The curtain has come down on an incredibly successful 49th Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank in Kigali. The occasion also celebrated the bank’s 50th anniversary.
It has been undoubtedly the most demanding and eventful week we have seen in Rwanda but at the same time remarkably ‘cool’.
The organization was superb to the tiniest detail. Outstanding was the infrastructure including perhaps the best conference tents I have seen in this region, the amazing video and audio technology, and above all, the security detail.
Congratulations to the Government of Rwanda and the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group for hosting such a massive event so successfully. I hope this has put to rest any doubts that anyone might have entertained regarding our ability and capacity to organize such an event.
Perhaps the most captivating debate was during the session - ‘Leadership for the Africa We Want’. Asked by the moderator what type of leadership they wished to see members of the panel had varied visions.
President Kagame underscored the glaring disconnect between what our leaders say and what they do. “We have to make sure that leaders are there for a purpose. They must deliver, work for transformation and better the lives of the people”, Kagame said. He further wondered why many African leaders wait to be invited to some European capitals to discuss their own conflicts.
Former President Obasanjo wanted to see a leadership that is inclusive and former President Mkapa, visibly emotional, castigated current leadership that is selfish and whose interest is only to preserve their seats.
Former President Mbeki did not mince his words either. He encouraged us to look straight in the face of the many corrupt leaders and tell them what they really are - corrupt. Kenya’s Deputy President Ruto wants to see a leadership that removes borders and builds bridges. Mo Ibrahim drew attention to the fact that Africa has too many old leaders who have nothing new to offer.
I had the mind to ask the former presidents why they did not do what they are now advocating for during their reign but lacked the guts. While the subject of ‘Leadership for the Africa We Want” is extremely crucial, I feel its natural home should be at the annual AU Heads of State Summit more than at a bank’s annual meeting.
During these summits all former Presidents and other prominent leaders – business and civil society should be invited to voice their views regarding governance in Africa. As was emphasized by several speakers it will require a critical mass of the type of leaders President Kagame referred to in order to arrive close to the Africa we want.
Despite the varying views of “Leadership for The Africa We Want”, there was a common denominator – that we all know what the challenges are and what should be done to mitigate them.
To underline the leadership challenge Africa faces President Kagame gave the example of an overnight decision taken by a leader of a neighbouring country to close a border whose volume of business transactions amounted to over $15 million per month without any consideration of the welfare of the citizens.
I look to the day when the African Union will be able to intervene in such a situation and others such as the kidnapping of the girls in Nigeria but that will probably have to wait for another generation.
On the role of the African Union in dealing with the leadership challenges the AU Chairperson highlighted the hurdles she faces. While the AU would like to see a visa-free Africa, the decision can only be made by governments. Interestingly the AU Chairperson travels on an African passport.
Who knew that an African passport existed? Perhaps the future is after all not that gloomy. She further pointed out that while the AU conceives many indispensable projects the AU has limited financial resources to implement them and ends up relying heavily on external support. Perhaps the AfDB President’s advice might be of some consolation.
“We must reengineer finance pulling models. A future that is dependent on foreign goodwill is no future”.
While some might see the debates as the usual political rhetoric and little to look forward to, there is hope for a better future for Africa. There is a growing crusade of - we need African solutions to African problems; Africa is rising; stop aid-dependency; transparency in governance and especially in elections.
Today across Africa there is renewed sense of optimism in the air but for these crusades and optimism to be meaningful we will need direct involvement and participation of our youth in decision making at all levels. Currently there is a mismatch between the aspirations of the youth and most government policies.
Each one of us has his/her own vision of ‘The Africa We Want’. Mine is a continent first and foremost that provides citizens with security and the basic necessities of life – access to food, healthcare, education and shelter. Immediately following this I want to enjoy freedom of association and expression. What is your vision?