As the coordinator of the Youth For Results Network (Y4R), I was asked to give a welcome statement at the Youth for Results Knowledge and Learning Workshop in Tunis, April 2 – 4, 2014. I have reproduced the speech below


It is an honour to welcome you all to the Y4R Knowledge and Learning event. It is good to know that we all travelled safely, except for a few missing bags and long hours to get a visa.

About 1 and half years ago, precisely December 11 – 13, 2012, I attended the 5th Annual AfCoP Meeting  (in this same hotel).

The main objectives of that meeting was to launch the new AfDB-financed project commonly called the Africa Knowledge for Results (AfriK4R) initiative and build ownership for it among AfCoP members

The meeting was attended by prominent representatives from across Africa, including government ministers, senior government officials, members of parliament and development partners, as well as leaders from civil society organizations, the private sector and the academia

So as you might expect, it was a roomful of grey hair, men and women with 20-30years experiences in doing whatever it is they have been doing with their lives. There were only 2 young participants.

Throughout that meeting, it was a struggle to get youth voices into the discussions. The side meetings were more productive as we got commitments from the secretariat to ensure the strategic participation and integration of young Africans into the AfCoP process.

A few months after the December meeting, an email arrived from the secretariat informing us that there will be 2 regional meetings (COMESA and WAEMU) and requesting that we kindly help nominate young people in the 2 regions to participate. These 2 meetings provided building blocks towards identifying exceptional young people across Africa and to prepare for the launch of a Y4R network.

As you are all aware, the 6th Annual AfCoP meeting which held in Harare, Zimbabwe had a sizable number of youth participants, a whole panel dedicated to youth issues and time allocated for youth to develop a work plan and formalities on setting up a network.

The youth responded with zeal, producing a newsletter, a documentary and also a website within 5days.

The case for involving young people in discussions and initiatives targeted at delivering results in Africa cannot be overemphasized. There are currently more than 2000million people aged 15 – 24 in Africa making Africa the youngest continent in the world. The Africa Economic Outlook predicts that this figure will double by 2045.

Africa is changing. This is evident when the World Bank reported that 6 of the 10fastest growing economies are in Africa but young people are asking questions, growth is rising but there are no jobs as the gap between the wealthy and the poor seem to have risen! We need to get more young people on the table, and involved in shaping policies that will affect their lives.

In Africa, the culture of ‘respect for elders’ has made leadership a right for older people and a bestowed privilege for privileged young people. Since 2008, 13 world leaders have died in office, 10 of these were African leaders The average life expectancy in Africa is 56years as compared to an average age of African Heads of State that currently stands at 61years.

African leaders are not only old, many of them are staying longer than expected. In Zimbabwe for instance, anyone who is 27years and below have known only one president, Robert Mugabe. In Cameroun, if you’re 32years and below, you’ve lived to witness one president in office, Paul Biya. In Senegal, efforts by the former President who changed the constitution to pave the way for a fresh term was thwarted at the polls. In Nigeria, the parliament put an end to President Obasanjo’s desire for a third term in office.

Africa needs a new set of leaders, and this can only emerge by providing opportunities for youth engagement, youth-adult partnerships and mentoring and allowing young people to take active leadership roles at local, national and international levels

I am happy to note that the AfCoP process has become a best practice in its involvement of youth and we are assured that this will continue to evolve

The Y4R network will contribute to youth development through policy formulation and promoting accountability in governance and also strengthening regional integration efforts.

It is exciting to note that 12 young people responded to a call to submit case studies in the build up to this workshop and that 4 of these case-studies have been selected

Let me share with you a poem by Henry Barlow an Ugandan

“Today I did my share
In building the nation.
I drove a Permanent Secretary
To an important, urgent function
In fact, to a luncheon at the Vic.

The menu reflected its importance
Cold bell beer with small talk,
Then fried chicken with niceties
Wine to fill the hollowness of the laughs
Ice-cream to cover the stereotype jokes
Coffee to keep the PS awake on the return journey.

I drove the Permanent Secretary back.
He yawned many times in back of the car
Then to keep awake, he suddenly asked,
Did you have any lunch friend?
I replied looking straight ahead
And secretly smiling at his belated concern
That I had not, but was slimming!
Upon which he said with a seriousness
That amused more than annoyed me,
Mwananchi, I too had none!
I attended to matters of state.
Highly delicate diplomatic duties you know,
And friend, it goes against my grain,
Causes me stomach ulcers and wind.
Ah, he continued, yawning again,
The pains we suffer in building the nation! So the PS had ulcers too!
My ulcers I think are equally painful
Only they are caused by hunger,
Not sumptuous lunches!

So two nation builders
Arrived home this evening
With terrible stomach pains
The result of building the nation –
– Different ways.”

We all in this room represent the Permanent Secretary, the select few carrying the weight of Africa’s 200million youth population. We’ve asked for space and we have gotten it. We need to use the space well to redefine youth engagements in our countries. We need to ensure that these investments in training, knowledge and learning experiences help to refine our individual work and spur us to provide quality contributions to the development of our countries in order to produce the desired results.

 I will conclude with this

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

I thank you for your time!

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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.