Kagame: Look beyond MDGs to accelerate development

President Paul Kagame has said leaders must not underestimate the task that lies ahead as the UN General Assembly convenes to discuss the post-2015 agenda.

President Paul Kagame has said leaders must not underestimate the task that lies ahead as the UN General Assembly convenes to discuss the post-2015 agenda.

He said as long as there is still widespread corruption and poor governance on the African continent, development efforts will be undermined.

The President cited a recent report showing that Africa loses twice as much through tax avoidance, secret mining deals and fraud as it receives in foreign aid.

“One billion people live in poverty. One in eight people go hungry each day. One in four children who enter primary school is likely to drop out before completion,” he said.

Kagame made the remarks in an opinion published on Arab cable television Aljazeera website on Monday, in which he addressed a wide range of issues. 

Kagame is a co-chair of MDGs’ Advocacy Group of eminent personalities established by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2010 to help build political will and mobilise global action for the benefit of the poor and the most vulnerable.

On progress, the President said it has been mixed, but remarkable in some places.

“Bound by common goals, public, private and non-profit organisations worked together to tackle some of the world’s gravest ills. They should take satisfaction in what has been achieved,” he said.

The Head of State warned of human cost as a result of collective political failure.

“Every human deserves a right to fulfill their potential - and when this opportunity is denied or suppressed, and poverty and deprivation allowed to degrade communities, the conditions for injustice, conflict and war will flourish,” he warned.

He also called for the eradication of extreme poverty, noting there must be a far greater focus on the role of the private sector and its power to create prosperity.

Kagame noted that a great entrepreneurial spirit exists in the developing world, but there is need to muster the collective means to turn ideas into a living.

“In defining the post-2015 agenda, we must also show courage to go beyond the MDGs. For Rwanda, the MDGs are a floor, not a ceiling,” he said.

Rwanda has ranked top among 48 African countries that have registered substantial progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to ONE’s 2013 continental Data report.

According to the President, the MDGs are about more than just development.

In many cases, he said, they have helped spur vital, and often long overdue, good governance reforms.

And as countries look to define future vision, a universal belief in governance must be at the centre, he underscored. 

“This will require us to build financial institutions that can provide capital at non-exorbitant rates. It will also require us to take down impediments to investment and create a more open and competitive trade environment,” Kagame said.

The President called for open and accountable institutions to deliver inclusive and sustainable development.

He stressed the need to put more emphasis on developing infrastructure.

Presently, Africa reportedly needs $93bn in investment every year to meet demand against only $45bn –current expenditure two-thirds of which is domestically sourced from the public sector.

Roads, railways, airports are all part of this picture,  so that we can better link regional markets with each other and the global economy, the President said.

On energy, he said governments must increase efforts to reduce the global energy gap since access to electricity is essential for improving standards of living and powering businesses.

Home-grown solutions

The post-2015 agenda, Kagame argued, demands developing nations to take greater ownership of their destiny.

He observed that for too long Africa has been a silent continent; but now, buoyed by economic and political progress, the continent is beginning to show its true potential.

President Kagame pushed for home-grown solutions to address issues on the continent.

“Throughout Rwanda, citizens meet to agree on key development priorities for their village – a new road or classroom, a bridge or a well. We have found that empowering local leaders, while demanding accountability, is an effective catalyst for development.  As well as helping ensure development meets the needs of the population, it builds capacity at a local level and gives citizens a meaningful stake in their future.”

Within in the past five years, poverty in  Rwanda poverty reduced by 13 per cent with one million Rwandans lifted out of poverty.

The progress was attributed partly to empowerment of every citizen to take the lead in their own community’s development.

Net primary school attendance wentup from 86.6 per cent in 2005-2006 to 91.7 per cent in 2010-2011, boosted by the nine year free basic education implemented by the Government since 2010, according to UNDP MDGs Progress and the macroeconomic state of Rwanda, 2012.

Upon realising this progress, the government launched the 12-year basic education programme in February 2012, to enhance net secondary school attendance. Maternal health has also considerably improved.

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