President Paul Kagame has called on African countries to pursue self-reliance and do away with the long-term dependence on foreign aid, which has never gotten the continent anywhere.
Kagame was speaking in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire on the last of his two-day state visit, while speaking to business leaders on issues related to free trade, industrialisation and Rwanda’s experience in creating a favourable business environment.
President Kagame was accompanied to the West African country by First Lady Jeannette Kagame as well as a number of senior government officials.
The President questioned why African citizens should continue depending on the goodwill of foreigners when they have capabilities to be self-reliant.
“Why should Africans survive on the kindness and generosity of foreigners? People in this room have different backgrounds, have learned and taught in universities abroad. Africans have the capacities and possibilities to change our continent,” he said.
Kagame, who is the current chairperson of the African Union, has been a strong advocate for self-reliance among African nations.
He told the business leaders that independence and equal terms in partnership with the West was part of the agenda of the High-Level Africa-Europe Forum in Vienna, Austria that was held earlier this week.
“It was a continuation of the good discussion held at the Abidjan AU-EU Summit. It’s important for Africa and Europe to relate to each other in a partnership of equals, not where one is a permanent recipient of the other’s generosity,” Kagame said.
A cross section of Ivorian and Rwandan business leaders during the meeting with President Kagame. Village Urugwiro.
Among ways to foster self-reliance is by creating ideal conditions for investments, entrepreneurship and innovation.
Sharing Rwanda’s experience, he highlighted addressing key challenges in economies and encouraging transparency as key.
“This is done by business, entrepreneurship, innovation and productivity. We created an environment that is conducive to business. If you want to bring your money to Rwanda, you know what to expect,” he said.
By improving the business ecosystem, he said that there is more confidence and certainty among investors.
He also spoke on the impact of regional integration initiatives which improves attractiveness of markets as well as encourages collaboration on initiatives.
“We have emphasized regional integration as part of the East African Community. Rwanda is an entry point to a larger market of 150-170 million people. That’s the beauty of integration, together we are bigger than we are alone,” the Head of State said.
Zero tolerance against corruption, he noted goes a long way towards improving the attractiveness of the country as well as the confidence of the business community.
“You have to take the fight to the big guys. We hold everyone accountable. We have an Ombudsman. Everyone makes a wealth declaration starting with the president. I am usually one of the first to submit my forms. Along the way, we have demonstrated that people will be held responsible. Fighting corruption is not easy,” Kagame said.
Kagame also made a case for gender equality saying that it is only logical to increase the participation of women who make up more than half the population.
“When I talk about Africans or Rwandans, I mean women and men. In Rwanda, women constitute 52 per cent of the population. It’s absolutely stupid to alienate half of Rwandans. They have a right to participate. We are not doing them a favour,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Kagame was feted in Abidjan by being handed the City keys by the City Governor as well as declared an honorary citizen of Abidjan.
He termed it as an honour saying it symbolises Africans striving to integrate and work closely on common goals.
“It gives expression to our shared desire for greater freedom of movement, on our continent. Removing those practical obstacles will lead to better business relationships, greater understanding and cooperation, more solidarity and friendship among our peoples,” he said.
During the two day visit, Kagame held talks with his Ivorian counterpart and joined officials for the signing of bilateral agreements.
The deals signed Wednesday evening include an agreement on the exemption from visa requirement, an MoU on the organization of the Joint Commission for Cooperation and one on political consultations between the ministries of foreign affairs of the two countries.
The two countries also signed the protocol of cooperation for the modernisation of the public administration.