KIGALI - AFRICA should put more efforts in building capacity that goes beyond achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target of 2015.
This was the conclusion reached by several African leaders and heads of institutions during the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) summit that was concluded yesterday in Kigali.
A high level panel that included President Paul Kagame, Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, Togo’s Premier, Gilbert Houngbo, World Bank’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, African Development Bank President, Dr. Donald Kaberuka and Dr. Frannie Leautier from ACBF discussed the theme “Building Capacity beyond MDGs”.
Speaking during the summit to mark the 20th anniversary of ACBF, President Kagame, who co-chairs, the United Nations MDG Advocacy Group, observed that while MDGs could be achieved in a few years, capacity building on the continent will continue for much longer.
President Kagame noted that the need for capacity today, is even greater because of the new challenges that keeping coming up as the continent moves into the future.
“The capacity we are talking about is organizational, institutional and human, to be able to deliver our people’s development. Therefore, that really gives weight to the need for capacity,” he noted
“Capacity is very central for us to be where we want to be and that entails many challenges, the ones we are here to discuss and see how we can confront them and find solutions,” President Kagame added.
In a very interactive discussion that drew some of the continents’ top leaders and academics, including former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, President Kagame observed that what Africa needs is the transformation of mindsets.
“We are thinking beyond certain limits, as we were thinking beyond 2015, when it came to MDGs. We are also thinking beyond capacity being that investment in an individual, beyond qualifications and skills,”
“Beyond having economists, engineers, but having people with a certain mindset, a certain attitude, a certain culture so that these useful qualities take us beyond the individual,” President Kagame said, adding that the qualities should help in the transformation of communities.
The President cited Rwanda as an example of a country which started from rock bottom after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, by investing in the capacity of its people and in turn expecting them to use the capacity to the benefit of the country as a whole, something that has paid off.
President Kagame emphasized that Africans know what they want and no other party should seek to prescribe what is supposedly ideal for them because they (Africans) know what is good for them.
Kenyan Prime Minister Odinga, challenged Africa to believe in itself to make things possible by looking back at what has been achieved in the last 15-20 years and using it as a springboard to further progress.
“Africa has now witnessed very appreciable rates of economic growth in the last 15 to 20 years. This of course is attributable to improved governance,” Odinga said.
“One issue that has not been paid attention to is the kind of growth rates, because we tend to measure the growth in terms of the GDP. When the figure increases we are all very grateful,”
The Kenyan Premier said that people don’t attach more value on how this growth spreads into the society, hence failing to recognise the impact, such as infrastructure development and improved standards of living.
The Togolese Prime Minister, Gilbert Houngbo, concurred with President Kagame, noting that Africa needs to look beyond 2015 and MDGs by identifying the role capacity building will play in the future.
Dr. Kaberuka and World Banks’s Ngozi Okonjo supported African countries seeking solutions to their own challenges rather than taking “blueprints” from donors and other partners, emphasising that Africans know the solutions to their own challenges.
During the debate, the issue of Africans attaching value and dignity to themselves was emphasised as a vital element to the continent’s development.
Burundi’s Vice President, Gervaise Rufyikiri and the Prime Minister of Gabon, Paul Biyoghé Mba, were among the participating African leaders.