CEED’s listening tour came full circle last week and proved how small our world really is. Over a year ago Cindy James and I traveled to Antigonish to meet up with CEED staffer Melissa MacMaster and a special visitor from Washington, DC. Pape Samb is from Senegal, Africa, and at that time was the President and CEO of USA’s oldest foundation, Phelps Stokes. He and Melissa were also founders of a volunteer organization called the Global Youth Innovation Network – http://www.gyin.org. GYIN is a phenomenal new organization that is driven entirely by its more than 6000 volunteer members and uses its virtual network to educate, inform, advocate, share and learn about youth entrepreneurship and employment around the world.
We spent a day with Pape on his first ever visit to Canada just listening to each other and learning that we share a vision. We believe that it is our youth who can transform our world and that engaging and teaching them about entrepreneurship was a powerful tool to accomplish this. I was struck by Pape’s unique ability to listen with respect, empathy and care. What a gift.
A year and a half and many conversations later, our two worlds came together in Rome, Italy, where Amanda Mombourquette and I traveled last week to sign an agreement with UN-agency International Fund for Agriculture Development on behalf of CEED and its partners to engage youth in four countries in Africa through knowledge collection, entrepreneurship education and training, mentorship and micro-financing. The work will be done by the CORY Consortium comprised of CEED, Susterra Inc in Boston, Columbia Business School, and GYIN and will reach more than 40,000 youth with entrepreneurship education and support in Cameroon, Benin, Gambia and Nigeria over a three-year period.
The opportunity for Nova Scotia in all of this is vast. Africa is the world’s fastest growing nation and is thought to be the next China from an economic perspective. For one, it presents a unique and timely opportunity to understand the value chain and the potential for Nova Scotia business to market its products and services to this country. Having met with IFAD staff working on the ground in these countries, there are a number of best practices to study – particularly in the agriculture sector. And speaking of IFAD, this UN agency is breaking new ground and using this particular project to test a new way of doing business. Already there have been many firsts. A competitive process for the $1.95 million grant including a rigorous internal review process. Inception workshops with extensive briefings and sharing with the grantee and IFAD staff at IFAD’s headquarters in Rome. Calls to the Canadian Embassy to ensure the Canadian government is aware and informed of Nova Scotia’s new partnership with IFAD and the difference Canada’s investment in IFAD will make in Africa. A consortium that represents an unprecedented level of cooperation and collaboration from Columbia Business School, Susterra Inc., CEED, GYIN, Phelps Stokes. And the list is growing.
So our listening tour has come full circle. The conversation is the same. It’s about transforming our rural economies by engaging youth through experimental entrepreneurship education and mentorship and offering innovative incentives to position them for success as entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs. It’s about looking at agriculture differently … realizing the potential for a traditional sector to drive millions of dollars into our economies by investing in research and knowledge transfer, building strong networks, giving a voice to our youth, building capacity through experimental learning and promoting the sector as a contemporary and innovative business. What’s different? Now the conversation is global. And the listening continues ….