Kagame: Greatness is a choice available to all

African countries can accelerate their growth ambitions by being more active in the continent's development process, President Kagame said yesterday at the 45th St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland.

African countries can accelerate their growth ambitions by being more active in the continent’s development process, President Kagame said yesterday at the 45th St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland.

“Africa needs to work together, faster and more effectively and get ourselves out of this position where  we are victims and people have to exercise their generosity and sympathy over us or fight over us. We need to be participants in this world and raise ourselves to the standard where we can develop our continent and our own countries,” Kagame said.

“I want to think that irrespective of challenges we live through, there are so many opportunities in Rwanda and Africa,” he added.

Under the theme, “Proudly Small,” this year’s symposium offered an opportunity to demonstrate that geographically small size does not signify a lesser impact. Giving the keynote address, President Kagame shared his view on the symposium’s theme.

“There are small countries, but there are no small people. It follows that thinking big, and acting big, are choices available to all of us. Size is not destiny,” the President said.

“Greatness is a choice available to any person, organisation, or nation. Big countries are capable of thinking small and acting small. Small countries can think big and act big, which is to say: With dignity and respect for others.”

Kagame also emphasised the importance of not being defined by one size but rather to be focused on inclusiveness.

“It has never occurred to me to be either proud or embarrassed of hailing from a small place. Nor do I believe that small entities are inherently better or worse than larger ones. All groups, after all, are made of up of individuals, one, after another, after another. This is the deeper meaning behind abstract concepts, like “inclusiveness”. Every person counts. What they think matters,” he said.

Kagame added that being small has provided advantage, including the opportunity to innovate and the ability to involve citizens equally.

President Kagame, however, pointed out that for smaller countries, there is no room for error.

“No one will rush to bail you out. In the grand scheme, the fate of a small place only really matters, to the people who live in it. We have to be responsible for ourselves. No amount of success will ever fully dilute this risk,” he said.

‘No room for errors in small states’

The President observed that larger entities have room for mistakes, which would have adverse effects on smaller entities. The effects, he said, can completely erase a country’s development gains, or even plunge it into war.

“These are the realities I have in mind, whenever I remind Rwandans that nobody owes us anything and that we can never afford to take our progress for granted,” he said.

Kagame also gave an insight into Rwanda’s recovery from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that left a million dead.

Sharing Rwanda’s path to reconstruction, the President said that Rwanda’s approach is focused on inclusiveness, building consensus, taking responsibility, and being accountable for results.

“If Rwanda can transcend its tragic history, then anyone can.  More than ever, we are all in the fight together. Globalization means that opportunities spread faster and farther. No matter how intractable today’s global challenges may seem, we should meet them with confidence and optimism,” he said.

“Big or small, we inhabit the same small world, and so we have to make the right choices, for the right reasons, for ourselves and for each other.” President Kagame said.

Asked what advice he may have for today’s youth, President Kagame spoke on the turmoil surrounding demands and expectations of youth across the world.

“Young people making all kinds of demands is within their right. But the demands young people rightly make should be accompanied by responsibility they should assume for themselves bearing in mind others. They should be aware of investments they need to make for themselves in order to realise being where they want to be.”

“Young people have expectations, but it shouldn’t be expectation to be delivered by others, but should be delivered by them too.”

The St Gallen Symposium is a platform for dialogue on key issues in management, the entrepreneurial environment and the interfaces between business, politics and civil society.

Each year, the International Students’ Committee (ISC) of the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland chooses an annual topic from the realms of management, politics and society.

The aim is to capture the most relevant debates currently shaping the world.