Well, 29 August 2017 started with speeches by The Ethiopian State Minister for Youth & Sports, Executive secretary of Economic Commission of Africa (ECA) and an interesting presentation on youth and innovation by The Ethiopian Minister of Science and Technology H.E Getahum Mekuria.
I then joined the Knowledge Café side-discussions on Youth Spaces where we focussed on the existing but underutilised 'Youth Centres' throughout the country. By the time we finished, we had managed, as a group, to come up with tangible ideas of how these spaces can be reformed to truly address the current needs of the youth.
As closing remark, Dr. Eleni GebreMedhin facilitated a session between the State Minister for Youth and Sports and the interested attendees. At that point I took the opportunity to ask the State Minister and the organising committee about how they define 'youth space'. I was surprised to hear that the definition is limited to ‘entertainment and recreational spaces'. So I had the chance to urge them to think about widening the scope of the definition so that it is aligned to the overall countrywide development plans and strategies including the industrialisation national drive.
The State Minister took the time to address my suggestion by saying that the upcoming revised plan for the Youth spaces will, in fact, consider all these aspects and is expected to be more inclusive. As you can imagine I was really pleased to hear this.
Aside the formal meeting, I was able to reconnect with previous networks and establish new ones. There were young fashion designers, entrepreneurship trainees and trainers, members of the Rotary Club, a Director of one of the Youth Centres in Gulele, an Interior Designer and many more with whom I was able to have a chat about professional development ideas. And we exchanged contacts to extend our discussions beyond that day and to see if there are any opportunities for them to work with Alle School of Arts & Design, where I currently teach.
Lastly, there were three young innovators from Kombolcha who were brought to the event by Blue Moon Agribusiness Hub in Addis. Following their presentation of their robotics project, they stated that they intend to attend a robot competition in the USA and that they require some assistance. As there is FABLAB a fabrication laboratory initiative at our school (Alle School of Arts & Design) where they could possibly make their prototypes, I was able to put them in touch with the Director to see if what they can access from there.
All in all, the day really gave me an insight on the state of youth spaces in Ethiopia and allowed me to share my thoughts, recommendations and questions with other young people from all over the country and from diverse professions. As a young person and as a young artist, this was a great opportunity.
I would like to thank the British Council Ethiopia and in particular the Arts Team for the opportunity, without whom I would have never had the opportunity to take part in this forum.
I would also like to take this opportunity to really encourage the British Council to continue identifying opportunities such as this, where the Creative Sector can engage in and with relevant stakeholders beyond the production and showcasing of creative outputs. The idea of engaging the sector in broader development discussions is very new for creative practitioners other than those involved in academic institutions and I really see the potential impact attending these kinds of events will have both for the country and the creative industry as a whole.
By Robel Temesgen
Artist and beneficiary of the East Africa Arts Programme