The time for Africa’s transformation as a bloc is now, and not tomorrow.
This is the message that was echoed by different speakers from across the continent at the one-day conference on the African Liberation and Transformation, which was held as part of the ongoing activities to mark the 30th anniversary of the RPF-Inkotanyi.
The conference that was held at the RPF headquarters in Rusororo, Gasabo District, was attended by among others former President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, who delivered the keynote address, First Lady Jeannette Kagame and the Vice President of RPF-Inkotanyi, Christophe Bazivamo among other dignitaries from within and outside the country.
The highly interactive meeting was held under the theme: “Liberation and Transformation: Realising a dignified, and prosperous Africa.”
During his keynote address to the gathering of over 1000 participants, Mkapa said that the key ingredients to Africa’s transformation includes visionary leadership, embracing regional integration and giving the people, especially the youth, the necessary tools and critical skills.
“Development requires capacity to transform resources into goods and services. This in turn demands education and skills. The challenge to provide relevant education must be addressed – institutionally, academically in terms of curriculum, design, and philosophically,” said Mkapa.
“As the independence and post-independence era leader age and retire, the youth are clamoring for their posts.”
Mkapa said that Rwanda, under President Paul Kagame has provided a living example of what a country can achieve with good leadership.
Rwanda is today a developing country which is a model of how to put an end to genocidal hatred and ethnic division. It is acknowledged as a model of constructing national unity from ethnic diversity, he said.
“It is applauded for practically eliminating poverty, for modernising the life of all its citizens, in equality and dignity.”
On President Kagame, he said: “He is the conceptual architect, the designer, the inspirer, the implementer, the supervisor, the reviewer, the projector, and the accountable depositor of this remarkable accomplishment.”
Asked if Africa is ready and well positioned to respond to global threats, Mkapa bluntly said that the African regional bodies and the AU have never been serious in taking right actions that can transform Africa.
He challenged leaders to build regional unity and collaboration as well as fix education as key to driving national transformation and realising Africa’s full potential.
Christophe Bazivamo, the RPF Vice Chairman highlighted the liberation history of Rwanda, and explained that Rwanda’s history of injustice forced the RPF to start an armed struggle with the aim of restoring peace and dignity for all Rwandans.
“There was a need for Rwandans (RPF) to liberate Rwandans from politics of dictatorship and exclusion and discrimination which characterised the country’s post-colonial era while keeping Rwandans out of their motherland as refugees,” he noted.
Since the liberation struggle the party’s core message has been consistently about national unity, social and economic inclusion, and the pursuit of dignity for Rwandans and Africans in general, he said.
Towards a transformed continent
During the conference, leaders and scholars reiterated that Africa ought to be more serious to build a truly transformed continent, where young people do not die crossing seas while looking for green pastures elsewhere.
During a panel discussion, former US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazer said that while wisdom and self-awareness is the first defining features of transformation, good governance is key to accelerating Africa’s transformation and development.
Frazer who is also the CEO of 50 Ventures, a private consulting and Investment Company, said that the fundamental challenges that Africa should address are weak institutionalisation of African states and fragmented identities.
“The same things that led to slave trade are the same things that continue to undermine sovereignty and the identity of the African continent. The question is how Africa can build institutional capacity and that collective identity,” she said.
Anastase Shyaka, the CEO of Rwanda Governance Board, said that Rwanda’s innovative strategies and embarking on homegrown solutions is what has helped RPF transform the country.
In a panel dedicated to the legacy of the spirit of liberation to a new African generation, different speakers said that the ball is now in the hands of the young generation to seize the opportunity and champion the continent’s transformation, through entrepreneurship.
“Much of work has been accomplished by our predecessors. The battle this generation has to win is “economic liberation of Africa”. The liberation will come not from Governments or foreign aid but I believe it will come from entrepreneurship,” said Fred Swaniker, the founder of the African Leadership University (ALU).
This, however, he said, requires critical mass of skills and political will on the part of governments, adding that there was also need for proper planning and within the shortest time possible.
Other speakers included Semhal Meles Zenawi, the daughter of former Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi, who called for the institutionalisation of innovation across the continent for the younger generation to realise their potential.
The Liberation Conference precedes the National Congress of the RPF-Inkotanyi which will take three days that will be capped by the 30th anniversary celebrations, all to be held at the RPF Headquarters.