President Paul Kagame and the current chairperson of the African Union (AU) says that both Africa and Europe are dealing with biting global issues, and the partnership between the two continents should stand on solid footing.
In his capacity as AU chairperson, Kagame is leading a delegation of African heads of State and government in Vienna, Austria for the Africa-Europe Forum.
The high level gathering is designed to rethink the Africa-Europe cooperation in the digital age.
On Tuesday, December 18, 2018, President Kagame spoke at the Political Leaders meeting and the opening ceremony, saying that the aim of the forum is to forge a new relationship.
“Our common aim is to define a new relationship between Europe and Africa as it should have been, and build the institutions required to sustain it over the long term,” Kagame said.
The President expressed the need for full engagement of industry and the scientific research community in both continents.
According to President Kagame, “Today’s forum is another step on the journey we are taking together. We chose innovation and digitalization as the theme because they drive higher rates of productivity in every sector of the economy,” he said.
Kagame, who was earlier welcomed to Austria by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, said that a lot of work still needs to be done by leaders of both continents to change the perception and mindsets.
“It will take time to change perception and mindsets, and we have a lot of hard work to do but it is not impossible. Not just among governments but also our entrepreneurs, private sector and investors,” he said.
Europe is way far better than Africa in terms of digital infrastructure, but Kagame assured participants at the forum that a lot is being done on the African continent to catch up.
For instance, he told the forum, “Through the African Union Commission and the Smart Africa initiative, we are also working to harmonize the regulatory environment for information and communication technologies (ICTs) and link our digital infrastructure.”
“Over the long-term, Africa is much more a source of opportunity than risk. Any challenges can be effectively managed in the wider context of our relationship,” Kagame added.
President Kagame reminded the gathering that the success made should not be seen in the mirror of migration statistics.
“We are not going to measure success solely in terms of migration statistics. A much better yardstick is how creating high-quality, digital jobs in Africa will also boost job growth in Europe. After all youth employment is an urgent priority for both our continents.”
According to President Kagame, Europe and Africa want a “broad and durable partnership that stands the test of time. That means there is going to be mutual benefit. Africa gains and Europe gains. And together we all benefit more than we would have by continuing to do business as usual.”
To achieve this, Kagame reminded the forum that, “We are dealing with critical global issues such as security, migration, climate change and economic progress. We cannot afford for the substance to be derailed by short-term political calculations or rivalries.”
“We want to address and transcend the past by looking forward, and also transcend any differences that exist within or across nations for various reasons, while building on the positive elements of our shared historical inheritance,” he added.