President Paul Kagame has said that African Union’s decision to seek self-financing and be less dependent on donors is important at a time when the world is facing current global uncertainties.
The President made the remarks at the Harvard Kennedy School on Friday evening at a session dubbed ‘A Conversation with Paul Kagame’ moderated by Lant Pritchett, Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard Kennedy School.
Addressing students and scholars of the Ivy League university, Kagame said that with the world changing rapidly and profoundly and with the direction still unclear, Africa should move to look after its own business and interests.
“Our world is changing rapidly and profoundly though the direction and the destination are still unclear. This context of global uncertainty is also among the factors pushing us in Africa to look after our own business and interests,” the President said.
Among the changes bringing about uncertainty he said was the change in administration in the United States which brings about readjustment.
Noting that there was no cause to fear the changes, Kagame said that some of the upcoming changes might indeed be beneficial in leading the African continent to define its interest and positions on matters.
“The arrival of a new administration in the United States always brings a period of recalibration. From where we stand, there is no cause for alarm. Some of the changes in the horizon might prove beneficial,” he said.
With the current absence of a definite policy of the United States in Africa, the president said that it would not be a bad thing if African countries were left to themselves.
“Beyond some notable initiatives, such as The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) or President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the policy of the US in Africa has lacked strategic coherence for some time. Even if the new equilibrium is that Africa is increasingly left to its own devices, this is not such a bad thing,” Kagame told the audience.
Among the agents of change is the African Union reforms process under a blue print adopted by the Assembly at the at the body’s summit in Ethiopia early this year.
The proposal presented by President Kagame among other things aims at focusing on fewer key priorities and giving key role to Regional Economic Communities and following through with the decision to finance the union through a 0.2 per cent levy on eligible imports.
This will seek to address age old challenges such as less intra-Africa trade and more low value trade externally as a result of historical fragmentation and external orientation.
These state of affairs, Kagame noted is one of the reasons why the continent remains poor despite being rich in resources.
The adjustments also come at a time when the African Union previously had a reputation for slow progress in implementation of its mandate and heavy reliance on donors.
However, despite some weakness, the AU has also presented solutions to a number of the continent’s issues.
"The African Union has many weaknesses, but total cynicism is also incorrect. Many problems would be much worse without the role played by African institutions in places such as Somalia, The Central African Republic or Gambia.”
“With the re-admission of Morocco at the last Summit, the African Union now includes every country on the continent for the first time in history.This is one sign amongst others that there is greater scope for finding common ground on contentious issues offering hope that ambitions such as the continental free trade area can become a reality,” he said.
Kagame also discussed some of the students’ questions such as the concept of Agaciro which he said aimed at raising the level of dignity of Rwandans to believe that they are capable.
Previous historical injustices had led Rwandans to believe that they were not as capable and had to rely on other people to provide for them, he said.
On whether Rwanda’s model was replicable elsewhere in the continent, he said that it cannot be termed as a ‘miracle’ and was possible across African countries with a number of them having undergone similar challenges.
This was the second year running that the president has addressed the institution. Last year, he spoke about the country’s key ingredients for development performance highlighting the solutions adopted.
Introducing the President, Prof. Graham Allison Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs extended an invitation to the President to become a frequent speaker at the institution to aid in covering more topics.