East Africa: Regional Integration is About Give and Take, Not Just Taking - Kagame

Photo: New Times
President Paul Kagame delivering his address while presiding over the opening of the 16th National Dialogue Council (Umushyikirano), which attracted more than 2000 Rwandans to discuss how to improve citizen’s welfare.
14 December 2018

Regional integration is not about countries taking from others for their benefit at the detriment of others, President Paul Kagame said during his State of the Nation Address..

The Head of State delivered the address yesterday while presiding over the opening of the 16th National Dialogue Council (Umushyikirano), which attracted more than 2000 Rwandans to discuss how to improve citizen's welfare.

The President highlighted that the much-preached regional integration can only work if people put words into action and work for the benefit of the region and not just their own.

"How can people do business with each other without freedom of movement? How can people trade with each other when those who cross the border to your country are put in jail or disappear without leaving any traces? How can we do business with each other when your understanding of regional integration is only about your benefit? This cannot work. Regional integration can't just be for you to take; it is about give and take," Kagame said.

"Regional integration is also about security. You cannot use sovereignty to allow your territory to be used to compromise the security of your neighbours. That is not regional integration," Kagame added.

Speaking on the state of the nation, the President said that, overall, the country was on the right track of development as citizens continue to work together for mutual interests.

"We are on the right track and what we have gone through so far shows us that we have the will and strength to do more to fast-track our country's development," he told delegates at the dialogue council.

Kagame called on leaders and citizens to be united, think big and be accountable to themselves and each other.

"Think big, think beyond you as an individual. We have to work in a way where you feel accountable that if you do not do your job well, it will have consequences beyond yourself. You have to hold yourself and each other accountable," Kagame said.

Highlighting Rwanda's role in nurturing good international relations across Africa, the President said that many good things have been achieved across the continent.

This year, Rwanda has been central in driving the continent's diplomacy and trade, especially through the chairmanship of the African Union.

Some of the achievements under President Kagame's AU chairmanship include driving the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which was signed in Kigali in March this year.

The AfCFTA is expected to create a single market of 55 African countries, with a market of 1.2 billion people.

With Africa's population set to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, which represents 26 per cent of the global working age population, the AfCFTA deal could potentially turn Africa into the world's largest free trade area.

The Head of State chairs Umushyikirano as provided for by the constitution. The idea is for Rwandans of all walks of life to meet and discuss how the country's resolutions for the ending year were implemented and make resolutions of what needs to be done in the following year.

Among other topics, the meeting yesterday discussed how 'connected communities in the country can partner to drive national growth as both officials and citizens pushed for greater community ownership of development programmes and mindset change towards national development.

Today's discussions will focus on preservation of the memory of Genocide through upholding of Rwandan values and building a Rwandan savings culture as a national savings scheme dubbed 'Ejo Heza' is expected to be launched at the meeting.

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