Opening Words from YouthStart Programme Manager, Maria Perdomo

  • September 09, 2014

  • Kigali, Rwanda

Every time I organize the YouthStart annual event, I always ask my-self weather participants will come or not. I can only get rid of that feeling of uncertainty when I start seeing people arriving to the venue one by one. When I count heads and I notice that everybody is there, I just smile with relief. I feel grateful to others for their presence and I get ready for the function to begin!

This year, it was me the one who was not able to make it… Unfortunately, due to health security measures, the Rwandan government is not allowing anybody coming from Senegal to get into the country. When I learned the news, I was very sad to know I will miss the opportunity to spend a week with all the YouthStart partners. I was particularly disappointed because this is the last knowledge sharing event of the YouthStart regional pilot.

Even though I will not be able to physically be with you in Kigali, thanks to the joint effort of the YouthStart team, Ata, myself and our colleagues from PAMECAS will be able to participate in every single session via webinar. Just as we are doing now. I know the webinar sessions cannot replace seeing you face to face in Kigali, but I thank technology, Orange and whoever the internet company is in Rwanda for at least been able to “virtually” participate in the event.

Having explained why we are not there, let me then start my opening speech. The past 4 years working with each one of you, have been full of unforgettable experiences. Seeing the youth programmes from each one of the FSPs going from the design, to the pilot test, to the scale up phase has been a privilege for me. YouthStart has been a tremendous challenge for me but also a tremendous source of pride and joy. I remember the first youth client I saw benefiting from your services. It was in Ethiopia at a branch of PEACE.

Today, we can all be happy and we should celebrate for her and for others. We should celebrate that thanks to your hard work, there are 411,000 young people in Africa, like the young Ethiopian woman I met a few years ago, that are saving for a brighter future. We can celebrate that 60,000 youth in your countries received a loan to either start up or expand their own business. They are all one step closer to their dreams.

However, the task is not an easy one. Youth unemployment is still a big issue, in particular in Africa, and financial inclusion is just one piece of the puzzle. We need to keep working together and learning from each other. And that is exactly the goal of this week’s YouthStart event. We are here to foster knowledge sharing between the YouthStart FSPs and others that may join us virtually so that we can all benefit from their lessons learned and promising practices, and, more importantly, to apply these lessons in ways that allow us to increase the impact of our work with youth, beyond the regional pilot of YouthStart.

I would like to thank Global Learning Partners, in particular Chris Little and Peter Noteboom, for one of the most professional workshop designs I have ever seen. I would like to thank Ruth Dueck-Mbeba from The MasterCard Foundation for her technical feedback on the design of the workshop and her continued support.

I would like to thank Karima Wardak, the knowledge Manager of YouthStart at UNCDF, for her hard work in developing a comprehensive social media strategy to make sure others (including us 4 in Dakar) will be able to virtually participate in this learning event from a distance. I would like to thank Ata Cissé, the UNCDF YouthStart Technical Specialist, for her hard work in organizing all this event and making sure it is a pleasant learning experience for all of us. Thanks for your professionalism, patience, and perseverance. I would like to thank Jessica Massie from Reach Global for having jumped ready at the last minute to replace me in Kigali as a co-facilitator of the workshop.

I would like to thank Desiderata Kayitaba from UNCDF Kigali for having saved us! Desi: it is always a big pleasure to work with you. I would like to thank the Partnership Unit at UNCDF New York for all their support with the website of the event. I would like to thank Aby Barro, Aminata Gueye and Marietou Ndiaye from the UNCDF’s Regional Office in Dakar, for the operational support for this workshop.

I would like to thank Axel de Ville, the Head of the UNCDF Regional office in Dakar for having made the impossible to let us get into Rwanda. I would like to thank all the staff from Umutanguha Finance for bringing tomorrow 20 empowered young people to share with us their experiences with the programme.

Finally, I would like to thank each one of you for having honored us with your presence today in Kigali. Let us all celebrate 4 years of hard work and the many more to come!

I “virtually” welcome you to Kigali.