President Paul Kagame has called on African leaders to fully utilize the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as the best tool for breaking the mentality of depending on and producing for others to benefit.
The President made the remarks during a press conference at Urugwiro Village on Wednesday, following after conclusion of the 18th National Dialogue Council- Umushyikirano 2023.
A journalist asked the president what he thinks African countries can do in line with the AfCFTA to ensure the continent has enough resources to reduce begging for loans from the IMF among others.
In response, Kagame said that first of all Africa has not succeeded in everything the continent has done for itself, though there is success and failure here and there.
Though not comfortable with giving remedies on what should be done, the Head of State showed that the AfCFTA was initiated as a remedy to aggregate capacity, possibilities, and potential on the continent to proportionately benefit Africans dependence.
He said that the operationalizing of the AfCFTA is a huge opportunity for changing the continent and every country has a role to play in order to see Africans compete equally with other continents.
Even when the AfCFTA has started simple things such as signing the agreement, allowing freedom of movement of people and goods, and communication as seen in other intra-trade deals on other blocs, Kagame said this needs to work better without question.
“So we need to make it work for us…we connect with each other. So, I think if more of that was done then we should be seeing our countries needing less of begging and asking people to help out, bail us out, and so on and so forth,” Kagame responded.
Kagame stated that if this is done, Africa will be less dependent.
The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated poverty levels in Africa, with a number of people living in extreme poverty but the crisis also induced the continent’s first economic recession in 25 years which has seen more African countries borrowing.
To recover from the pandemic, many African countries have turned to innovation as a means of resilience, however, journalists at the press conference asked President Kagame if this is a long-lasting solution, since such innovations result in capital flights still.
On capital flights where the uncertain and rapid movement of large sums of money get out of a country, Kagame said that this shouldn’t be a problem for business transactions but the strange part is if it takes on direction due to lack of retention in respective countries.
Kagame said that the lack of retention of wealth speaks to the Private sector in Africa and calls for African leaders to be tasked to allow development to happen on the continent and benefits retained equally.
“Otherwise, it will end up being like the old story. There is so much we produce here but everything just ends up outside,” Kagame said giving a simple example of coffee produced in Africa but it’s value-added elsewhere and only returned to Africa for consumption.
Kagame asked why shouldn’t Africans process everything produced and consumed locally without stopping exports elsewhere.
Using this example, Kagame said that this speaks volumes in terms of how Africa doesn’t grow out of this mentality though they keep talking much about how much is produced locally but end up doing it halfway to the benefit of other people yet it originates from Africa.
Kagame said that Africa needs to break this cycle and most importantly leaders have to take the lead since they know what needs to be done instead of talking and complaining.
The fact that only one percent of the benefits (of innovations and production) remain in Africa, Kagame said that this is a structural problem that needs to be addressed.