Making history: After 100 years, A Zimbabwean flag over JCI

By Archibald Mathibela

Over the entire year of the term of office of the new President of Junior Chamber International (JCI), the Zimbabwe flag will fly over the JCI world headquarters in St Louis, Missouri, USA.

For the first time in over 100 years of its existence and 52 year presence in Zimbabwe, Junior Chamber International (JCI) elected a Zimbabwean, Itai Manyere, as the 2020 JCI World President. The elections took place at a recent 2019 JCI World Congress in Talinn, Estonia.

The JCI World Presidency is the ultimate diplomatic position afforded any particular country by the organisation and comes with significant mileage. Although the JCI World President has a global mandate, Zimbabwe will be eager to take advantage of Manyere’s election to reinforce the image of a nation of progressive minded young people. There are infinite possibilities for individuals and organisations with an appetite for international cooperation and growth.

“I’m at this point humbled but at the same time excited, as your friend, more than your President, to see you all here this evening. A people who have a conviction to see a brighter tomorrow for generations to come. A people who believe that they can give of themselves to serve in their communities, a people who believe they have the power to change their destiny,” said Manyere in his acceptance speech.

As the face of the JCI global network of active citizens, Manyere will travel extensively across the world, meeting with JCI Members and Officers, Heads of Government, senior business executives and civic community leaders. In this capacity, Manyere has a unique opportunity to build international goodwill and understanding at a high level, advancing the United Nations Sustainable

Development Goals (SDGs), promoting entrepreneurship and business development, civic engagement and international cooperation.

The campaign process was a protracted phase of strategic lobbying within JCI global structures. Locally, painstaking behind the scenes promotion and engagement activities from the 2020 JCI Zimbabwe campaign team, which culminated in a formal association with Government and other stakeholders, were instrumental in bringing the prize home.

“As the Government, we appreciate JCI’s transformative contribution to the development of our society over the past 52 years of its existence in our country. We are very grateful to JCI Zimbabwe for complementing Government’s efforts to improve people’s livelihoods through its community based projects,” said Kirsty Coventry, Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation in a statement prepared for her in Estonia.

For many in Zimbabwe, this is one opportunity to change perceptions about Zimbabwe whilst encouraging more young people to play an active part in the international arena.

However, notwithstanding the substantial excitement amongst Zimbabweans, there were some lingering questions around the significance of this achievement for the country. Manyere will hoist the Zimbabwean national flag. The Zimbabwe flag will be raised over the JCI world headquarters throughout the coming year covering Manyere’s term.

In addition, Zimbabwe will be top of mind in all interactions in the over 5 000 communities and 120 countries in which JCI is represented.

Further, Manyere will enjoy closer collaboration with international organisations like the United Nations, as one of JCI’s global strategic partners. However, for his year to be successful, he needs the continuous backing of compatriots and the Government, which has remained steadfast in its support thus far.

“We will continue to work with and support them in this regard as we consider them to be one of the most successful youth leadership development organisations and a shining model of positive engagements by youth,” says Coventry.

Globally, JCI has a footprint in more than 5 000 communities across 120 countries where its Members aged between 18 to 40 years are recognised for embracing new ideas and collaborations to address the most critical challenges of our time. JCI empowers young people by developing their skills, knowledge and understanding to enable them to make informed decisions and lead their community to take concrete action for sustainable impact.

Archibald Mathibela is Communication Advisor to the JCI Zimbabwe 2020 JCI World President Campaign team responsible for the Public Relations communication function. Contact him at joonechild@gmail.com

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