The New Times (Kigali)

Africa: Our Future Should Not Be Taken for Granted - Kagame

Photo: African Development Bank Group
Maximizing Africa’s Blue Economies, AM2014, Kigali.

African countries conceive effective policies but often fall short when it comes to implementation, President Paul Kagame has said.

He was speaking yesterday at the official opening of the 49th Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank in Kigali.

"We know what needs to be done. Our countries have smart policies that we have seen work elsewhere in the world. But the kind of rapid progress we all want will only be achieved by sound implementation," Kagame said.

He challenged the private sector to play a bigger role in the continent's development quest to help generate jobs and more wealth.

As governments, it is crucial to consistently invest in and strengthen our efforts to create environments that nurture and promote innovation and entrepreneurship, he added.

Progress amid uneven road

Sharing his assessment of Africa's last 50 years, the President noted that the continent had made progress but the road had been uneven. "...we have sometimes stumbled or stalled...but have forged ahead."

He added: "Across the continent, there is a renewed sense of optimism that gives meaning to the now familiar phrase of "Africa Rising"'.

Since 2007, Kagame said, intra-African investment has grown at a rate of 32 per cent, more than double that of non-African emerging markets, and almost four times faster than FDI from developed markets.

"There is still a lot of potential to be realised and we can do more to encourage this trend".

He said no country can tackle some of today's most important challenges on its own, urging closer ties on infrastructure, trade facilitation, policy harmonisation, and marketing.

"Together we rise and together we fall. We are responsible for ourselves. But we are also, to some extent, responsible for each other."

Instability in any part of Africa affects us all, the Head of State said.

"Further progress depends on Africa's ability to work together and with other partners on meaningful mechanisms to resolve conflicts. It also calls for continued strengthening of our respective internal systems to prevent conflicts in the first place," Kagame told delegates at the AfDB Annual Meetings.

We cannot afford to sit back and take the future of our continent for granted, he said, in keeping with the event's theme "The next 50 Years: The Africa We Want".

For the past four days, participants have discussed strategies that could help shape the continent over the next half a century, with emphasis on opening up borders to ease movement of people across Africa, consolidating peace and security, facilitating businesses, and imparting the right skills to the youth.

Yesterday's sessions were attended by, among others, the Chairperson of the African Union, President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania; President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda; President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon; and Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto.

Also in attendance were former Heads of State Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania and Festus Mogae of Botswana; and African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

A day earlier, Senegalese President Macky Sall also took part in the discussions.

Issues affecting youth

Following the official opening ceremonies, Presidents Kagame, Museveni and Bongo, and Deputy President Ruto also participated in a panel titled, 'Have your say: Dialogue with Leaders' which, among others, addressed issues affecting the youth.

Kagame also rooted for deeper regional and continental integration, saying that would give the "Africa Rising" narrative a better chance of "becoming a reality within our lifetimes".

The event also saw the official launch of Africa50, an ambitious $100 billion AfDB flagship project that seeks to significantly scale up infrastructure investments across the continent over the next 50 years.

Kagame praised AfDB, describing it as "an essential bridge between Africa and the wider world".

It keeps the focus on Africa's unique economic priorities, yet speaks a language everyone understands, he said.

"The African Development Bank is a model of how Africa and the developed world can work together for mutual benefit and with mutual respect," he added. "Africans are very clear about what is important: we all want peace, progress and opportunity."

He congratulated AfDB president Donald Kaberuka for being "a real asset" to Africa's development process, telling him "you have made not only the Bank, but Rwanda and the African continent proud".

Kaberuka, whose second five-year term at the helm of the continental Bank ends next year, previously served as Rwanda's minister for finance and economic planning shortly after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

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