Africa’s development dependent on citizens’ input – Kagame
Africa has never had as much freedom to work together and cooperate in areas of common interest as it does currently, President Paul Kagame has said.
Kagame was speaking at the opening of the 5th Investing in Africa Forum in Congo Brazaville.
The President said that the continent’s economic outlook and development were largely dependent on the ability of its people to seize the opportunities.
“Africa, as we know, is blessed beyond measure, particularly with hard-working Africans, fast-expanding middle class, highly educated men and women, who are ready to seize all the opportunities we are able to generate,” he said.
He said that the continent has everything to gain by building on the progress of various countries and economic blocs.
“We have much work ahead to ensure that we maximise Africa’s generally favourable economic outlook,” the Head of State said.
Among the areas that hold game-changing potential for the continent is the African Continental Free Trade Area, which he said holds a win-win scenario for all countries.
“While the more industrialised countries are better placed to take advantage of the opportunities for manufactured goods, the less industrialised can benefit from linking into regional value chains. For example, countries that are mainly agricultural can gain from meeting Africa’s growing food security needs,” he said.
The Free Trade Area is also expected to bring about faster customs clearance and efficient logistics—much needed for perishable agricultural products.
An aspect that continues to hold back the potential of the continent is the infrastructure deficit, logistical challenges, low internet use and expensive devices are some of the problems that the continent is grappling with.
“Although these have long been obstacles to economic development, they must be looked at as an opportunity for public-private investment. Appropriate technology will allow us to produce much more wealth with the same amount of labour and financial capital,” he said.
Citing Rwanda’s example in dealing with the challenge, the President said that by embracing e-commerce to trade with the rest of the world, Rwandan producers and service providers are starting to sell directly to more customers through the Alibaba Electronic World Trade Platform.
He called for more collaboration in using technology and overcoming digital barriers through initiatives such as Smart Africa Alliance.
President Kagame also made a case for free movement of people across the continent, saying that citizens cannot trade or invest if they cannot move.
“Our citizens want to see an Africa that works together, and on their behalf allowing more interactions and activities…Several countries including Rwanda, have eased visa requirements, but we can all do more, faster, to make free movement in Africa, a reality,” he said.
He also called on leaders to continue building positive mindsets of success in Africa’s young people as well as equip them with education and skills and support entrepreneurship and innovation.
“Young Africans have to see our continent as a place to build successful careers and businesses, and be empowered to chart their own future,” President Kagame said.
Other leaders at the forum were; President Sassou Nguesso of Congo who hosted the forum, President Touadéra of Central African Republic, President João Lourenço of Angola, President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Chair of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki.