RUNDU – Youth deputy minister Emma Kantema-Gaomas on Thursday launched UPSHIFT Namibia in the Kavango East region.
UPSHIFT is a youth social innovation and social entrepreneurship programme that aims to empower some 85 adolescent girls and young men, who are marginalised as a result of a variety of contemporary social issues. UPSHIFT was first piloted in the Khomas region last year and is facilitated and funded by Unicef.
It aims to build and harness skills and opportunities for these disadvantaged young people from different constituencies.
By equipping them with skills and resources, they will be expected to identify social problems in their communities and design solutions for them. “The programme combines social innovation workshops, mentorship, incubation and seed funding to provide young people with the skills and resources they need to develop problem-solving skills in their communities,” she said.
Kantema-Gaomas indicated that UPSHIFT encapsulates the principles and goals of NDP5 and, more broadly, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in terms of creating opportunities for young people. “This is a brilliant programme because it speaks directly to the Third National Youth Policy, which advocates for improved institutional coordination to ensure youth development is mainstreamed at all levels.
“One of the ministry’s mandates is to serve the youth and cultivate an environment that encourages them to be the best they can be; UPSHIFT directly contributes to that,’’ she noted.
The initiative complements government efforts to leverage existing networks of youth and business ecosystems to lead the change in spurring innovation, acquiring 21st-century skills and increasing access to non-collateral financing.
The deputy minister further noted that innovation is key if the country aims to become an industrialised nation.
UNICEF country representative Rachele Odede, in a speech read on her behalf by Bravo Lisoni from UNICEF, said UNICEF is pleased to be part and parcel of Namibia’s development and to introduce the UPSHIFT programme in the Kavango East, Khomas and Omaheke region to intensify the programme in the three regions as well as expanding it to other regions.
“Youth-oriented programmes like UPSHIFT and other programmes [are] represented by the youth ministry and others to ensure we support in building the resilience of young people, equipping them with skills, and that they need to navigate life and transition to the world of employment and be self-sustainable. Through UPSHIFT, the young people who will go through the programme will not only get 21st-century skills but they will also be exposed to industries,” she said.
“They will meet industry experts as part of the UPSHIFT business ecosystem, they will have opportunities for internship and access to non-collateral financing through seed funding to further develop their innovations. No amount of seed funding is small, and no idea is small,” she noted.