By Collins Mwai
The African continent cannot continue to rely on foreign aid to finance its transformation, President Paul Kagame has said.
Kagame was speaking in Abidjan at the 8th CGECI (Confédération Générale des Enterprises de Côte d’Ivoire) Academy, the largest annual gathering of Private Sector in the West African country.
The summit brings together the private sector of the West African countries and covers topics such as avenues to grow competitiveness, relevance and growth among other topics.
“We have to reach a point where our countries have the capacity to finance our own transformation. Development aid has been useful and it continues to be useful, especially when we work to get the most impact out of every cent that we receive. But the point has never been to remain dependent forever when we have always had the potential to be wealthy ourselves,” Kagame said during the keynote address.
Rather than continuously look to other countries for aid, Kagame said that there are more productive ways for Africa to partner with various countries and regions for mutual benefit.
This year’s conference is themed around creating a conducive business climate.
To create a more conducive business climate, Kagame said deliberation among public and private sector from various countries are crucial to share connections and experiences.
“One way to advance this cause, is through forums like this one. Coming together here, we make useful connections, share experiences, and learn from each other. The starting point is ensuring that relevant actors in both the public and private sectors get involved for the right reasons.
Ultimately, what we seek is to attract and retain the maximum levels of investment we can, both domestic and foreign, to grow our economies and generate wealth of our citizens,” he said.
Opportunities should not be lost to regulatory barriers or other unnecessary delays, Kagame said, noting that some of the factors were well within the stakeholders’ control.
Citing Rwanda’s experience in improving the business ecosystem, Kagame said that country mobilized every government agency as well as members of the private sector to contribute to the reforms.
“The stakes were high and a consistent focus on key indicators, has led to good results. Therefore, there is no reason not to do what is within our capacity. We will all directly feel the benefits of doing just that,” the President said.
He noted that the agenda and plans are timely they complement the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“Each country and region has to do its part to ensure the success of the economic integration that we all want to see. We are counting on you and your colleagues around Africa to sustain that momentum.
You are well-placed to mobilize our business communities to seize this exceptional chance. Now is the time to prepare for the implementation phase and capitalize on the benefits that the African Continental Free Trade Area holds, for everyone involved,” he said.
The President urged African governments to be supportive of the private sector and work with them in the process of eliminating barriers to doing business.
The governments, he said also ought to be involved in equipping young people with skills and training to make the most of the emerging opportunities.
“Governments must also do their part, to listen to, and work with the private sector, to overcome existing barriers to doing business. We must also ensure that young people are equipped with the education and training required, to take advantage of new opportunities.
At the same time, it is critical to invest in building positive mindsets in Africa’s young people, especially around entrepreneurship and innovation. Just as you are doing through your mentorship programme,” he said.
Held twice a year, the CGECI academy is the largest gathering of the private sector in Ivory Coast.
The 8th edition of CGECI Academy brings together private sector from across West Africa with Rwanda featuring as the Guest Country with the aim of exchanging lessons on improving doing business and enabling private sector to reach its full potential.
Close to 50 members of the Rwandan Private Sector from diverse fields ranging from agriculture, manufacturing and ICT are also taking part and are scheduled to hold business to business meetings with members of the Ivorian private sector.