Politics is key to innovations, says Kagame

President Paul Kagame said African States must have the right politics in order to develop credible innovations that are relevant to the needs of the citizenry.

President Paul Kagame said African States must have the right politics in order to develop credible innovations that are relevant to the needs of the citizenry.

The President was speaking last night in Praia, Cape Verde, at the annual Africa Innovation Summit that attracted several entrepreneurs, financiers, policymakers and researchers for a dialogue on innovation on the continent. 

“The first thing we need to ask ourselves is: do we have the right politics? Here I mean politics that is people-centred and focused on service delivery, as well as the conviction that things must change for the better,” Kagame said.

“This drive to make sure things work is what enables us to create an environment that nurtures innovation for today and tomorrow. For people in government, this means connecting with the needs and aspirations of our citizens. They are the agents and medium of innovation, and ultimately socioeconomic transformation.”

Africa, he said, needs to open up to new ideas in order to overcome complex and longstanding challenges, since, many of the solutions that have been tried have not worked as they should.

“We have everything to gain by opening up to new ideas. In our quest to empower our people and enable them fulfill their potential, we simply need to keep adapting. And, as it is often necessary, we need to do things differently,” the President said.

“We can learn from each other in Africa and from other countries, such as successful ones in Asia, but we should also continue to look within our own communities for homegrown innovations to solve our development challenges.”

Kagame drew on Rwanda’s experience in finding homegrown solutions even with limited resources, and urged African States doing the same to carry on.

“One of the key issues the post-Genocide government had to manage was how to deliver justice in a country with a non-existent judicial system. We turned to Gacaca, a Rwandan norm used to solve disputes and maintain harmony,” he said.

“Between 2002 and 2012, 52,000 Gacaca courts across the country tried two million cases, at the cost of less than $1 billion. To put this into perspective, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, set up in 1995 to prosecute the planners of the Genocide has so far tried 60 cases in the last 19 years, at the cost of $2 billion.”

He said although Gacaca may not be an innovation most thought about, it was Rwanda’s new and only approach that allowed the country to heal, and continue pursuing socio-economic transformation.

Homegrown approach

He said the politics of good governance birthed a new homegrown solution adapted from pre-colonial Rwanda to improve accountability and accelerate development programmes.

“We decided to adapt Imihigo (performance contracts) because following decentralisation in 2000, we needed a way for the central government and Rwandans to ensure accountability, in the implementation of development programmes led by local government,” Kagame said.

Imihigo are done through annual performance contracts assessed quarterly, which contain targets planned together by communities and authorities. 

“So far, this innovation in governance has contributed to accelerated development, ensuring accountability and transparency of government,” the President said.

He added that although Rwanda still has a long way to go, government continues to look within for solutions that will solve major problems.

Other keynote speakers at the summit included Jorge Carlos Fonseca, president of Cape Verde, and Joachim Chisano, former president of Mozambique.

An exhibition featuring innovations and innovators from around the continent was organised as part of the Summit.

The Summit is a partnership between the Cape Verdean government, African Development Bank, Economic Community for West African States, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, and private companies in the country.