Addis Ababa 10, May 2012
Good morning once again. I would like to start off on two points; one, I am very, grateful for your invitation to come and be with you this morning. It is of great pleasure for me to have this moment with you.
The second most important point, this gathering of Global Shapers mainly from our continent of Africa, gives me great hope on the direction our continent is taking, and I think there is a lot that is going to happen on the basis of your efforts as young people – who have taken on that responsibility and feel it is your duty to carry on the tasks related to Africa’s aspirations. This is very encouraging. Thank you for that.
Thirdly, I would have expected to see one of you coming from Rwanda, so I hope next time we shall have one or two more joining you for this good cause.
Let me say on the basis of the hope I have; and I think everyone else would have by seeing you here, getting together, networking from different countries and thinking about how in shaping what matters and what happens globally starts with you as individuals. And then you think about how in self realization you are going to affect others; the communities, the societies and therefore this is what gives me hope when I see young people like you thinking this way. I am told young people under the age of 24 constitute 60% of Africa’s population. This is huge. So, if you add on the under 30, then that is more. It’s really the whole continent; the continent is actually dominated by young people.
In some cases people may want to see this as a challenge, in the sense that this is where the first investments Africa will have to start from. How do Governments, nations; invest in these young people so that in their different ways and talents, they really drive Africa in its quest to grow and develop? Those aspects of investments form a challenge and where they have not been made; there is always an opposite effect; if you have young people who have no education and no employment. If these right investments have not been made then it turns into a problem indeed as you understand.
But I’ll work from the side of optimism, that we can all be able to make the right investments in our young people so that we can have immense opportunities. You can imagine therefore if we can have our young people; the majority of our citizens empowered, educated and given an environment that facilitates them to fulfill themselves and realize their full potential. Can you imagine what energy, strength, growth and development is unleashed from that? This is now the beauty of it. That is where we should focus, in my view that is where Rwanda comes from and I am sure this is where many other African countries come from in making the right investments so that we facilitate this growth and allow this energy to be unleashed from our young people. But as I said, nobody will do it for the other, somehow there are shared responsibilities but let me start with our individual responsibilities. It’s a message to you if you will as young people.
First you have to take on that challenge personally and say “What is it I can do from the means, or facilitations that Governments will avail? What is it within me that I can bring to bear on personal growth?”But at the same time, I immediately link it with what can any one of you contribute to the community and the society. So, the two are tied together; it is you and the community and that is how Africa will grow., When you say, “what can I do for myself to realize my full potential or discover my talent and build on that”, you are doing it with a sense of purpose and not selfishness. It is not what it means for you and it ends there. But what it means to you and even more importantly to the society. In the end, if the society is not better off because of our collective efforts then it even affects our personal growth. We find that we are engaged in struggles that are not making any headway, we are stuck with ourselves.
That is why it is important to go from individual personal growth to community growth.. This is what I wanted to discuss with you this morning, at least to start off the conversation which I think is probably more important than me talking most of the time. I would rather listen and engage with you in whatever you think you can get. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much your Excellency. Shapers, the floor is yours, I will take three questions at a time. Please keep your questions brief and to the point. Please can I get the first question?
1. Thank you very much Mr. President. Again I am Kopano from the South Africa hub. My question to you sir is, many of our leaders on our continent started off as young people, with great visions for our continent, meaning well, wanting to change, wanting to transform things. But something happens once they get their hands on power. I would like to know what your thoughts on that are and how we can prevent that from happening.
That is a complicated one
2. My second question is now that we know that 60% of Africa are under the age of the age of 24 depending on the stats, how or what do you think needs to happen in terms of governments really engaging young people. Do you believe that there are a lot of young people like us who really want to get involved in government and in politics but something happens that allows for governments not to almost push back in that regard?
3. My name is Taynue Summoh from Monrovia hub, Liberia, Mr. President my question to you has to do with the resources of Africa. You being a President looking at the resources the way they are handled by some of our African leaders and now looking at the incoming generation, who are the youth, how do you feel as a leader and how do you feel about leaders who misappropriate resources and use them for their own use?
Let me start with the first question; I always want to start with the positive side and also from the point that I don’t think this should be or is going to be the trend for everyone, for every leader in Africa. Maybe there are those who may not perform quite to the expectation and go the same path you have talked about; start well, do well and end badly. I understand what you are talking about and things have happened and are there to be seen by everyone. It is unfortunate and should not happen and maybe it is something that also you need to internalize and be challenged by, so that when the burden falls on you to be a leader at any level or even at that level you actually don’t end up doing that same thing you used to criticize when you were young. Those that have performed so badly or that it has happened to we may look at it as the past even if we have a bit of it in the present but I am saying shouldn’t it also form lessons for young people, for upcoming leaders so that at we least have some cut-off point.
Let us have those of us in our time who are like that but let’s end with that group so that the young people who are following in the footsteps who are the leaders of today become higher leaders of tomorrow. They actually don’t follow the same trend.
There is another way of challenging it in the present. The way you are organized in this way in reaching more people across Africa. Young people who have decided to engage. People are going to make changes in their own societies or their countries, to actually address this problem at their level. I am sure some of you, all of you actually are not young to participate in politics. The youth should play their role in their political activities of different kinds of your choice in your own countries. You need to argue for different directions leaders should take. If it is allowed if it passes unchallenged then it becomes a trend that everyone who comes to lead will follow. It has to start with those who don’t carry a baggage. It is a bit too late for some people who are already immersed but it is not too late for young people who will be the leaders tomorrow. We keep hoping that even today there are some leaders who will avoid the route that some you are mentioning have taken.
It is something that is discussed at different times, levels, forums, and we really talk about it among ourselves; sometimes not with much success because as I have told you that there are already people who are in it and can’t get out of it but we hope that that time will come to pass and we will have people coming who will understand fully, the responsibilities and the right way to exercise those responsibilities, and make sure that we avoid what I alluded in my opening remarks, that people tend to serve themselves rather than serve communities and societies. When they are in positions of power; they are the beginning and end of everything of everything. That is the problem but if you serve and understand that yes, there is your part but there is the bigger part of those you serve then I think you can easily avoid that kind of problem.
On the other hand, it’s tricky. You have seen in some countries and I discovered some of you come from those countries. Some people have had to do the unexpected to actually challenge this and say we don’t want you and they have gotten rid of them. So we are not talking about cases that have no examples. Some people have come up and said enough is enough. I think some of those moving in that direction are taking notice. They know that if they don’t change the course of events it may happen to them. It’s a complex reality but we are not entirely powerless to do something about it. The young people are not powerless atleast in terms of voicing it and then in practice depending on these networks you do with other countries, you can challenge and say you want to go in a different direction.
As I said earlier if governments fail to realize the power and the future the need for nations and the future then those governments are doing the wrong thing and it is consequential. One thing then is to avoid the consequence of not realizing that. And that is why I said there has to be not only the right investments in the right people from very young age as they grow. For example in my country we invest in health, education and that means we are having a health population that should be educated and acquire knowledge and have skills to be able to exercise these for the development of our nations.
Therefore if governments would be making these kinds of investments, they also need then to harness the power, the power, the potentials that they have already made; that is the power that lies within their youth, the development of their talents, skills and energy. So it is upto the governments.
Governments that have harnessed these they have realized a lot of growth and benefits, where they haven’t you see where they stand whether globally or continentally. Have you had about a catch phrase “resource curse”? I don’t agree with that, for me resources should not and need not be a curse. In fact my problem is I am dealing with a curse of poverty so if I had resources which Africa had we should be able to turn this into something beneficial. It needn’t be a problem. It is a solution. The first resource is the human being and is the most important.
For other resources I would use them to invest in our citizens. Otherwise, whether you are managing resources or dealing with poverty you are facing a challenge of governance. How do you use governance for the good in terms of available resources, whether they are abundant or few resources? How do you put them to the right use for the development of societies? It doesn’t mean if a country discovers it has a lot of oil the country is dead. They should use the oil for the development of their citizens.
I come from a part of the world where scarcity is the norm and that has taught some of us to do more with less, create value where there isn’t, to try and use meager resources that are there to move to another stage. I think I would not have a problem managing resources. If I have managed scarcity I shouldn’t have a problem managing resources. I think Africa is blessed on one hand in terms of resources and mainly it has a human resource we should focus on, the rest is leadership we provide for our citizens.
4. Hello again Mr. President. I have a comment and a question that is brief. The first comment is to thank you for giving us a shiny example. A couple of months ago we were in a strategy session in our office and our group which is mostly young people were trying to find out how to deal with a challenge and how to turn a negative situation into a positive and we had a copy of the Africa Report on Rwanda and the letter piece and seeing all the conference building and the amazing things that are being done. It’s not all the time you get to say thank you in person, so thank you. My question is, in a lot of these meetings we talk about leadership and governance in theory, we are not in that stage in science where we can replicate people’s DNAs but how are we deliberately grooming upcoming leaders to adopt the value systems that teach people that this is for the communities and not your personal pocket. What are the action steps that we are actually taking? I hear a lot of the theoretical but not the action steps.
5. Hello again, I have two questions in one. When you were 30 years and below, what two things do you wish you would have known about being a leader that you know now and didn’t know then, and what two things do you wish you would have known about being a person that you know now and didn’t know then.
6. Hello and thank you. Firstly I want to express my appreciation for your appreciation of Rwandan women that has been rather inspiring, an example we hope other African Presidents follow through. Of course as an African young woman I am asking what role do you envision for us in shaping the continents future.
It’s a complex area about leadership and how it plays on societies and encourages the value systems to develop and how this bears on the kinds of progress. I think that is the question.
Leadership first of all has two parts, which are a bit complicated. One is nature, something you are alluded to, something to do with science which you have no way of altering and tampering, there is also another part which is nurture; your upbringing, your environment, situation you grew up in. The real thing if I can speak about my own situation, what we have tried to do faced with challenges I have faced, having to build a country from scratch and making life normal. There are two things we have to do or encourage. To be a good leader, there has to be a clear message; definition of a problem, how to deal with the problem and a demonstration on what needs to be done and then, put systems in place to keep people accountable. Never leave things to chance.
I learn a lot of things as I go along. I think it is important to emphasize to young people to learn, never assume that you know, always assume that you don’t know .Listen, learn, and then decide what to do later on. If one assumes that they know and they don’t learn, there comes a time they find they are really faced with problems and they find themselves at a loss. but as people grow and learn and are faced with complex problems they find they are equipped to deal with the specific challenge.
Don’t expect to be thanked for every good thing you do and maybe its better it is that way but for you who are still young and still going to carry heavier responsibilities ahead expect that nothing is easy, if you find life easy then you must celebrate that, but should you find life hard, then face it upfront, don’t give up. It’s better to be prepared before than to want to be prepared at the point you are facing the problem. You have an opportunity as leaders to build this capacity and anticipate challenges before they come your way and prepare psychologically and physically for what may come your way. I have had to struggle all my life, and I will have to say that these hardships had a silver lining to it. It was like training for me. Don’t throw your problems to somebody else, if possible make it your problem and deal with it. If you postpone it, it will then become complicated tomorrow. I am happy that I didn’t know then what I know now, I would not have been able to carry the burdens I have had to go through.
For us, the problems have shaped us in a way. Women have equal rights to men. In our society they form a big percentage. They are 53% of our population, and unless something has gone wrong in your mind to keep these out of development process or to not want to bring their knowledge, energy, participation into this, it would not be a clever way to deal with issues. We had to make sure that for us in dealing with our problems we made sure that every citizen is playing the right role they are supposed to play. We had women in our armed struggle to liberate our country so we couldn’t keep them out after. When they fought for their country like anyone how do you exclude them when it comes to Peace building and development? For us there was no hesitation, misunderstanding and issue about women. Maybe we have overdone it, men are complaining they think women are taking over everything so we now have to deal with balancing so that everyone feels they have their right contribution to their country’s affairs.
I hope we can find another time, I would like have enjoyed having more time with you to go into any other details.
In my understanding and experience, everything is possible, that is the starting point. At one time I was young, as young people there is a lot in you that maybe you haven’t realized, but every time you wake up in the morning or go to sleep in the evening, have a moment and reflect on that so that you bring out the best in you. Development, hard work, identifying what is good for you and for your society is always associated with some level of discipline, meaning you rarely keep relating the value of your actions and purpose you may want to serve, and I think you will always want to serve what is good. Even if people do wrong thing they will always claim they want to do good things. So discipline means you stay focused and do what is good for you and the communities.
You are my Pride.