President Paul Kagame has called on African governments to be time conscious in the implementation of regional integration projects, citing the huge cost that is incurred when such projects are delayed or stalled.
The President was speaking, yesterday, at the opening of The Global African Investment Summit (TGAIS) that is underway at the Kigali Convention Centre. The summit has convened over 1,000 delegates representing governments, the private sector and multilateral organisations.
Kagame said the slow pace of the implementation of projects is rarely caused by lack of capacity on the part of government technocrats and often due to failure to appreciate that speed was a driver of wealth creation.
“It is not too much to say that the habit of tolerating endless delay is one of the major causes of poverty,” the President said.
He proposed the introduction of financial penalties to government agencies and public sector institutions who fail to meet deadlines of implementation of key projects.
“Perhaps there should even be a financial penalty of some kind when deadlines are not met by institutions in the public sector. Whatever the amount, it would certainly be much less than what we pay now by assuming that the price of time is free,” Kagame said.
Kagame stressed the need to fast-track integration among countries and trading blocs across the continent under the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) which seeks to create one market for the Eastern and Southern Africa Community, Common Market of East Africa, and Southern Africa Development Community.
The TFTA was launched in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, in June last year.
Between themselves, the three economic blocs would create the largest trading bloc in Africa, comprising 26 countries, about 620 million consumers and a combined GDP of almost $1.2 trillion.
Kagame noted that the realisation of the tripartite free trade area was a test of the continent’s ability to translate ideas and commitments into reality.
“If the tripartite area succeeds, there will be strong momentum to push for the Continental Free Trade Area, as directed by the African Union Summit last year,” the President said.
He said stakes were high to fulfill the goals of integration, noting that failure would falter confidence of collective action among African countries.
“If we get stuck, then the cause of integration could be slowed by years or even decades, as confidence falters in the possibility of meaningful collective action amongst African states,” he said.
Going forward, he said, implementation can kick off for countries that are ready with other countries to join at their own pace.
“If some parties are not yet ready, that is fine. Those who are, can move forward while always leaving the door open for others to keeping joining at their own pace later. Good momentum and tangible results will do more to increase support for integration than any amount of closed-door negotiation among technical experts,” the President said.
‘Make up for past delays’
On his part, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni said there was political will among African countries to integrate for common goals on realisation of the lost opportunity of delay in previous years.
He said after independence of most African countries more than half a century ago, there was no drive among African leaders on the need to work together.
However, Museveni said the following years had served as a lesson of the lost opportunity in integration, which made the need for partnership pertinent.
“It is now clear to all that Africa is the next pusher for global economic development and holds huge economic potential,” President Museveni said.
Among the areas he noted were viable for investors looking to establish their foothold in Africa include the energy, mining, human resource development as well as public private partnerships in infrastructure development.
President Kagame concluded his keynote address with a call to transform Africa into a continent that lives up to its potential.
“Africa cannot just remain a story about huge potential that never materialises. Something has to give. Postponing our priorities and delaying our commitments are the most expensive mistakes that Africa can make. There is nothing we are waiting for and nothing we lack. Let’s work together across sectors and borders with the right mindset of urgency and build the Africa we want,” Kagame said
The opening panel was also joined by Paul Hinks, chief executive of Symbion, an energy firm currently investing in the power sector in Rwanda, as well as Admassu Tadesse, the president and chief executive of PTA Bank, both of who provided a perspective from the private sector with both emphasising the opportunity that integration represents for the continent.
The forum is an internationally recognised business platform that creates a unique meeting place for global investors and public and private sectors.
This is the first time that the summit is taking place in Africa with previous editions held in London.
Last year’s summit attracted more than 1,500 investors who mobilised more than $425 billion in funds earmarked for Africa and other emerging markets.