Kagame: US-Africa summit should focus on partnerships

The ongoing US-Africa Leaders Summit should deliver tangible results and not used as a platform for speeches, President Paul Kagame has said.

The ongoing US-Africa Leaders Summit should deliver tangible results and not used as a platform for speeches, President Paul Kagame has said.

Kagame was responding to a question from former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Aspen Institute in Colorado, US during an interactive session with academics, policymakers and businesses ahead of the highly billed summit.

“We should not be going to repeat the same speeches but we should come out with something real. We need to be partners, where everyone is a stakeholder and benefits,” Kagame spoke of his expectations from the African leaders’ meeting with President Barack Obama.

Nearly 50 African Heads of State and Government were expected to attend the three-day meeting, which commenced yesterday.

In a joint opinion piece published in Project Syndicate ahead of the summit, Presidents Kagame, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda said the African dream was a reality and invited the United States to partner with the continent on its transformational journey.

“The dream that the 21st century will be the “African Century” is powerful and intoxicating. It is also becoming reality,” they said.

The three East African leaders, whose countries have embarked on major joint infrastructure and integration projects over the last one year, urged Washington to seek partnership that is “focused on what we can do together rather than on what Americans can do for us.”

“The United States has always been an important partner for our countries, but the path to solving our problems is not through handouts from American taxpayers. Only we, together with our business sector, can do the job,” they wrote, calling for “a deeper and more ‘normal’ relationship with the US.”

The East African region and indeed much of Africa presents major investment opportunities for global businesses, with several countries making key oil and gas finds in recent years, while the continent also boasts the world’s youngest population and the majority of fastest growing economies.

At the summit, the United States was expected to announce billions of dollars in business deals, peacekeeping support operations, agriculture and power programmes, according to US officials. 

Meanwhile, speaking at the interactive session at the Aspen Institute, Colorado, on Sunday, Kagame spoke about Rwanda’s recovery from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. “We came out determined and committed to reverse the situation. We looked each other in the eyes and asked one thing: who benefitted from Genocide?”

“Not one single person or family benefitted from the Genocide. We could choose to work towards a common good or the common destruction that we had already experienced.”

The Genocide left more than a million people dead and shattered the country’s economy and social fabric.

He said the Genocide was a lesson for all Rwandans and attributed the country’s phenomenal recovery to the resilience of the people of Rwanda. “For us, the question was what happens if we fail to achieve? There was no alternative. What Rwandans have achieved is because of the resilience of the people. Other people can help but no one will carry our burden for us.”

Asked about the rationale behind Rwanda’s choice of empowering women, he said its “simply common sense”.  

Rwanda has the highest women representation of any parliament in the world, constituting an unprecedented 64 per cent of the Lower House.

Women are also strongly represented in other national and local institutions, well above the constitutional threshold of 30 per cent that either gender is guaranteed in decision-making organs.

The interactive session was moderated by Elliot Gerson, the executive vice president of the Aspen Institute, who described Rwanda as “a country of progress born out of suffering.”

Gerson pointed out that 90 per cent of Rwandan children are in school, while the country has recorded one of the fastest growth rates in Africa, with life expectancy remarkably increasing by 20 years in recent years.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organisation with a mission to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues.

The interactive session was attended by several policymakers, including Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.  

President Kagame was later hosted to a dinner by Marc Holtzman, Chairman of Meridian Capital, and Samuel Robson Walton, Chairman of Walmart.

Also present were other business leaders, who discussed the investment opportunities that exist in Rwanda.