Interviews

Botswana National Youth Council Chairperson, Ishmael Metlha Mokwena Interview

Ishmael Metlha Mokwena is a 28 year old Botswana born, Son to a family of 4 with three sister siblings, a trained professional Accountant. Since 2010 i have since resigned formal employment and practice from accounting to pursue commercial horticulture farming in the Northern part of Botswana, currently cultivating 3 hectors.

“I am a very passionate Youth development and leadership advocate hence my participation in Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) and also it’s Chairperson. “

Tell us about Botswana National Youth Council, how did it come about? And what is the purpose of BNYC?

The Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) is a youth-focused non-governmental organisation (NGO) with a national coverage. It was established through a Presidential Directive in 1974 to advocate and lobby for the youth. Italso coordinates all the youth-focused NGOs in Botswana. The sole purpose of this presentation, however, is to justify the existence of the BNYC and its strategic position in ensuring the implementation of the Revised National Youth Policy.

The BNYC was mandated to achieve the following objectives:

  • Advising the government on all matters pertaining to youth activities;
  • Guiding, encouraging, and planning youth activities
  • Coordinating activities of the NGOs working with the youth;
  • Advising the government on resource allocation on youth development initiatives
  • Support young people’s participation in educational, cultural, entrepreneurial, environmental and self-help activities

What motivated you to be a part of BNYC?

The greatest motivator has been my upbringing versus my youth counterpart. The realization than most young people have low self esteem and attitude to be the change that they need in life, that young people, especially in rural areas are very reluctant to pursue available life changing opportunities, while also most imagine that the only privileged youth are those in urban areas, i considered it wise that since i am also from a rural area i could be the example to many. I thus participated in the affairs of BNYC and subsequently contested for the position of Chairperson which i fortunately emerged victorious.

What do you want to achieve with BYNC?

As a Central point for Youth in Botswana, BNYC will ultimately be a one stop center for Youth. Offering researched data about the Youth situation in the country, government polices on youth, information of opportunities, business coaching and recreational facilities to meet the varied needs of young people. The BNYC will continue to research all the challenges and opportunity that exist for the youth and partner with government to develop policy that can be used to help address them. The Youth will further, through capacity building workshops and seminars be motivated to take initiative in an endeavor to also redeem themselves from challenges of any sort.

What motivated this motto “An inspired youth, an empowered nation”?

We realize as we research the youth and youth related challenges that while at phase value it would seem that young people are financially challenged and had they had capital they could grow and develop to be better people, it is not entirely true. The biggest need in my view for young people is inspiration. Youth must be inspired to rise and go out there to get it done, those who have ambitions to achieve greatness must not see Industry giants as a discouragement or that monopolies are suffocating them out of business but maybe derive inspiration that if one man can do it we all can.

What do you do on a day to day basis? And what are some of your daily challenges?

As Chairperson of BNYC i am the most senior leader at the BNYC reporting to the Youth at the Annual General Assembly and the Minister of Youth frequently. I daily receive administrative proposals through the office of the Executive Director. I discharge almost all duties necessary for the running of the Council and often delegate responsibility to the Executive Director where necessary.

Furthermore i conduct meetings countrywide to take note of the challenges facing young people or review the Council’s programs to see if they are adding value to the youth.

Since I am also a farmer, I try hard to set aside to be at the farm 3 days in a week to make sure the crops are watered and properly cultivated.

The biggest challenge i find in my daily assignments is time. The youth are generally a very big mandate and unfortunately there is never enough time to meet all their demands. Since the country is also widely spread and villages miles apart, there are other challenges of finance and logistics.


How did you become a member of Botswana Institute of Accountants?

Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants, formerly known as Botswana Institute of Accountants is a governing body of Botswana registered and practicing Accountants. I thus became a member through my Professional Training in Accounts and as a registered Accountant in good standing.

Does BYNC have a specific target market and location? If yes, please tell us who? Age? And where?

According to the Revised National Youth Policy, Youth is anyone aged between 15 to 35 years. These are by extension the target market for BNYC and within the boundaries of Botswana and Batswana youth in diaspora. However, due to limited resources, we have set priorities on how to meet our target group in set categories, for example: unemployed youth, youth in remote areas, youth living with disabilities, youth at tertiary institutions, youth in politics, youth in business.

What makes BYNC unique out there?

The BNYC is the only non-partisan, non-sectarian institution in the country. It is that organization that youth organizations in the country and youth in general can associate with notwithstanding their different ideologies and backgrounds. In comparison to many youth councils in the continent, BNYC stand out alone as the only non-partisan Youth Council which is not influenced in its dealings by political parties.

Do have other projects that you’re working on? If yes tell us about them.

Youth Centres

So far we have build 5 Youth Centres around the country to provide the Youth access to internet and many recreational facilities. In our new financial year 2013/2014 we intend to build a few more Centres provided we have sufficient funds.

Month of Youth Against Aids (MYAA)

As a way of fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS and in contribution to National efforts of “Zero New Infections” we have dedicated the Month of March as our Month of Youth Against Aids, during this month and beyond we teach the youth and sensitize them on issues relating to HIV and AIDS and hold educational campaigns to try and curb the spread.

Agricultural Projects

The BNYC has a 63 hectors farm than we are having both educational farming initiatives and resource mobilization through selling farm produce. The primary purpose of the farm is to help youth enter the Agricultural sector in commercial basis and be an example that deversification into Agriculture is indeed feasible. Currently the farm is fully operational and efforts are underway to acquire even more farms in some parts of the country.

Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES)

In association with the Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture we have a new initiative, YES, the purpose of which is in many fronts. To help out of school youth learn life skills which they can use to start their own business or increase their chances of being employable, while also to assist unemployed graduates improve their training to match market needs or retool their training to adapt to new demands in the market.

What would you like to change or improve about Botswana?

Youth Challenges are indeed many, probably will remain as long as mankind exist. Currently we continue to applaud Botswana Government and appreciate that a lot is already being done from the side of Government to help redeem the young people from many of such challenges. We appreciate the financial challenges that any government is faced with and have adopted a gratitude mentality. What now remain my desire to see improved is the attitude of Young people towards life, Youth must acknowledge that government can only do one part, the large part of the responsibility is left for us to contribute to our own development. Thus my primary objective is now more focused in this area of personal development and the spirit of self reliance.

What key areas do you think need to be address to stimulate youth entrepreneurship in Botswana?

As is our tagline. Botswana Youth need inspiration. They are already far more privileged that most of their counterparts, now they need to be ignited to stand up and do their part. By nature young people are good at complaining and finger-pointing as to why they are lacking in many fronts, few are actually committed to getting something done. Surprisingly this few usually succeed in life, this for me is a pointer as to where stimulation in youth entrepreneurship must be focused.

What do you think are some of the key issues derailing Africa’s development?

Street Politics

Many African, especially youth are daily pursuing politics. Unfortunately a large percentage of participants are not trained in politics and little is done towards political education. As democracies increase and are encouraged, resources are governed political and it thus say allowing people to continue to engage in politics without giving them capacity as to what political leadership entails will become the root cause of poor governance and many other challenges we see daily.

Lack of Industries

Africa is arguable the largest producer of wealth generating raw materials and one of the largest consumer of finished goods. Mathematically Africa is the World’s economic hub. Unfortunately few Africans are well trained in Industrialization, Innovation and Production focused Businesses. Or for those who are they work outside their continent. Eventually unemployment is skyrocketing.


What advice do you have for young people who want to start their own project?

Young people have the energy, today they are most educated and as compared to our predecessors, we have even better opportunities.

The biggest resource that we are lacking is determination and perseverance, the youth are not able to withstand the pressures of life and start up challenges. They probably need a quick fix business. Something that is only an illusion. My encouragement is stay there for a good cause and grow whatever project you have researched and gathered information that it’s feasible until it starts to bear fruit. Nothing falls freely from the sky.

How can the youth contact you?

www.bnyc.org.bw

metlha@bnyc.org.bw

0026771327568

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