. As a STEM and Digital Skills advocate, especially for young girls, I shared ideas and perspectives on adequate advocacy and sensitization on digital skills and technology for females. When asked at the session what needs to be done to motivate young girls to embrace stem, I suggested educating the parents to support and encourage young girls to embrace STEM, training and employing more females in the tech and digital space. I believe young girls living in rural areas should also be included in digital training projects.

SHADRACH: Every single event! The opening ceremony and side events were insightful. I also looked forward to the Nigeria Youth SDGs network’s partner event with the International Labour Organization (ILO). Rianat and I presented the skills of the employment programme by the Network jointly supported by the ILO.

Tell us about the partnership event we hosted? What were the highlights and experiences shared?

Rianat: The partnership event was very interactive. Its theme was “Decent Jobs in Africa’s Digital Economy.” The session supports the ILO, ITU, and AU Joint Programme on Boosting Decent Jobs and Enhancing Skills for Youth in Africa’s Digital Economy in advocating for youth-led solutions and empowering young people to contribute to the digital transformation of their societies. We discussed solutions to creating decent jobs for young people in the fast-growing digital economy. During the session, my fellow champion Shadrach and I presented the impact of the project ‘Skills for Employment Programme’ executed by the Nigeria Youth SDGs in collaboration with the International Labour organization for Nigerian youths. 

Many young people at the event also shared similar challenges of unemployment in their countries and how they are working to reduce this problem. They also asked pertinent questions on linking their project and seeking collaborations from developmental partners in tackling the issue of youth unemployment. 

SHADRACH: I agree with Rianat. Our event was quite exciting. We had a whole house of participants across different groups within and outside the African continent. Our presentation geared toward sharing the outcome of the project executed in 2021 in partnership with the International Labour Organization, which was tagged “Skills for Employment programme”. The programme trained 90 youths across three states in Nigeria (Lagos, Adamawa and Benue state) on in-demand skills, which included graphic design, web development and digital marketing. 

We also used the opportunity to inform participants of the work and mandate we do at the Network. The key learning point for the session was also sharing our strategy for building partnerships between other youth organizations and International development partners to support the development of programs in decent jobs and skills for youth in Nigeria. The feedback from participants further validated the relevance of the organization’s work and the importance of meaningful youth engagement in policies and programs. 

Tell us your highlights of the summit

RIANAT: Exchanging Ideas and meeting brilliant minds! The summit brought together delegates and youths from 115 countries. It was terrific to network with like-minded peers, learn about issues and challenges faced by youth across other countries, and engage in solution-driven conversation during the summit. 

One of the outcomes of the global youth summit was the emphasis on the call to action for decision-makers around the globe to work with young people with diverse cultures and backgrounds to take action now. The summit has shown how vital youth engagement is and amplifies youth’s collective voices and perspectives. I look forward to the subsequent implementation and policy for digital development actions in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.


SHADRACH: The serenity, structure, organization and welcoming nature of Kigali, Rwanda. I look forward to visiting again soon. Another highlight was connecting with other young people from across the globe and sharing ideas on digital inclusion and action plan. I believe I can leverage the connection built at the summit and form meaningful and impactful long-term relationships. 

As someone involved in various projects in building the capacity of young people on digital skills for jobs and entrepreneurship, I was inspired to hear more fantastic work done by other young people in addressing digital transformation and challenges. I am motivated to do more through the Network. Sharing our work with participants at the side event organized in partnership with the International Labour Organization was also a massive highlight for me.

Finally, anything else you’d like to share about the Generation Connect Youth Summit?

RIANAT: The summit was a truly defining moment of meaningful youth engagement. I was opportune to participate in the youth event titled: Global Youth Index: A snapshot of Youth Development. Everyone was divided into small groups, and I participated in the global citizenship session. I shared challenges affecting African youth, especially in Nigeria, on civic participation and achieving sustainable goals. I highlighted some challenges: insecurity, climate change, lack of funding, and a high unemployment rate.

The ‘Technology and Gaming Hub’ session was also an eye-opener as I was introduced to a fun and interactive space to engage and learn with Metaverse. I participated in so many practical activities on how to use Metaverse and the platforms to access it. I thoroughly enjoyed the Youth Summit and am grateful for being selected as a delegate by the Nigeria Youth SDGs Network.

SHADRACH: Being a delegate from the Nigeria Youth SDGs Network at the ITU summit. I learned immensely about the incredible work the ITU is doing around closing the digital divide and creating more opportunities for young people. I also learnt some vital lessons at the summit, which I believe have relevance in Nigeria. Firstly, I found that Rwandans were very passionate and optimistic about the outlook of their country. They didn’t allow a minute to go by without telling you why you needed to visit or relocate. 

Secondly, the challenges young people face across Africa, and the world are not so different. Youths, regardless of location, are simply interested in an environment that works for everyone. Finally, the duration of the summit provided a lot of perspective on why there is a need to strengthen local action around youth participation in sustainable development, entrepreneurship and civic activities. Young people being regarded as the world’s hope must go beyond mere words to building robust structures that open up and create the much-needed access for sustainable development across the board.