Staff Spotlight: Geofrey Wakhakunyu, Programs Director, JA Uganda

Geofrey Wakhakunyu is a seasoned social worker, educationalist and experienced person in vast areas of Business/institutional Administration and management. He has worked with JA for 12 years, starting in 2011 as an in school volunteer teacher. Read this exciting conversation with Geofrey and be inspired by his dedication to youth empowerment in Uganda.

What inspired you to get involved with youth empowerment?

A: My professional training  as a teacher and passion for young people inspired me to get involved in youth empowerment.  Young people  are eager to learn and work beyond one’s expectations once given adequate and reliable initial spark.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity to address youth unemployment?

A: The youth themselves. With proper guidance and training, youth unemployment can be better addressed by the youth themselves. African youth are aggressive and have inherent boundless potential. They only need exposure and mindset shift from the traditional paid employment syndrome to self employment through Entrepreneurship. Junior Achievement offers this much needed service.

What’s the biggest problem facing youth today that previous generations didn’t have to deal with?

A: Information overload. Whereas technology has offered opportunities for African youth to have access to the most needed information, a number of youth in Africa do not get guided on the type of information to be accessed.

Can you share a story about a young person you’ve met in your work with JA who inspired you?

Through my work, I have had the pleasure of meeting amazing youths who have inspired me, such as Odongo Solomon. I first met Solomon in 2011 during his high school days, when I was a JA school volunteer teacher and under my guidance and mentorship, Solomon joined JA in 2012 and built his first company Smajtech which designed E-learning platforms for schools. In 2013, still in high school, he created his second company, Emali Creations, where he and his team designed a bicycle phone charger to provide a solution for people in rural areas without electricity to charge their phones while riding their bicycles.

I have stayed in touch with Solomon personally and through JA activities, and he has continued to inspire many people in the country. He has held several positions, including country director of AIESEC in Uganda, an international youth-run and led, non-governmental and not-for-profit organization that provides young people with leadership development, cross-cultural internships, and global volunteer exchange experiences,  founder of 1 Million Youth Africa, and founding member of the Youth Coalition for SDGs established jointly with the United Nations in Uganda and the government.

Currently, Solomon is the CEO of The Tumaini African Knowledge Centre, a Pan African company based in Uganda, committed to identifying solutions to overcome challenges to development and investment in Africa. The company has been leading the facilitation of major investments in Uganda, including in the sectors of industrial parks, agriculture, e-mobility, and energy.

Solomon is an inspiring figure to many people, and his story is one of passion, hard work, and dedication, and he always seeks new opportunities to make a difference. Such stories of progress motivate me to continue working and empowering young people.

What drives you every day to work on behalf of Africa’s youth?

A: When I see those already mentored progressing. A number of them have running businesses and are employing other youth as is in the case of solomon above.

What’s the best part about working for JA?

A: Youth generating ideas beyond my expectation. The youth we work with have continued to demonstrate the fact that they have boundless potential.

What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved when it comes to youth unemployment?

A: Mindset ! African youth should be made to believe that they hold the solutions to their unemployment problem and that seeking government jobs shall not solve the unemployment problem.

What is one thing every young person can do to begin to secure their economic future?

A: Believing in self and seeking for opportunities.

What’s one issue that policy-makers need to be attentive to in designing policy for youth?

A: Policy makers should plan from the youth point of view as opposed to their (policy makers) point of view. Also bearing in mind that the youth have boundless inherent potentials that require a simple initial force to get them moving.

What is your favorite quote/proverb?

A: “Falling down is not failure. Failure comes when you stay where you have fallen” Socrates

What is your message/advice to Africa’s Youth?

A: We are Africans, Africa is ours, it’s our responsibility to make the Africa we want.

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