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Following a visit to Namibia by the Minister of Children and Youth Affairs of Ireland, The One Economy Foundation, with support from the Irish Government, explored ways to address the challenges faced by adolescents and young adults. The minister’s visit included participation at a #BeFree Dialogue hosted by the One Economy Foundation and helped build the platform for continued cooperation and support.

“Ireland is pleased to contribute to the One Economy Foundation in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, we are supportive of its work in assisting young entrepreneurs to deal with the challenges in the area of mental health,” said the Irish Ambassador based in Lusaka, HE Séamus O’Grady.

“The pandemic has impacted on how we all work and presents new stresses and demands on everybody. It is important that young entrepreneurs are assisted in dealing with the stress resulting from COVID-19 and learn appropriate coping skills. We are very impressed with the work of One Economy Foundation and its innovative approaches to addressing issues affecting young people in Namibia and we hope that our support will help the Foundation with its important work,” he continued.

Founder of the One Economy Foundation, First Lady Monica Geingos, emphasized that the forum recognises the importance of young entrepreneurs as the backbone to reinvigorate the Namibian economy as the country emerges from the lockdown. “During these difficult times, the One Economy Foundation, with the support of the Embassy of Ireland, will work to ensure that the Namibian youth are given the support and tools to overcome and endure, and emerge well-prepared to build on new opportunities.

The first part of the survival toolkit was held on 25 July focusing on mental health and the second part on innovation was held on 08 August.

Ms Mahevo Kadhepa, Strategic Investments Analyst at the Development Bank of Namibia, highlighted the numerous youth-specific funding opportunities offered by DBN. Ms Stacey Susa Pinto, Chief Executive Officer of the Namibia Trade Forum, provided insight on how the youth can access trade opportunities in Namibia and beyond. She advised young entrepreneurs to collaborate and form partnerships with individuals and organisations to increase production capacity for greater impact, and to make use of channels such as the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Namibia Trade Forum for advice and guidance. Ms Anna Vambe, Project Manager at Start-up Namibia, shared the work of the organisation while highlighting the opportunities available for entrepreneurs.

The Collaborative and Inclusive Tech Hub from NUST facilitated a session on innovation, mapping how entrepreneurs can innovate and collaborate to achieve common objectives while optimizing the resources at their disposal. During one of the exercises, the attendees paired up and they shared how COVID-19 affected their businesses and exchanged ideas on how to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic and adapt to change.

The highlight of the Forum was the Pitching Competition, which had youth entrepreneurs vying for the coveted first and second prizes. The judges were on the lookout for feasible and innovative business ideas. The judging panel consisted of Tom Shilongo, founder of Launch Namibia, Anna Vambe, Project Manager at Start-Up Namibia and Honourable Emma Kantema-Gaomas, the Deputy Minister: Sports, Youth and National Service.

The youth entrepreneurs pitched both physically and virtually to accommodate countrywide participation. The competition was tough and the entrepreneurs did not make it easy for the judges. In the end, two participants emerged victorious, Elivi Shinedima from Ndjuluwa97 Academy and Andreas Elifas from Jumper Namibia, won N$30,000 and N$20,000 respectively towards the growth of their businesses. In addition to anchor sponsor The Embassy of Ireland, Lusaka, the forum was also made possible by the valued sponsorship of Coca-Cola Namibia Bottling Company and Start-Up Namibia Incubation Centre.

A large group of keen young entrepreneurs joined the ONE Youth Forum conducted recently by the One Economy Foundation with support from the Irish Embassy based in Lusaka.