He made the observation today in Congo Brazzaville where he attended the 5th Invest in Africa Forum (IAF) bringing together Heads of State to discuss how to promote investment on the continent.
Held between September 10-12, 2019, the fifth IAF will also examine how best to support economic diversification and job creation in African countries, take stock of progress and achievements, and chart a path forward.
It is themed "Leveraging Partnerships for Economic diversification and Jobs Creation in African Economies."
Kagame reminisced on areas that hold game-changing potential including the African Continental Free Trade Area which is now in the implementation phase and highlighted that it will bring more opportunities than ever for everyone involved.
“While the more industrialized countries are better placed to take advantage of the opportunities for manufactured goods, the less industrialized can benefit from linking into regional value chains,” he said.
He pointed out an example that countries that are mainly agricultural can gain from meeting Africa’s growing food security needs.
Kagame highlighted that the African Continental Free Trade Area is also expected to bring about faster customs clearance and more efficient logistics, which are particularly meaningful for perishable agricultural products.
An important factor, he said, is closer collaboration among African governments as well as between government and the private sector noting that productive and mutually beneficial global partnerships are key for the continent to fully benefit from this historic agreement.
Kagame said that the continent lacks sufficient regional infrastructure, hence leading to logistical challenges, low internet use, and device affordability, as well as limited payment infrastructure.
Although these have long been obstacles to economic development, the President emphasized that they must be looked at as an opportunity for public-private investment.
Kagame said that appropriate technology will allow Africans to produce much more wealth with the same amount of labor and financial capital.
In this regard, he reflected on vast opportunities offered by e-commerce to trade with each other and the rest of the world and pointed out that Rwandan producers and service providers are starting to sell directly to more customers than ever through the Alibaba Electronic World Trade Platform.
African governments are providing some solutions, like the Smart Africa Alliance, now comprising 24 countries representing over half of Africa’s population. Smart Africa is taking the lead in establishing the One Africa Network and Digital ID, among other initiatives.
Kagame said that ‘Africa is coming late to the game, but there is no reason we can’t catch up, so long as we collaborate to overcome the barriers in the digital sector’.
People cannot trade or invest if they cannot move
President Kagame explained that other opportunities on the continent are easing the free movement of people and goods because people cannot trade or invest if they cannot move.
“Our citizens want to see an Africa that works together, and on their behalf allowing more interactions and activities,” he said.
Kagame emphasized that the African Union’s Protocol on the free movement of people reinforces, other protocols on trade in goods and services where several countries including Rwanda have eased visa requirements. He said that more things can be done faster to make free movement in Africa, a reality.
The President also highlighted the need to continue building positive mindsets of success in Africa’s young people equipping them with education and skills, and support entrepreneurship and innovation.
“Young Africans have to see our continent as a place to build successful careers and businesses, and be empowered to chart their own futures,” he said.
The IAF was established in 2015 as a global platform to promote multilateral cooperation and investment opportunities in Africa.
The first IAF was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in June 2015; the second was held in Guangzhou, China in 2016; the 3rd in Dakar, Senegal in 2017 while the 4th took place in Changsha, China in 2018.