Exclusive interview with the chief executive of the SNYC, Albert Duncan |01 September 2023
‘We must engage and prioritise the youth, and involve them in decisions that affect them’
Albert Duncan, a man known for his creative endeavours and roles in a number of business entities, has since February 2023 been appointed chief executive of the Seychelles National Youth Council.
Mr Duncan’s journey has been marked by diverse pursuits, and through his dedication, he has carved a path to impactful involvement in civil society and other realms.
The foundation of this remarkable journey was laid at Bel Ombre primary and Beau Vallon secondary schools, followed by the pursuit of A-Level studies.
Despite initially considering a medical career, Mr Duncan redirected his aspirations towards making a difference through social policy, a decision that aligned with an innate desire to positively influence the community. He secured a scholarship that led to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of Manchester, with a focus on social policy, under the Twinning programme.
Returning to Seychelles post-graduation, Mr Duncan embarked on a role as a research officer at the social development unit, catalysing research on childhood development and contributing to comprehensive reports on the Children’s Convention of Human Rights. Collaborative efforts with the Drug and Alcohol Council further enriched this period with policy-oriented experiences.
Transitioning into the corporate world, a nine-year tenure at Cable & Wireless Seychelles unfolded, where he occupied a number of roles across marketing departments. He spearheaded projects focused on product development, such as mobile top-up services and locally-focused initiatives such as Cable Tunes.
Amidst professional commitments, involvement in civil society became a defining facet of Mr Duncan’s life. The journey commenced with a pivotal role in establishing Seychelles' first shelter for victims of gender-based violence, reflecting a commitment to grassroots empowerment. Active participation in the Citizens Engagement Platform Seychelles (Ceps) further expanded horizons, leading to roles such as project coordination for 'Peser an Mouvman' under the Seychelles Climate Change and Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT).
Mr Duncan went on to assume the treasurer role on the Ceps board. Additionally, he is also a member of the International Friendship League.
His name is also synonymous with the creative arts industry, through his clothing line ‘Orizinal Kreol’, and, as the face behind a number of locally-produced films and television series. He is still very much involved with the local film industry, as well as the music industry.
Seychelles NATION: How do you juggle all of your responsibilities?
Albert Duncan: It all boils down to effective time management. When something holds significance for you, you will allocate time for it, even if it is just a brief 10 minutes daily – that still holds value. I find a sense of belonging when I'm actively taking part in civil society.
What I appreciate about civil society is the chance to connect with individuals driven by their passions. They contribute wholeheartedly, driven by their strong belief in a cause. Their efforts bring about change within the community and society at large. These are individuals from whom you can learn a great deal, gaining valuable experiences and expertise. It functions as a network; whenever you encounter challenges, you can seek their guidance. I admire them and firmly embrace the idea that life is a journey brimming with opportunities for growth.
Seychelles NATION: How do your passions tie in with your role as CEO of SNYC?
Albert Duncan: The creative aspect appeals to young individuals. My experiences have provided me with an extensive network, and I am someone who considers others' ideas. I believe my strength lies in my network and my willingness to seek advice without hesitation. When you bring the right individuals together, the possibilities are endless.
The role of SNYC is to facilitate, not just to organise. I am confident in my experiences, my reputation, and the positive relationships I've fostered with many individuals, all of which greatly are a plus.
My advantage stems from being more than just talk. My track record demonstrates my capacity to achieve, whether we're talking about music, films, or even sports, in which I'm deeply involved.
Seychelles NATION: What do you bring to the table for SNYC and the Seychellois youths?
Albert Duncan: I am deeply passionate about working with young people. Each morning, I wake up with a strong sense of motivation, convinced that leaving my previous comfort zone was the right decision.
Drawing from my background in the private sector, where I have navigated the pressures, upheld a strong work ethic, and met tight deadlines, I have recognised the dynamic at play. Private corporations strive to outpace their rivals. However, when addressing the younger generation, a competitive aspect emerges as well. This involves countering the detrimental forces influencing the community – alcohol and tobacco companies, social media, and controlled substances. These things possess the resources to ensnare our youth in harmful patterns and push them towards disengagement.
Each passing moment, day, and year lost sees our youth falling victim to these adverse influences. Once entangled, pulling them out becomes a tremendous challenge. Hence, interventions must target our communities, before they reach this juncture. We must equip them, attracting them with what they enjoy while also empowering them to confront such issues.
Our commitment is directed toward the community and actions that genuinely combat these challenges.
I am finding great satisfaction in my current role and the challenges it presents. I am genuinely enthusiastic about the possibilities ahead. Collaborative efforts with our partners are essential to gain deeper insights into our youth, their requirements, and the strategies to engage them effectively. This will enable us to make a substantial impact on their lives.
Seychelles NATION: What, in your view, are the youths of today struggling with?
Albert Duncan: Involvement. I believe that they lack engagement. A significant portion of our youths exist at the fringes of society. Employment and substance abuse are valuable indicators, as well as levels of participation in various programmes. Frequently, the same group of youths takes part in organised activities, and regrettably, it's often not those who require it most. But, it is precisely these individuals we must focus on.
We must explore alternative methods to connect with this younger generation, recognising their needs and desires. We need to empathise with their perspectives and truly hear them out. Our objective is to reintegrate them into constructive activities, as there are a number of opportunities, including job prospects. The question to be asked is why is their participation lacking? Identifying the root cause is imperative, for us to realign our initiatives and organisation to address these needs.
Seychelles NATION: What is your vision for Seychellois youths?
Albert Duncan: In the short-term, my aim is to establish comprehensive district-level plans for our youth, encompassing all aspects of their development. This requires collaboration with all stakeholders engaged in youth-related endeavours. If we are to operate in silos, it will lead to reduced effectiveness. By combining resources we can create more impactful initiatives.
A number of individuals are eager to contribute and effect change, but they lack guidance on how to proceed. Simplifying our approach and going back to the vary basics is crucial. We must strategise on how to engage and prioritise the youth, and get them involved in all our decisions that affect them.
Looking further ahead, I envision SNYC revise its legal framework, to further amplify our impact. My vision is for SNYC to adopt a proactive role and to strive for the best for all youth-related affairs.