The African continent is nobody's prize to win or lose, President Paul Kagame has said.
The President was speaking in Marrakesh, Morroco at the World Policy Conference while delivering remarks and engaging in an interactive discussion moderated by Thierry de Montbrial, the founder of the conference.
"Africa is nobody's prize to win or lose. Not at all. It is our responsibility, as Africans, to take charge of our own interests and develop our continent to its full potential. In fact, this has always been the main issue. We have been waiting far too long, actually for centuries," Kagame said.
His comments come in the background of multiple instances where developed nations' interactions with Africa have been cited as taking over the continent.
For instance, China's interactions with Africa are often viewed as a win for the Asian nation.
Among ways African nations can move from being viewed as pawns is through trade which plays a role in shaping economies, building competitiveness and wealth creation.
"Trade shapes a nation's economy in powerful ways. The search for comparative advantage generally leads to gains in competitiveness and wealth. That is why, at a certain point, the concept of "aid-for-trade" gained currency. The idea was to build a country's trade capacity so that it could transition from dependency to self-reliance, and eventually to prosperity. This should have been the approach all along," he noted.
The African continent enjoys strong trade ties with the rest of the world and is keen on more investment and is aware of the benefits, the Head of State said.
It is out of these ambitions that the continent has come together to eliminate hindrances to trade such as barriers to the free movement of people.
"Today, Africa enjoys strong trade relations around the globe, whether with Europe, India, North America, or China. Indeed, we want more investment and trade with everybody, because it leaves us all better,"
"That is why coming together as a region has been so important for Africa. Internal barriers to travel and commerce in Africa continue to fall, though more still needs to be done," Kagame said.
Sierra Leone is the latest participant in the visa on arrival policy for African Passport holders joining 15 other states.
Africa's taking charge of its interest is also evident through the African Continental Free Trade Area which is now in force with trade expected to commence in less than 9 months.
The continent has also set up a peace fund; African Union Peace Fund which has so far raised $125 million for peacebuilding activities on the continent.
"This agreement will radically reshape how Africa does business with itself and with the rest of the world. The revitalization of the African Union Peace Fund, which now stands at more than $125 million has enhanced the credibility of Africa's security partnerships, and it should continue to grow," Kagame said.
The President also said that the anxiety and defeatism tone that characterizes a majority of global policy conversation does not reflect the standpoint of the continent.
A majority of global economies are increasingly adopting protectionist approaches in policies probably out of a false belief that preventing others' prosperity preserves one's standard of living.
"From there, it's a short step to the false belief that preserving a high standard of living in one place depends on preventing others from getting to the same level. Barriers go up; trust vanishes. If I may take the liberty of generalizing, this pessimism does not resonate in Africa. There is a determination to live better lives for ourselves," he said.
Rather than be pessimistic, Kagame said that countries ought to note the progress that has been made in aspects such as health, connectivity, and governance through cooperation.
"We have already seen evidence of tremendous advances, particularly in health, connectivity, governance, and incomes. Recovering that sense of hope and optimism, wherever it has been lost, is critical. We can be better partners. Meaning all of us here and beyond working together. That is what will get us back on track toward a better world, where everyone benefits," he said.
Responding to the audiences' questions, the President highlighted the importance of women empowerment and gender equality saying that leaving out women equates to leaving out more than half the population in development which is self-defeating.
The President also spoke of the importance of countries learning from one another saying that there are multiple replicable experiences and approaches that nations can borrow from each other.
On citizen participation, he said that over the years, young people have been increasingly empowered to take on roles in development in different capacities ensuring the sustainability of development and progress.
Launched in 2008, the World Policy Conference serves to foster systematic reflection on organizing global governance tailored to 21st-century realities.