Instead of being considered as a setback, Africa’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic can be used as a springboard to speed up progress and innovate smarter ways to invest in human capital development, according to President Paul Kagame. Kagame made the observation on Thursday while presiding over the opening session of the eighth Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, underway in Kigali. The forum, a partnership between Rwanda and United Nations for Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), attracted various high-ranked officials including Deputy Secretary-General of the UN Amina Mouhammed, UNECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe among others. “Through our response, we can build an Africa that was greener and more resilient with the SDGs and agenda 2063,” he said. The truth is that Africa was off-track in achieving these targets, he pointed out, even before the pandemic in some cases. “But we have to look for that silver lining in this crisis,” he asserted. Despite Covid-19’s toll, Kagame commended the UNECA under the leadership of Songwe for the good work being done to advance our continent’s development. “Over the years, Africa has made significant progress to tackle socio-economic challenges,” however, “The Covid-19 pandemic slowed development gains and in some cases reversed that had been made,” he asserted. Building the Africa we want Kagame believes that building the Africa envisioned is up to ‘us. He said, “We have to own and lead the process and support one another.” For instance he named three specific actions that need urgent consideration. “Africa must build mutually beneficial partnerships to strengthen its capacity to manufacture vaccines and pharmaceuticals.” ECA, he said had been on working on the latter in the context for African Continental Free Trade Area. “AfricaCDC and AUDA-NEPAD have jointly led the way on the need for the African Medicines Agency. Which has now come into force. And last year AfricaCDC brought together key stakeholders in the partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing.” The initiative he said, laid the ground for BioNTech’s commitment to produce mRNA vaccines end to end in Rwanda, Ghana, and Senegal. Equally important is the need to prioritize domestic resource mobilization to finance Africa’s development, particularly for national health systems. “Progress has already been made for domestic health financing on our continent and we should build on this momentum.” The head of state maintained that to support Africa’s green growth, the AfCFTA should be used to promote the adoption of sustainable technologies and infrastructure. “To achieve the SDGs and agenda 2063 the goals need to be integrated into our national planning networks and it won’t happen on its own. It is essential to have mechanisms to monitor progress and quickly adjust implementation.” Kagame also commended the forum citing that it showcases the benefits of voluntary national and sub-national reviews. “That is why these two development agendas are so important. It is about ensuring the stability and prosperity so that our young people can have the future they deserve.” He also commended Mouhammed for her contribution to Africa and through the UN to the global community on various agendas. During the three-day meeting, Kagame called on participants to engage in deliberations that will set the tone for Africa’s position ahead of the high-level political forum on sustainable development.