President Paul Kagame on Thursday delivered a key note speech at the African Leadership Forum (ALF) at Kigali convention Centre.
This ALF forum is hosted by the former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Benjamin William Mkapa, and organised by the Uongozi Institute.
Former African leaders arrived in Kigali to use this platform to learn from the successes and set-backs in national, regional and continental attempts to address specific financing challenges and to put forward recommendations for unlocking increased financing for Africa’s development.
Present at this forum, included; former President of the Republic of Mozambique, Mr Joaquim Chissano, former President of the Republic of Nigeria, Mr Olusegun Obasanjo and their Tunisia and Somalia counterparts, Moncef Marzouki and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud respectively.
More than 100 other distinguished leaders from the public sector, private sector, academia and civil society attended.
This Forum is the 5th edition of African Leadership Forum held under the theme: “Financing Africa’s Transformation for Sustainable Development”.
President Kagame said in his speech that Africa is capable of financing its own development. “We know this because Africa finances other people’s development, and always has.
According to him, Africa has everything it needs, in real terms but remains mentally married to the idea that nothing can get moving without external finance.
“We are even begging for things we already have. That is absolutely a failure of mindset,” he said adding that whatever is lacking, Africa has the means to acquire it.
A solution this challenge is according to Kagame, the need to mobilise the right mindsets, rather than more funding.
Elaborating on domestic tax collection, President Kagame told the former leaders that this is not only about technical capabilities, but much more about building the trust that public funds will be spent on the right things. This is the foundation of good politics, which is effective and citizen-focused.
“The value of illicit financial flows, evaded taxes, and commodity extraction greatly exceeds that of foreign aid. But we have to take responsibility for the misallocation of Africa’s resources and take steps to correct it,” Kagame explained.
President Kagame noted that the definition of “illicit flows” should be expanded to include the habit of importing things, that we already have right here in our countries, and our region. “We have to be mindful of the huge financial losses our continent incurs as a result.”
He said that the entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area is set to significantly increase trade within Africa and consequently improve tax collection. These are very important developments which show real momentum toward African unity.
“We gain immeasurably by trading with each other and lose so much when we don’t. Once again, technical explanations are inadequate. These are political problems and mindset issues.”
On African citizens using “panya routes” to trade, Kagame said he doesn’t think they are making a mistake, they are doing the right thing. Leaders have to figure out what is needed and put it in place.
Kagame noted that railways and roads are undeniably important. Yet, even where rail is not an obstacle, we don’t trade. You find citizens sneaking through forests to do business with each other, because the politics is so toxic.