It is a pleasure to welcome you to Kigali for the third edition of the Global African Investment Summit, held for the first time in Africa.
I would like to thank all participants, many of whom have travelled great distances to be here. I invite you to feel at home to experience what Rwanda has to offer.
The best meetings focus on concrete results, as this one aims to do. Let me commend the organisers and sponsors for their hard work and for setting the right tone.
Progress in any endeavour is about valuing time highly and using it well.
So we do not need to dwell too much on reminders that investment and good governance are critically important, and that integration is profoundly in Africa’s interest.
We know it, we believe in it. What remains is just to be doing what is necessary to make it reality.
The slow pace of implementation often seen in various projects is not caused by a lack of knowledge, commitment, or resources, but rather by failing to appreciate that speed is a driver of wealth creation.
This is because the benefits of growth compound exponentially, year upon year, decade after decade.
It is not too much to say that the habit of tolerating endless delay is one of the major causes of poverty.
If we in Africa start to value time even more highly than our friends and competitors then the gap between ourselves and the rest of the world will start to close rapidly.
Perhaps there should even be a financial penalty of some kind when deadlines are not met by public sector institutions. Whatever the amount, it would certainly be much less than what we pay now by assuming that the price of time is free.
This summit’s special focus on integration is very important in this regard.
The Tripartite Free Trade Area is an initiative to join the East African Community, COMESA, and SADC into a single economic zone, composed of more than 600 million people, which is almost half of Africa and some of the world’s youngest and fastest-growing economies.
The stakes are high because this bold effort is a test of Africa’s ability to translate ideals and commitments into reality.
If the Tripartite Area succeeds there will be strong momentum to push for the Continental Free Trade Area, as directed by the African Union Summit last year.
But if we get stuck, then the cause of integration could be slowed by years or even decades, as confidence falters in the possibility of meaningful collective action amongst African states.
A strong and clear voice of support from the private sector will be very essential for sustaining the political will required.
By quantifying the benefits of integration compared to the status quo, in terms of increased jobs, profits, trade volumes, and tax revenues, we can more easily keep everyone moving in the same direction.
Let us work to address outstanding issues so that the Tripartite agreement can come into force as soon as possible.
If some parties are not yet ready, that is fine. Those who are, can move forward while always leaving the door open for others to keeping joining at their own pace later.
Good momentum and tangible results will do more to increase support for integration than any amount of closed-door negotiation among technical experts.
Africa cannot just remain a story about huge potential that never materialises. Something has to give.
Postponing our priorities and delaying our commitments are the most expensive mistakes that Africa can make.
There is nothing we are waiting for, and nothing we lack. Let’s work together across sectors and borders with the right mindset of urgency, and build the Africa we want.
I wish you productive deliberations in the coming days. Thank you very much for your kind attention.
- President Paul Kagame