Photo from PAYLS 004

Youthhubafrica’s Rotimi Olawale sat with Dr. Djibril Diallo, Honorary Chair of the Pan African Youth Leadership Network at the end of the 4th Pan African Youth Leadership Summit which held in Dakar. Dr. Dialo shared the vision that led to the summit series and the network as a whole. Here is the interview.

Youthhubafrica: Dr. Djibril, its a pleasure to be with you once again. The first Pan African Youth Leadership Summit started ten years ago, actually in Dakar. What led to this idea?

Dr. Djibril: The idea of the first Pan African Youth Leadership Summit came from the need to popularize, in 2004 the Millennium Development Goals. Until then, for many people, the MDGs were like alphabet soups. While they were very important, they have very little connection to the average person, that is, of what concern is it to the man and woman of the street. So Kofi Annan, then Secretary General of the United Nations asked me in my capacity as the Director, Communications of UNDP to try and put together a strategy in consultation with stakeholders. So that’s why in March 2004 we chose the youth as the major entry point, and based on that, on 27th of June, 2004 we launched the initiative here in Dakar, Senegal.

Youthhubafrica: Between now and then, can you highlight some of the key successes of the Pan African Youth Leadership Movement?

Dr. Djibril: The single most important, issues become important because important people seem to be paying attention to them. The single most important item is really the fact that the Pan African Youth Leadership Network has managed to put the youth at the centre of the decision making process. That’s more important than anything else. Africa has realized that there cannot be a sustainable development for Africa, there cannot be peace for Africa if the youth are not in the centre of decision making process.

The second point is that the Pan African Youth Leadership Network has brought forward very strong youth leaders who have been respected in their communities and were recognized, first and foremost by their works through the United Nations. These are individuals who may be working in the economic and social areas in their communities, in their countries. So, first of all, the fact that we have really brought the youth in the decision making process. Number two, bringing forward youth leaders who have got nothing to envy from the youth of other parts of the world. When they are interviewed they show their progress, we are sure that these are the youth who have strong sense of organization, strong sense of method and who have also done so much for their communities and are credible.

Youthhubafrica: During the Pan African Youth Leadership Summit that ended yesterday, there were a number of key initiatives that were launched. One is the partnership with the diaspora and the second is protect the goal. Can you shade light on these two initiatives?

Dr. Djibril: The partnership with the diaspora is key because Africa has had this opportunity to really have the diaspora as the sixth region of the African continent. But frankly, until now this have been just words and paper, it has not been concretized. So, my idea has been again to use the energy, the dynamism and the creativity of the youth to turn it into reality. And that is what we saw here in the fourth summit of the Pan African Leadership Summit. Not only did we have very strong leaders from the diaspora but also those leaders from diaspora sat down with their peers of Africa and came out with one page of what they are going to use as a road map, as a business plan to strengthen the links with Africa. They did not wait for leaders to come and tell them what they did, and it’s moving forward.

The second is really the idea of the convening power of sports and culture in order to accelerate the prevention of HIV /AIDS getting to zero: zero no HIV infection, zero discrimination, zero aids related tests, and this is what we called ‘Protect The Goal Campaign’, that was launched by the then Secretary General of United Nations and the Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibe. It was launched by him in June 2010 in South Africa. The campaign was called from the outside, from Soweto to Bahia. Meaning that we are going to spend four years reaching out to five continents, then ending up in Brazil at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and that is what has been going on tremendously.

On the 5th of March we will take up the initiative in the Soweto Soccer City in South Africa with President Zuma, and then the ball will be brought from the 5th of March all the way across five continents and end up been received by the President Zuma on the 13th of June, 2014 in Salvador da Bahia, and President Zuma will hand it over to the President of Brazil Dilma Roussef. Then for one month, the government of Brazil through the Ministry of Health purchased trailers that are positioned in twelve cities which are hosting the World Cup. And, during the games, we will be doing a number of exercises including voluntary testing, condoms distributions and a lot of advocacy campaigns, and the trailers will be conceptualized as villages. And there will be artists from Nigeria, artists from Cameroun, artists from the

qualified countries, that is the five qualified countries: Ghana, Cote d’ivoire, and so on. And also artists from other parts of the world.

And again, my job is always to have an idea to turn you youth into leaders, and you Rotimi Olawale, are among the strongest youth leaders that I know in the continent. So, to turn to you and say “here is an idea. How can we benefit from your creativity, your leadership to turn this idea into reality”? And, that is the great success of the fourth Pan- African Youth Leadership Summit. That is, youth got together and looked at the stumbling blocks that are getting on the way of employment creation and listed some of those stumbling blocks and then at the same time found solutions to them.

Youthhubafrica: And final question. Where do we go from here? I recollect in 2005 where you convened a global summit and brought together several hundreds of youth to the United Nations and those young people shook the United Nations to the bones by discussing critical issues relating to youth. So where do you see this Pan African Leadership Summit going if you look at the backdrop of the post 2015 development agenda that is been discussed?

Dr. Djibril:  We are going to have two actions. Immediately, the youth leaders will go back to their countries. I am very, very happy that in Africa we have the youth leadership presence in forty of the fifty-four African countries since 2004. Secondly, we will then start preparing the next exercise which is the Diaspora and Africa Summit in Brazil, in Salvador da Bahia in December, 2014. Right now, the immediate action is for each youth leader who was here, five hundred youth in all to go back to their communities and implement the result. And we have a twin ending system whereby we will have to strengthen a steering committee that will then start planning the next exercise because ours is to convene in September 2015 the second Global Youth Leadership Summit. When the leaders are meeting in the General Assembly Hall, we the youth of the world, me as the honorary chair and you the youth of the world, you will come and we will pitch tent on the UN ground, the lawn of the United Nations, and that is where we will be making sure that we have our summit in September in 2015, bringing two young people: one young woman, one young man from each one of the 193 countries. But having prepared this, so, Salvador da Bahia in December, 2014 will serve mainly as the pre-summit for the global summit, and I will be very much hope that we will benefit from your input.

Youthhubafrica: Ok. That will be the final question Dr. Djibril. Thank you very much for speaking to us, and will continue to track the progress the Youth Leadership Summit will make in the coming months.

Dr. Djibril: Thank you very much.

* You can download the Dakar Declaration

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Rotimi Olawale, co-founder of is a youth development expert. For more than six years he has been involved in leading youth advocacy efforts mainly around the Millennium Development Goals. In 2006, he represented Nigeria as a youth ambassador at the United Nations Global Youth Leadership Summit held at the UN Headquarters in New York. Rotimi has held several global leadership positions including; member, UNFPA Global Youth Advisory Panel for 2 years; member, African Youth Panel. Rotimi is currently involved in shaping local, national and global policies to benefit youth and also leverage opportunities for young people. He was listed by the Nigerian government as one of 15 Nigerian youth on the world stage in 2008.