By Fadzayi Chiwandire Moyo
I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email informing me that I had been accepted to attend the World Youth Forum in Egypt as I had applied out of curiosity and without much effort or knowledge of what it was about and what to expect.
I only realised how big a deal this forum was the day I flew from Johannesburg to Sharm El-Sheikh via Cairo. When we finally touched down in the beautiful city of Sharm, it seemed as though the whole city had been shut down for this event. Driving down the streets of Sharm, it was a sea of blue WYF posters, branded buses and taxis.
As we made our way through the conference centre, the local youths were very welcoming and pleasantly interested in where we came from and our experience in Egypt so far.
Everywhere we turned we were being asked for selfies or to go in front of a camera and state where we were from and encourage those watching to visit Egypt. I personally felt celebrated, welcome and that my presence was of utmost importance to them.
I attended some insightful sessions, from discussing the digital world as a parallel society and how it controls our real world, to learning about the employment opportunities in the age of Artificial Intelligence and discussing the burning issue on how to narrow the gender gap in the labour market.
The main takeaway from all sessions was that it was time for the youth to take charge and be pro-active in making sure we achieve the Africa we want.
It is amazing how much one learns from just being in room with people from diverse backgrounds, brainstorming ideas on how to hack / solve problems that affect us in our respective regions, realising how different we are but at the same time similar.
So, what did all this mean to me? I actually thought this was a great way to brand Egypt, instead of trying to convince the world over to come visit your country and trying to force a narrative they do not relate, getting people to come experience Egypt while they address world issues was a brilliant idea.
It works the other way. Sell your market to the product
One friend of mine recently taught me that sometimes you do not need to market your product; you just need sell your market to the product.
I come from a country that, for a while, has been trying to brand itself. And as I have always said, those in the offices are not capable of branding a whole nation by themselves, they need the people for it to be a success.
The best they can do is to help facilitate the notion and help start conversations, because the brand and narrative of a country is determined by the conversations its people have amongst themselves and with those outside.
You cannot brand a nation where everyone is speaking negatively about it to anyone who will listen. The quality of conversation needs to change in and around the country, and I feel this is exactly what Egypt is doing, crowd-sourcing content.
They are using the best resource ever to help them control the country’s brand, PEOPLE!
The Egypt World Youth Forum hosted 5 000+ people from all over the world at a tourist destination, booked every single one of us in the finest hotels for close to 2 weeks (for a forum that only lasted 3 days) and gave us loads of data, which enabled us to share our experiences in their country.
In most cases we were sharing in real time, we took a lot of pictures of Egypt and posted to the rest of world, and #WYFEGYPT was trending on a lot of social media platforms.
But above all, Egypt was trending, Egypt was advertising and getting some much needed positive attention.
So maybe hosting 5000 people from across the world would not be feasible in the current economic climate, but maybe hosting X number of people from the SADC region could help make nice with our neighbours and help manage perceptions, clean up our image and generate a more positive narrative through changing the quality of conversations we have with anyone we interact with.
The forum was awesome, I got involved in some of the most profound and deep conversations.
There definitely were lots of takeaways from the various sessions and workshops I attended, I left amped up to level up.
However, my key takeaway from that memorable trip was, “I NEED TO GO BACK TO EGYPT!|”
And I wish more people could have experiences that make them want to say, “I NEED TO GO BACK TO ZIMBABWE.”
Fadzayi Chiwandire Moyo is lead Front-end Developer at OnePointFour Consulting // Founder at DIV:A Initiative. Follow Chiwandire Moyo on Zimbabwe Digital News amd Zondex TV
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