President Paul Kagame has attributed Rwanda’s economic success over the last two decades to the commitment of the people of Rwanda, particularly their willingness to confront difficult challenges.
He was speaking at the African Leadership Network 2014 in Kigali during a session dubbed ‘The Rwanda Story – A Conversation with President Paul Kagame.’ During this interactive session, the President answered questions on the country’s economic recovery, leadership in Africa and the country and continent’s future.
Responding to the moderator’s questions on what it took Rwanda to get where it is today in just 20 years, President Kagame said Rwandans chose to stand up and face their challenges.
“The million of individual choices that Rwandans have made mean that every individual matters, every Rwandan is involved in answering the call of confronting the challenges that we face. The ability of Rwandans to work together and to be able to collaborate with others beyond our border is one reason progress has been made,” he said.
About his leadership style, he said, “I am consumed by trying to understand the problem. How do we get everybody involved because everyone is affected.
“If we have identified the problem and understood it and have decided to confront it, there has to be fairness in the process, those who do the right thing have to be rewarded, those who do the wrong thing have to be held accountable.”
Kagame said his most enjoyable part of being President is interacting with different people while the downside is that someone is not able to say anything they want to say.
When asked what kind of leadership Africa needs, President Kagame emphasised the need for leadership to prioritise inclusiveness in every aspect, from economic growth, education to the security of its people.
The President also pointed out that Africa needs a leadership that believes in what they are doing and their people.
“We need to stop seeking validation of what is wrong or right from outside. We can’t just live by external dictate, we must seek to raise our stake, our own value, and be where we need to be,” Kagame said.
“We also have to strive to do the right thing. We can’t justify doing wrong things by saying leave us alone, this is our sovereignty. Can we seek to raise our stake and our own value and be where we need to be?”
He pointed out that the continent has become a place where external powers come in and fight each other while Africans caught up in between.
“When do we raise Africa to a level where it is a player and not a victim? Why should anyone take our resources cheaply or feel entitled to them? We need to raise our voice and stand our ground,” he urged the about 250 African business leaders, drawn from 35 countries, who were in attendance.
Speaking about the future of Rwanda’s economy, President Kagame said that the country is focused on building a knowledge based economy that is private sector driven and one that produces high value products.
‘Constitution can only be changed by the people’
Asked to comment on the situation in Burkina Faso where President Blaise Compaore was recently forced out of office following his attempt to secure yet another term in office, President Kagame said that the chaos could have been avoided.
“What happened in Burkina Faso shouldn’t have happened, and I don’t think any country can be served by chaos. People of Burkina Faso should be able to sort out their problem the same way any other country should be able to sort out its problems,” he said.
“To put in place the constitution or to change it should be done by the people, not the President. It’s not about the people demonstrating, people are free to do anything, at the end of the day it’s the people to decide,” he said.
The co-founder of African leadership Network, Fred Swaniker, spoke of Rwanda’s progress over the last 20 years – following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“We’ve been blown away by what we’ve seen…this is the first time to have this many ALN attendees and the consensus is that they will all be back for another visit soon,” he said.
Swaniker said ALN and African Leadership Academy are contributing prosperity across Africa through education entrepreneurship leadership.
Several outstanding African entrepreneurs, including two young Rwandans, were awarded during the forum on Thursday.