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What Challenges Does Kagame Face As New AU Boss?

Africa

What Challenges Does Kagame Face As New AU Boss?

One of Africa’s urgent needs is cash; the cash to invest and deliver prosperity to its people.

The continent has very ambitious projects that should be lubricated by big money, but the sources of cash, much of it from the West or the Far East, need to be convinced to open up the taps.

Five decades ago, African countries began grouping themselves into regional blocs to improve security, increase intra trade and expand bargaining power, but this failed to wean the continent off insecurity and dependence on handouts.

As the old guards left the scene, a new breed of young, enterprising leaders have been consistently revamping a post-colonial dream of having a strong united Africa.

With no more wars and external meddling in Africa’s internal matters, the continent’s leaders have drafted massive projects that aim at establishing infrastructure, skills development, energy production and technology.

Yet Africa doesn’t have this required money.

In June 2016, after realising the loopholes, African leaders flew to Kigali for the 27th Assembly of the African Union and assigned their Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame to propose reforms that would change the African Union (AU) working methods; shifting to an approach that will bring more concrete and tangible results.

In accepting to take on this assignment, Kagame said he wanted the AU “to be more efficient, cost effective so that there is no much time to waste or much in terms of resources to waste.”

“His [Kagame] work will have his mark of know-how,” said Idriss Déby, the former Chairperson of the African Union and President of Tchad.

In presenting a progress report in July 2017 at the 29th AU Ordinary Session, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Kagame submitted that a dozen of countries were already implementing reforms.

For example through the import levy the AU expects to raise about $1.2 billion every year to finance its operations.

For Kagame this is the “last best chance, for the AU to fix its finances and secure the esteem of people we serve. We must not to allow political or technical dilemmas to override our strategic imperatives.”

With this success of proposing reforms, President Kagame found himself in yet another much bigger assignment when the 29th ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union elected Rwanda to lead the Union in 2018.

His first breakthrough even before assuming office has been accessing a very important platform – The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an annual gathering of the rich and powerful in domains of politics, finance, business and science.

But most of these individuals are Kagame’s personal friends thus negotiating on behalf of Africa will just be a continuation of what he has been good at.

A major diplomatic score was meeting with US President Donald Trump who gently and politely referred to Kagame as a “Friend” and congratulating him upon the new role as AU chair.

President Donald Trump (right) says Rwandan President Paul Kagame(left) is a “friend”

“Looking forward to working with the United States,” Kagame said after the meeting which reviewed bilateral relationship, discussed issues of interest to the African Union including peace and security, counterterrorism, U.S.-Africa trade, and African Union reform.

Kagame’s careful selection of a team that accompanied him to meet with Donald Trump shows how clear cut interests of Rwanda and African Union were tabled.

Meanwhile, Rwanda’s interests at the meeting were clearly defined and limited to more funding, seeking investors and promoting the country’s natural resources exploitation.

This could be viewed by representation at the meeting by Finance Minister Claver Gatete, Rwanda Development Board CEO Clare Akamanzi and Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board CEO Francis Gatare and Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo who is also a member of the AU reforms team.

The Intersection of Davos and African Union

Definitely the rich and powerful annually fly to Davos to set the global agenda in various sectors but also clinch deals with resource rich countries.

At this platform President Kagame presented Africa’s ambitious projects and investment opportunities.

For example, six of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa. The continent is thirsty for modern infrastructure, technology, exploitation of mineral resources and trade and agriculture.

In consideration, about 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land is in Africa, but because of poor roads and a lack of storage, African farmers can lose up to half of their crop just trying to get it to the market.

Africa’s infrastructure services, whether for power, water, road freights, mobile telephones or internet services, are twice as expensive as elsewhere.

These are some of the pressing issues that Africa badly needs to fix. And Davos offers better platform where leaders merge and could possibly agree on the solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

And indeed while presenting his acceptance speech to the AU summit on Sunday evening, President Kagame cut out three pressing issues, which seem to be his outright priorities to be worked on at he assumes office: a Single African Air Transport Market, a Continental Free Trade Area and Freedom of Movement for people in Africa.

“By committing to break down these barriers, we will send a tremendous signal in Africa and beyond, that it is no longer business as usual…our people deserve a brighter future,” he said.

ACCEPTANCE REMARKS BY PRESIDENT KAGAME AT OPENING CEREMONY OF 30TH AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT

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