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Report on Global Youth Innovation Workshop Held in Cotonou, Benin 10-13 October, 2011

By: Mamadou Edrisa Njie

The Government and the people of Benin under the dynamic leadership of His Excellency Dr. Yayi Boni hosted a good number of youth around the world to attend the Global Youth Innovation Workshop- Fair from 10-13 October, 2011 at the Palais Des Congress in Cotonou, Benin

The Global Youth Innovation Workshop -Fair is organized by Phelps Stokes and the International Fund for Agricultural Development to honor and celebrate young entrepreneurs achievements. The specific objectives of this event are: To bring together youth to share their perspectives and ideas in relation to their business models, To work toward solutions to common problems, and To enable the participants to showcase their products and services and share best practices. Phelps Stokes and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in collaboration with the Government of Benin, Activos Culturales Afro (ACUA), Palmares Fundacao, Songhai Center and Give1Project organized this event and cordially invited sixty youth from fifty countries globally to attend. The entire workshop Fair was entirely managed by young people from different background, all as Participants, some as Facilitators, and other as Youth Advisory members,

The official opening of the ceremony was characterized by cultural groups; and statements by the Minister of State for National Defense Issifou Kougui Ndoro on behalf of the Prime Minister of Republic, His Excellency Pascal Irenee Koupaki, Mr. Pape Samb, Chairman of GYIN Steering Committee who also doubles as the Phelps Stokes Director of Programs for Africa and Freedom Endowment (PAFE), Honorable Didier Djobode, Minister of Youth for Sports and Leisure, Mr. Mohamed Beavogui, Director of West and Central Division, IFAD, and Mrs. Nardos Bekele- Thomas, Resident Coordinator of United Nations and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Benin. The four-day GYIN workshop- Fair dubbed Youth Entrepreneurs Agents of Change, brought together young entrepreneurs, representatives of agribusiness companies, business associations, civil society, as well as representatives from national, regional, and international development agencies to share their experiences on the promotion of agribusiness development and innovation in Western and Central Africa, and Europe. Participants were cordially invited from all over the world but primarily from Western and Central African regions. UN agencies, youth organization and entrepreneurs organizations in the region also take part to share with other participants information on programs to support youths in agribusiness, entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership. The four- day program also included plenary sessions, workshops, business meetings, a fair, and the launching of GYIN Website. Delivering his welcome remarks, Mr. Pape Samb, chairman of GYIN Steering Committee expressed his profound gratitude to the youth for accepting their invitation and turning out in large numbers. The timing of the conference, Samb said is perfect as he puts it, we observe the International Year of the Youth (IYY) saying that there is great need for the promotion of holistic development of youth. According to him, youth are the future leaders of tomorrow pointing out that youth needs to be supported in all their activities but emphasizing his speech on innovation, leadership, agribusiness and entrepreneurship.

He further thanked GYIN Ambassadors who have chosen to participate actively in the GYIN workshop-Fair and advised them to share the gained knowledge with their colleagues who are unfortunate to attend the four-day workshop. Speaker after speaker at the official ceremony expressed their kind appreciation to the GYIN Ambassadors, while cautioning them to be pro-active in what ever they are doing in life. They also encourage youth to acquire skills and be responsible as they are the future leaders. They advised GYIN Ambassador to network, share information and engage in agribusiness, leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship for the development of the globe. The official opening ceremony was declared opened by the Minister of State for National Defense, Issifou Kougui Ndoro on behalf of the Prime Minister of Republic, His Excellency Pascal Irenee Koupaki and was witnessed by Honorable Didier Djobode, Minister of Youth for Sports and Leisure, Mrs. Nardos BekeleThomas, Resident Coordinator of United Nations and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Benin, members of the Press, Diplomatic and Consular Corps, Youth Groups amongst other dignitaries. As part of the official opening ceremony, GYIN Honorary host awarded His Excellency Dr. Yayi Boni through Miss Mahawa Sylla, GYIN Youth Advisory Group (YAG) member, Facilitator and a Participant. The GYIN website was official unveiled by Miss Aissatou Padane, Participant, Facilitator and a Youth Advisory Group from Senegal then follows a family picture. The Minister of State for National Defense, Issifou Kougui Ndoro on behalf of the Prime Minister of Republic, His Excellency Pascal Irenee Koupaki, officially opened the Fair. After the award, unveiling of GYIN website and the opening speech, side a press conference was held involving the Minister of Youth for Sports and Leisure, Honorable Didier Djobode, who told a group of journalists that the government of Benin under the dynamic leadership of His Excellency Dr. Yayi Boni, will give all his support to the youth of Benin and assured journalists that the government will implement all the recommendations that emerged during the workshop.

Mr. Alejandro Riascos Castillo, Cartagena Colombia, presented on the 2010 Cartagena recommendations, as indicated in the recommendations, he told GYIN Ambassadors that they need direct support of finance to the international market. Again, he said develop training for culture and research is very important so as to have universal knowledge adding that as youth, we are limited to our actions as far as funding is concern. He advised youth to find other means of getting funding for themselves but was quick to appeal to IFAD and other partners to come to the aid of youth programmes by funding their activities. He stated that IFAD and other donors should facilitates and gives technology capacity to youth and also to gives scholarship to deserving youth to promote eco-tourism in Colombia. He revealed in Colombia, they have problem in accessing funds from international donors, while appealing to IFAD support their activities as they are capable to implement programmes that are in with IFAD action plans- support rural youth. Mr. Mordekia C. Shumba, Participant, Facilitator and YAG from South Africa presented the IFAD 2011 Governing Council, Rome, in his own words, he said that many youth are not empowered; as a result many of them do not belong to youth organizations. Agriculture, Shumba said should be promoted noting that youth should venture into agriculture. He also called on governments to develop policies that promote rural farming for the rural youth. He observed that many youth organizations are led by few individuals who are the pioneers of the organization saying that good leadership does not encourage such leader in an organization. The second day of GYIN workshop was based on four thematic sessions; Innovation and Leadership (InnoLead), Innovation and Agribusiness (InnoAgric),

Innovation and Entrepreneurship (InnoEnt), and Youth self-employment in Benin (YoSe). During the thematic sessions, youth from different backgrounds, , religions, races, etc shared their experiences, the work their organizations, networks, and associations that operate in their respective countries. They also shared their success stories, challenges and way forward as youth of the same voice. Three field visits was organized for the participants to get first-hand information with respective institutions as well as to showcase the progress, have interview, discussion with institutions in Leadership, Innovation, Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship. The Songhai Centre and Young Agropreneur Farm in Porto Novo by the InnoAgric site group, ONG Share, Sike Codji, Cotonou visited by InnoLead group and InnoEnt group visited Youth Pineapple processing Centre, in Allada. As a member and Rapporteur of InnoLead group, we visited the Cotonou International Forum for News Discovery (CNIC) known by its French acronym, CINC. The group was led by Mr. Pape Samb, Director; Programs for Africa and Freedom Endowment called PAFE, Phelps Stokes United States and were warmly welcome by Mrs. Macon Barbara, the young and enterprising Chairperson of CINC. The CINC initiative, according to Barbara, is a project of the NGO, SHARE Association, which was created in April 2009 in Benin by a group of young dedicated and committed youth. She added that the idea of creating CINC came as a result of the advice given to them by their then University Professor, Amen Abiasse. The latter gave them the courage to be innovative and pushed them to work towards transforming their ideas into reality after graduation. CINC is now recognised nationally and internationally due to their innovation and the research ideas they put into reality. Among the many objectives of CINC, emphasis is placed on the development and promotion of innovators, the industrialisation and commercialisation of innovations, the promotion of a sense of creativity and innovations and a spirit of youth leadership. She told group members that many African youth do not spend much time on research and innovation. Also, the lack of support and passion from

partners is also a challenge. She intimated that to succeed in life one does not need only money but also to be innovative, creative and be committed to whatever one is doing; and stressed that one needs to build a strong working team and share ideas and experiences with other members in the group. She further highlighted leaders of any organizations and members need to have common objectives and vision and work as a team towards achieving their aspirations as young entrepreneurs. She also said that young people need to communicate and have the requisite skills and always strive to acquire more skills in order to guide them in their activities. She also emphasised on the importance of having dreams, finding good team members, time management, humanity, courage, value, determination, and appreciation of other people's work in the organisation. She then touched on some of their past activities such as the fair in Cotonou organised by CINC which was well attended. The fair attracted many participants from Benin and outside, including Senegal, France, and Mauritania among others. In total, 10 nationalities were represented; 65 innovations were present, 14 innovative companies, 59 private partners, over 500 young people and more than 5000 visitors. At the end of the fair, CINC awarded three prizes to innovators from Senegal, Togo and Benin respectively. She announced that the upcoming fair will be held in Cotonou, Benin 26 October 3 November, 2012. She then entreated the group members to make use of the opportunity by registering online for the event on their website: www.lecinc.org and for further information. Their email address is: info@lecinc.org and telephone number: (229) 21 076 220, 95345707, and 66764476. The following, she alluded as challenges; Finding committed members Try to reach that Beninese in rural area still difficult and they limited to only. Lack of fundingalso consider as a challenge During the ensuing discussion the following points were highlighted as recommendations: Steering committee should be set up a GYIN Basket Fund

Organizations such as IFAD may contribute to the fund GYIN may also create a Basket Fund for young people Finally, she thanked Phelps Stokes, International Fund for Agricultural Development, the government of Benin, Activos Culturales, Palmares, Give1 Project, Songhai Center, among other partners involved in the Global Youth Innovation Workshop Fair, In the same evening of day three, GYIN sixty Ambassadors, youth representatives, the Media among other invited participants visited His Excellency President of the Republic of Benin Dr. Yayi Boni at State House. GYIN Ambassadors used the opportunity to present recommendations gained during the workshop to him as well as an award. 13 October, 2011 marked he official closing of the four-day global youth workshop which was graced by Mr. Pape Samb, Director PAFE, Ms. Ndaya Beltchika, Country Programme Manager, IFAD, Honorable Reckya Madougou, Minister of Microfinance and Employment for Youth and Women, Minister for Youth and Lesuire in Benin as well a the media from both print and electronic. GYIN Ambassadors received certificates of participation in recognition for championing the Global Youth Innovation Network as Ambassadors. The certificates were awarded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Phelps Stokes USA. Mr. Mohamed Beavogul, Director, West and Central Africa Division together with Mr. Pape Samb Director, Programs for Africa and Freedom Endowment, Phelps Stokes USA appended their signatures on the GYIN Ambassadors certificates.