Solutions for Africa’s biggest challenges are in Africa, President Paul Kagame told dozens of university students at the International University of Africa on Thursday in Khartoum, Sudan, while on a two-day official visit.
President Kagame said that Africa’s diversity should be managed with adequate efforts, urging Africans to be responsible for their own security and wellbeing.
He told the youthful audience that it has all it takes to take Africa to highest levels adding that Africans have more reasons than ever to reinforce their solidarity.
“Africa’s tremendous resources and opportunities have benefited others for far too long”, he said adding that “one way to also make them work for us is to stay united and collaborate closely on the things that have the most impacts on the lives of our people”.
He highlighted the continental free trade as an important component that would see solidarity pay off for Africa, emphasizing that “it should not be harder to do business within Africa than it is between Africa and other parts of the world”.
Kagame who is mandated by fellow African heads of states to lead the African Union institutional reforms explained that [this] ongoing institutional reform of the African Union aims to make “our continental organisation more focused, effective and financially sustainable.”
“A good number of countries including Sudan and Rwanda have already begun to implement the new 0.2% [charge] on eligible imports [from outside Africa] to finance African Union programmes”, Kagame noted.
“This new measure is designed to make the African Union less dependent on external partners and more attuned to the interests and priorities that Africa has defined for itself. A better organised African Union will allow for more mutual beneficial partnerships between Africa and other parts of the world,” he added.
The President insisted that there is need for Africa to seize the opportunities presented by globalization by investing in the capacities of African people especially the youth through education and information technology to “compete effectively in the knowledge industries that drive prosperity.”
“Acquiring a mindset for success and ownership does not require money but it is the most important condition for transforming our continent. We already have the means and ability to do so right here in Africa and it is our responsibility. We must maintain a sense of urgency, everything is in place, and so we can’t allow time to work against us. Our people have already been waiting for too long”, explained Kagame.
For Kagame, it is time for African youth to use their talents to create opportunities and improve the wellbeing of others. “We count on the young people of Africa to build a dignified and prosperous future for everyone on our continent”.
During a question and answer session with the students, Kagame said Rwanda’s educational system has been expanding and growing .
He noted that the number of students who graduated from the University of Rwanda since 1963 when it was founded, were 2000 by 1994, but the number has grown to about 36,000 since 1994. “We are still growing and still expanding and we are now concentrated on the quality of education, adding that there is “room for collaboration with other universities including this university [International University of Africa]”.
“We can take in students or I am sure you can take in students from our universities. We can establish collaborative programmes that can go on. So I wanted just to show you that there is a lot of dynamism going on in that area,” he said.
The transformation Rwanda has witnessed from 1994, to this day, “proves what is possible with many other African countries”.
“From extreme instability to peace and stability that we see in Rwanda today, it means something has happened and I think that it is possible for any other African country that may have had similar history and for countries that have had better situations, they have even higher opportunities than that,” he said.
“We have learned our lessons from that tragic history and we have made sure that we put in place institutions, good governance, accountability and we involved every citizen as well as recognizing their rights”.
“We have moved on from there, even without much in terms of natural resources as we know them, which also proves that there is more in people and even without these natural resources, they can still do things that advance them and give them hope and promise as we have seen in our own case. And what Rwanda has done, other people can do it and you can even do it better than Rwandans”.
Paul Minega, a Rwandan student pursuing his studies in the oral and dental medicine faculty at the International University of Africa asked President Kagame his take on the problem of African youths who risk dangerous journeys to Europe to find employment there.
President Kagame said that people need to understand that those countries [from Europe] “did not start from where we see them now”, adding that “they started from a very bad situation like ours [in Africa] or even worse and they improved their situation up to where we see”.
“Why can’t we do that ourselves to raise our countries, our economies and progress to that level we see in Europe or other advanced economies?”, he asked, adding that, “they were not like that long ago. May be we need to do a few things that they did themselves to raise us to that level.”
“Even being at that level of development, those countries [in Europe] also have their own problems”, he observed.
He said that, “[For] Africans, there are so many problems we have to deal with but alongside that, we have so many opportunities we can build on to meet the same challenges we have. But, it will take working together in individual countries and across countries”.
“We have for example to look at what Rwanda and Sudan can do together to address our challenges and so on and so forth”.
In 2004, Rwanda was the first nation to deploy its troops to protect civilians in Darfur under the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS).
Over 40,000 Rwandan peacekeepers had completed a tour of duty by 2016 with different missions, in Sudan, South Sudan and in the Central African Republic.
“The young people need to be given the right opportunities, the right space, the right education the right involvement in all aspects but it is not just being given; it also the young people being able to feel that they have the responsibility as well to grasp the opportunity available”, Kagame said