UNDP and Citi Foundation join forces to promote youth entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka through its flagship initiative – Youth Co:Lab Technopreneurship for Social Change Programme. This programme, which is currently in its third year, is supported by the National Youth Services Council and Cisco Systems Inc.
Youth Co-Lab, Co-created in 2017 by UNDP and the Citi Foundation, aims to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship.
In Sri Lanka, the programme uses innovative Cisco Networking Academy e-learning modules to connect young people, which make up over 4.4 million of Sri Lanka’s population, with up to date learning material to improve their digitization capabilities in contributing to the economy.
Through tailor made sessions conducted at 20 locations across Sri Lanka targeting over 1000 young people a year, the programme aims to encourage entrepreneurship amongst young people by providing them with the necessary leadership, financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills.
Recognizing the successes and highlighting some of the entrepreneurs who have kickstarted their initiatives following their participation of the programme, an event was held recently in Colombo bringing together all partners and young people.
Speaking at the event, Country Officer for Citi Sri Lanka, Mr. Ravin Basnayake stated “Youth Co: Lab’s approach of listening to young people, and empowering them to drive business solutions that address our country’s most pressing issues is how real change happens,” said, Ravin Basnayake, Citi Country Officer Sri Lanka. He further added, “We believe that only by joining forces together with public and private sector, social partners, civil society and beyond can we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”
Speaking about the impact of this programme, UNDP Sri Lanka Resident Representative, Mr. Jorn Sorensen stated, “Youth engagement is something that I am passionate about and this is why I am particularly proud of this programme because we are reaching out to some of the farthest youth who otherwise do not have the opportunity to enhance their digital and entrepreneurial skills.”
Ayesh and Keshan are two such individuals who have benefitted from this programme, who now have a startup business in Hambantota. Speaking about their journey, Keshan stated “I was a participant at the 2018 Programme and having completed the course successfully, my friend Ayesh and I were inspired to kickstart our business. With the learnings from the modules taught at the Programme, today we are running an agri store and are also providing employment opportunities for a few people in the community”.
Ensuring the sustainability of the initiative, the programme is designed in a way where young people can also become peer coaches so more youth will have the opportunity to be a part of this Technopreneurship Programme. Speaking about her experience as a budding peer coach, Fathima Amrina stated “The Programme has opened new doors for me. Today I am both excited and empowered to share my learnings with other young people as a peer coach.”
Young people play a key role in shaping the 2030 development agenda. Hence, engaging with them at a community level is vital if the call for participation, inclusion, accountability and engagement embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved.