President Kagame returned to Kigali from Cape Town yesterday at the conclusion of the World Economic Forum on Africa. In a highlight of the forum, President Kagame and his South African counterpart, President Jacob Zuma discussed “Political Leaders in Changing Times” a lively, televised interactive session.
The two presidents talked about the challenges facing their respective countries, the range of challenges confronting the continent and the leadership required to overcome these.
President Kagame emphasized that the way to judge African leadership was simply if it was right or wrong. Among the issues discussed were the International Criminal Court and the misuse of universal jurisdiction.
There was agreement that Africa needs to establish its own court to address issues instead of remaining vulnerable to one-sided Western justice.
On the global financial crisis, President Kagame pointed out that not being responsible for the crisis should not be a source of pride for the Africa because it also meant that the continent was not a significant global player and therefore not an active player in devising a solution, as demonstrated by absence at key forums such as the G20 meetings where the continent is usually represented by one country such as South Africa.
According to Dr David Himbara, the President’s private secretary and strategic advisor “President Kagame was quite emphatic that not being part of the crisis is a crisis in itself, and that Africa must earn the right to be an actor in the international economic system, including “finding solutions to the current financial crisis. Put differently in the view of the President, Africa has to earn a right to join forces that shape the global political economy by increasing its productive capacity, in order to matter and become a real economic player. Going to G20 seeking assistance merely confirms Africa is marginalized - a process to which our continent contributes”.
Earlier in the forum, President Kagame was a panelist in the “Africa: The World’s Potential Breadbasket?” session along with Kofi Annan, co-chair of the WEF on Africa.
President Kagame said that it was well known that historically, agriculture has been the engine for development in all parts of the world and that Africa has to undergo its own agricultural revolution in order to launch the continent’s development process.
He pointed out Africa’s inability so far to reach its potential of becoming the bread basket of the world was a question of leadership, policy making and innovation.
President Kagame explained that from recent efforts in paying close attention to agriculture, Rwanda was learning that policy, extension services, and inputs were instrumental in boosting production and that the success of agriculture contributed significantly to the country’s 11.2% growth in 2008, illustrating that this can be achieved elsewhere on the continent.
He added that mindset was critical in the process, particularly as regards seeking internal solutions to current obstacles and building systems to move beyond them.
President Kagame held several meetings on the sidelines of the WEF, including with the Young Presidents Organisation (YPO) and the Young Global Leaders, both organizations whose members are young successful business and non-profit leaders from all parts of the world.
With both groups, President Kagame discussed at length the challenge of leadership and in part, building dynamic private sector in line with shared understanding that prosperity is created by business.
President Kagame also engaged with forum leaders as part of consistent dialogue that both allow for tailor-made discussions on Rwanda’s challenges and provides opportunity for forum organizers to seek insights on how to improve the highly successful WEF.
President Kagame remains a sought out African leader whose views are solicited and appreciated, having participated in the WEF meetings for a number of years, where he interacts with world leaders and brings Rwanda into the mainstream of knowledge dissemination.
The WEF has emerged as a leading platform that brings together great minds from diverse fields including government, academia, business, foundations and a renowned intellectual stage for gathering knowledge and networking to solve development challenges.