The concept of the Knowledge Translation Platform (KTP) provides cohesion and leadership for national-level knowledge translation efforts. In this review, we discuss nine key lessons documenting the experience of the Zambia Forum for Health Research, primarily to inform and exchange experience with the growing community of African KTPs. Lessons from ZAMFOHR's organizational development include the necessity of selecting a multi-stakeholder and -sectoral Board of Directors; performing comprehensive situation analyses to understand not only the prevailing research-and-policy dynamics but a precise operational niche; and selecting a leader that bridges the worlds of research and policy. Programmatic lessons include focusing on building the capacity of both policy-makers and researchers; building a database of local evidence and national-level actors involved in research and policy; and catalyzing work in particular issue areas by identifying leaders from the research community, creating policy-maker demand for research evidence, and fostering the next generation by mentoring both up-and-coming researchers and policy-makers. Ultimately, ZAMFOHR's experience shows that an African KTP must pay significant attention to its organizational details. A KTP must also invest in the skill base of the wider community and, more importantly, of its own staff. Given the very real deficit of research-support skills in most low-income countries - in synthesis, in communications, in brokering, in training - a KTP must spend significant time and resources in building these types of in-house expertise. And lastly, the role of networking cannot be underestimated. As a fully-networked KTP, ZAMFOHR has benefited from the innovations of other KTPs, from funding opportunities and partnerships, and from invaluable technical support from both African and northern colleagues.