[VIDEO] Kagame: Time to solve intra-Africa trade challenges

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President Kagame in a panel discussion with, from left to right, Oluyemi Osinbajo, vice-president of Nigeria; Phuthuma Nhleko, executive chairman, MTN Group; and Siyabonga Gama of Transnet, where they discussed "Building Africa" during a CNBC televised debate moderated by CNBC Editor in Chief Bronwyn Nielsen, in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday.

President Paul Kagame has challenged African countries to avoid contradictions in the quest for prosperity and progress by implementing progressive steps with a sense of urgency.

The President was speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday, at a CNBC televised session where panellists debated on building Africa.

Kagame was speaking alongside Phuthuma Nhleko, the executive chair of MTN Group; Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo, the vice-president of Nigeria; and Siyabonga Gama, the chief executive of Transnet.

Despite being aware of actions and investments that can propel the continent forward, Kagame noted that there is a tendency to only point out problems rather than fix them.

Giving the examples of low intra-Africa trade which economists say is between 15 and 17 per cent, the Head of State said that little has been done to address it beyond talking about it.

Other blocs across the world have comparatively higher trade levels with about 40 per cent in Northern America and around 60 per cent in Western Europe.

The continued analysis of the continent’s problems and possible solutions without actions, Kagame said, shows a contradiction.

“For how long and how many times do we have to keep talking about the kinds of problems we have in Africa? There is little in terms of showing how fast we are moving out of the problems. We keep talking for years, and nothing changes,” he said.

“There is a contradiction in our quest for prosperity and development and the things we know we have to do but don’t do,” he said.

The low levels across the continent, experts have said, is partly a result of difficulties of movement of people and goods across the continent.

The logistics challenges have made it difficult for producers to access new markets within the continent.

Working with private sector

Noting that some of the investments required in the continent’s development process are quite heavy to be solely undertaken by governments, Kagame said there was need for governments to work with the private sector through partnerships.

“It can never be done by governments alone, neither can it be left for private sector alone and expect it to succeed. We have to work together, we have to accept the fact that the private sector holds huge resources that can be deployed for the infrastructure,” he said.

In building partnership and attracting the private players, the president said that governments ought to put up policies and regulatory frameworks that encourage private players and create an accommodative environment.

“Government has to make sure that we put up policies and regulatory frameworks that work to encourage this kind of investments and partnerships.  We have to begin by accepting the private sector that can contribute to that development and put in place friendly laws and regulations that will encourage that,” he said.

He cited examples of Rwanda’s partnership with multiple private players, saying that it had served in the implementation of multiple projects across the country.

He demystified the perception that there was scarcity of funds for investments, saying if the projects are clear and bankable, funds would always be available.

The president expressed optimism on the future of the continent in multiple aspects such as level of skills to carry out complex projects.

Giving insights into Rwanda’s recovery and economic development, he said that in rebuilding the nation, Rwandans had to be single-minded about doing the best for the nation to reverse the history of the country.

“There has to be a vision and a strategy to realise that vision and then it has to be carried through. There is no shortcut. Success is the result of a mindset across the country that we have to measure ourselves against results,” he said.

Phuthuma Nhleko, the executive chair, MTN Group, echoed the president’s sentiments on public-private partnerships, saying firms were ready to work with governments that make efforts to improve their business environments.

Nhleko cited Rwanda as an example of a country that had taken steps to improve its business environment by making adjustments in policy and regulatory framework making it attractive to investors.

The ongoing 47th World Economic Forum has attracted world leaders, from business and government, to international organisations, academia and civil society.

The three-day forum is running under the theme, “Responsive and Responsible Leadership,” with a focus on improving global cooperation and collaboration.

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