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For Africa to take its rightful place and be more relevant in today’s world, it is going to need visionary leadership and cooperation, President Paul Kagame said.
The President made the remarks, Saturday, while addressing members of the Oxbridge Club during their annual Spring Lecture in Lagos, Nigeria.
The Oxbridge Club comprises Oxford and Cambridge alumni.
The Club is renowned for two main calendar events, the May Ball (typically held in June) and its annual lectures traditionally referred to as “The Spring Lecture”.
The President was the first incumbent Head of State to address the Club.
“Africa today has the opportunity to play its rightful role in the global arena. But to do so requires the continent to speak with one voice and to be competitive in all aspects, which in turn demands radical socio-economic transformation,” Kagame said.
“For this to happen, African countries need a new kind of leadership – one that has a vision for the country and a passion and commitment for its rapid development as well as the well-being of its people.”
The leadership, Kagame added, must be confident, assertive, innovative and committed to promoting and defending the continent’s interest.
“Above all, it should be prepared to seek solutions from within the philosophies and practices of our societies to various challenges that we face, and develop ideas to propel our countries forward.”
“Sometimes, this might require going beyond the conventional and embracing the unorthodox.”
The President, however, noted that no individual leader or country can achieve the desired continent-wide change on their own and the leadership of African countries should seek and promote cooperation amongst them.
“Africa is not where it should be, not because of a lack of resources or human capital,” he said.
“The issue has been that we still do not have enough leaders across a variety of fields with ideas to change our societies, the capacity to mobilise our people, and vision and drive to spur innovation and competitiveness.”
But, the trend is beginning to change.
In the last two decades, President Kagame observed, Africa has begun to move again and entered a new phase.
“We are no longer looking to the outside for solutions to internal issues because home-grown ideas provide the answer, not only for development but also for the restoration of our dignity,” Kagame said.
“That means change because the status quo has proved unsatisfactory.”
“The collected, accumulated wisdom resulting from both culture and participation has the effect of making people shareholders in the enterprise that is their country. As you all know, shareholders want and expect good dividends.”
The President shared Rwanda’s experience with home grown solutions.
He cited Gacaca courts, a traditional conflict resolution mechanism, that tried close to two million cases in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
In a decade, the Gacaca courts cost less than one billion dollars, yet the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda tried only sixty cases at double the cost – about two billion dollars.
But the significance of Gacaca goes beyond numbers of cases and their cost.
“Because it (Gacaca) was the first home-grown solution successfully applied to a seemingly intractable problem, it inspired and empowered Rwandans to seek and use similar initiatives for broader national development,” the President observed.
“Its success catalysed the generation of ideas and values crucial to national development – resilience, self-reliance, confidence and social cohesion.”
Rwanda has adopted similar initiatives to eradicate poverty and improve the lives of the people.
Between 2005 and 2010, the county’s poverty levels dropped by 12%, from 56.9% to 44.9% .
“What works internally may have application to intra-African situations, particularly as we focus on greater cooperation and integration, trade and investment in order to keep up with the emerging and the traditional strong economies.” Kagame pointed out.
“This approach of greater cooperation also extends to peace and stability, and that is why today, African leaders are investing in continent-generated solutions to issues of political stability and conflict resolution.”