8 May 2014

Rwanda: Kagame on Why Rwanda Opened Borders to Africans

President Paul Kagame has said Rwanda's decision to open its borders to all African nationals was driven by a sense of enlightened self-interest.

The President was speaking yesterday on the first day of the ongoing World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja, Nigeria.

"Common sense and enlightened self-interest are the reasons we opened our borders to all African nations," Kagame told participants, according to a statement from the President's osffice.

He was speaking on the same panel as President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Prime Minister Moussa Mara of Mali, and African Development Bank president Donald Kaberuka for a discussion on the need for African nations to open their borders to each other.

Enlightened self-interest is a behavior based on awareness that what is in the public interest is eventually in the interest of all individuals and groups .

Since January 2013, African nationals coming to Rwanda are given visas at points of entry.

Rwanda is one of the few nations that have opened its borders to all African nations.

On the challenges that come with opening borders, the President emphasised the importance of involving citizens, concluding that benefits far outweigh the costs.

"We chose to put in place infrastructure to address challenges that come with opening our borders. We haven't taken any steps without having conversations with our citizens. We have been able to fill skill gaps and the benefits go to the people," he said.

President Kenyatta urged African nations to increase political will towards achieving free movement of people across the continent as well as prioritise complementarity over competition.

"We need to be facilitating business not obstructing it. If we facilitate business, we can transform our continent that much faster. We need to look at our neighbours not as competitors but focus on our comparative advantage. If your neighbour grows, so will your citizens."

Eliminating trade barriers

Presidents Kagame and Kenyatta, and Prime Minister Mara also signed a call to action from the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Africa and the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on New Models for Travel and Tourism to all African Nations.

The statement calls on African states to eliminate barriers to business, student and tourist travel across Africa.

President Kagame ended the day with the Grow Africa Invest Forum where he stressed the importance of agriculture.

"The importance of agriculture cannot be overstated. It has been there for long and will continue to be there. We are focusing on it to make sure we are maximising the benefits for ourselves and for our people," Kagame said.

He also shared steps Rwanda undertook to rebuild the agriculture sector.

"Defining the problem properly, focusing on the real issues, connecting with the ordinary citizens and farmers and ensuring their participation based on their understanding of the importance of agriculture in transforming their life. We have seen improved seeds, productivity methods, use of technology and improved land management," he added.

Held under the theme, "Forging Inclusive Growth, Creating Jobs," this year's forum brings together more than 1,000 business leaders and government officials from across the world to discuss innovative structural reforms and investments that will create jobs and ensure sustainable growth across the continent.

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