KIGALI - President Paul Kagame, yesterday, called on African states to pursue and achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) not because someone wants them to, but for the good of the African people.
Addressing more than a dozen African leaders at the opening of the MDGs Africa Consultative Forum, yesterday, at Urugwiro Village, President Kagame, the co-chair of the MDGs advocacy group said that it is important that Africa owns the process to ensure that the MDGs are achieved in the next 5 years.
‘It’s our duty to ensure that the continent actively promotes the achievement of MDGs-not because others appeal for it, but because it is in our national interest as well,” Kagame said, adding that despite a UN report showing that the progress was off track, globally, there are signs of success in Africa.
‘In fact, throughout the African continent we find inspiring success stories where MDGs have actively been taken up by local communities with demonstrable positive impact to their lives.”
“This forum therefore provides us with a unique opportunity to share our experiences and to discuss how to make the final five years of MDGs practical and meaningful to Africa,” Kagame told the group.
President Kagame as the co-chair organised the meeting as a platform for African countries to reach a common ground ahead of the 65th session of UN General Assembly.
With doubts over whether the remaining MDGs can be achieved before 2015, Kagame called on African states to have the “loudest” voice in the general assembly, slated for the end of September and push for the for the support needed to tackle the remaining challenges.
“I hope that we can all ensure that the African voice is heard loud and clear during the MDG summit-and that is the challenge before us today. The MDGs are most relevant to Africa and other developing countries, and we want to lead from the front in such an important summit,” Kagame noted.
He said that despite the progress registered, African states still face similar challenges that need to be addressed urgently, particularly in areas of infrastructure, human and institutional capacity as well as conflict.
He called on African states to take advantage of the available assets and exploit them with more innovation, and among these, the young and dynamic populations, unique investment opportunities, consumer markets as well as new technologies.
Kagame called on the African Development Bank (AfDB), whose president, Dr. Donald Kaberuka was present at the forum, to play a more prominent role in supporting governments’ achieve the MDGs.
He warned fellow African leaders against trivialising MDGs as was the case in the last meeting in Spain, as they concerns millions of lives. Kagame co-chairs the MDG advocacy group with the Spanish Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
“To achieve real progress, it is important not to trivialise the MDGs on which the hopes of so many lie, such as in the last meeting in Madrid that I had the opportunity to be part of…”
“…where part of it was characterized by focus on guest lists, visiting the presidential palace and photo opportunities, than agreeing to concrete actions,” said Kagame.
The African Union Commission head Mr. Jean Ping said that African states continue to register steady progres.
“Some commendable progress has been made in reducing the levels of poverty in some countries even though over 50% of African populations live in poverty,” Ping said, calling on African states to “scale up” their programmes if the MDGs are to be met within the 2015 deadline.
Ping noted that despite many pledges made at G8 summits, donors have failed to meet their pledges to avail funds, adding that fulfilling the promises made at previous G8 summits will be important for the achievement of MDGs.
Representing the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Prof Jeffrey Sachs, the Special Advisor to the UN SG delivered a message stressing the need for African countries to double efforts and achieve the remaining MDGS.
“Africa has registered remarkable progress and success in combating hunger, reducing child malnutrition and mortality, improving school enrolment, expanding access to clean water and HIV treatment and controlling Tuberculosis and Malaria,” the UN chief said in the message.
He added that with 60% of children sleeping under the mosquito net, Rwanda registers the highest number of children sleeping under the net.
The renowned economist said that by agreeing to pool funds under the Global Fund, African leaders, made a good decision that would ensure that funds are accounted for.
Sachs who visited a number of villages in the country said that he was optimistic that Africa has what it takes to achieve the MDG, and that what is required is the support in terms of infrastructure and capacity.
Sachs said that there is need for African countries to have an integrated approach to development and join forces towards achieving the MDGS, citing Rwanda as a country where integrated approach has worked.
“Rwanda Vision 2020 Umurenge for example is an epitome of integrated approach. When I went to Mayange yesterday, I was amazed by what I saw. I have not been there for 5 years,”
“The difference from the 5 years when I was there is the electrification, paved roads, schools with computers, clinics properly provisioned. This is the kind of integrated approach that has made a profound change in the lives of the communities that we saw yesterday and I really commend you for this, and the communities for the tremendous job done.”