My name is Pilirani Tendai Khoza from Malawi. I was a youth keynote speaker at the 2017 The MasterCard Foundation Young Africa Works Summit on the topic of “gender.” Upon arriving in Kigali for the first time, I distinctly remember it being an amazing place where I gained a lot of insight by experiencing the Rwandese culture at first hand. Needless to say, the trip to Rwanda had a profound effect on me and opened up a special place for Kigali in my heart.
The Young Africa Works Summit was simply one of the most inspiring and influential summits I have had the honour of attending and that I have been humbled to be invited to speak at. If there was one overarching message I took home from the 2017 Young Africa Works Summit, it would be the voice of one speaker who said: “Nothing for youth without the youth.” This message stuck with me because good youth inclusion policies are all about involving the youth themselves on the ground. The Summit significantly expanded my knowledge on agri-entrepreneurship, which has already directly increased my agricultural returns back home.
Attending this conference gave me the opportunity to learn about the latest developments in the agricultural sector and how youth can play a fundamental role in the transformation of Africa’s agriculture returns so it can reach its full potential. In short, the Summit recognized the massive role the youth are playing in Africa’s agricultural revolution.
In the days running up to my keynote speech at the summit, I was coached by several organizers and experts during face to face meetings, plenary sessions and even on Skype calls. These inspiring women prepared me for the task ahead and helped me gain full confidence at public speaking.
My attendance at the 2017 Africa Works Summit exposed and connected me with an extensive network of organizations and high profile individuals, which will without a doubt positively impact my career as an agri- entrepreneur, as a women empowerment advocate, and for the work I do with the Bunda Female Students Organisation (BUFESO).
As a result of the Summit, I was honoured to win the Gender in Agribusiness for Africa (GAIA) Ag-Tech Innovation Challenge Award for Central and Southern Africa. This award recognizes innovative ideas and implementations that improve agricultural gains in Africa. The GAIA was hosted by AWARD in Lusaka, Zambia, where we had an opportunity to pitch business ideas and interact with investors.
I’m also proud to have been selected as a role model for Save the Children Malawi. This is another direct outcome of my attendance at the Young Africa Works Summit. During the Summit, one of the delegates introduced me to Save the Children Malawi, and after meeting with them, I was selected as a role model for their projects focusing on youth empowerment.
During the Young Africa Works Summit, I was also selected to give a motivation talk, funded by Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD).
I established meaningful relationships with my YPARD mentor, Save the Children and others who all actively supported and mentored me, and who are eager to see me succeed in my career journey.
Last but not least, it was an opportunity to meet amazing like-minded youth from all over Africa who are making astonishing progress in very diverse fields of development. The attendees included very talented individuals and the Summit facilitated anything from finding funding for your organization, access to scholarships, to building business partnerships.
For instance, through one of the youth participants, I developed interest in starting a pig farm, which I never thought would be a profitable business endeavour.
I remain in conversation with many of the other delegates about future opportunities that are still under discussion. Needless to say, the Summit had a significant impact on my personal and professional career and I am grateful that there have been so many tangible outcomes because of my participation at the 2017 Young Africa Works Summit.
Pilirani Khoza is Founder of Bunda Female Students Organisation (BUFESO), an organization that supports disadvantaged university students at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) in Malawi. Concerned with the lack of women participating in higher education, she empowers young girls to pursue studies in science and agriculture by helping to fund their tuition and other fees. Pilirani conducts research on food security and climate change and has a background in Science and Forestry. Currently, Pilirani combines her responsibilities as Forestry Technician at Alliance One International Company with her work with rural farmers to implement smart technologies to adapt to climate change and reduce its negative impact on the population’s welfare.