Kagame, Museveni push for more intra-Africa trade, investment
Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Kaguta Museveni have decried the existing hurdles that hamper trade between African countries and continued export of raw materials from the continent.
The two leaders, speaking at The Global African Investment Summit (TGAIS) which opened in Kigali, Rwanda on Monday, said that African countries need to break barriers and begin trading more amongst themselves if the continent must meet its development aspiration and live up to the “Africa Rising” adage.
The investment summit organised by the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) in partnership with the Government of Rwanda has brought together over 1,000 delegates to discuss investment opportunities on the continent.
Presidents Kagame and Museveni pointed out that integration on the continent and removal of trade and non-tariff barriers can spur growth in Africa and attract more investors.
Both leaders decried slow implementation of development projects and bureaucratic tendencies which discourage foreign direct investments (FDI).
“Progress in any endeavour is about valuing time very highly and using it well. We know integration is profoundly in Africa’s interest. What remains is to be doing what is necessary to make it reality,” President Kagame said.
“The slow pace of implementation is caused by failing to appreciate that speed is a driver of wealth creation. It is not too much to say that the habit of tolerating endless delay is one of the major causes of poverty,” the Rwandan leader added.
President Kagame said that if Africa starts to value time then the inequality gap between continent 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,” he noted.
Africa’s expensive mistakes
Giving an example of the proposed Tripartite Free Trade Area between the East African Community, Comesa and the Southern African Development Community, he said the continent’s ability to translate ideals and commitments to reality is lacking.
“Africa cannot just remain a story about huge potential that never materialises,” adding that “postponing our priorities and delaying our commitments are the most expensive mistakes that Africa can make.”
President Museveni said African leaders of yore were not able to figure out that integration was a stimulus for growth and transformation.
“There was quite a bit of wasted time until 1980 during the Lagos summit when they brought it up that Africa should be integrated,” Mr Museveni said, adding that more people today are aware that integration is the way to go.
The TFTA, which was proposed in Kampala in October 2008, is expected to come into force after being ratified by at least two-thirds of the 26 member states and thus pave way to market integration and the harmonisation of trade policies across the three regional blocs.
But last month, member states differed on the sensitive goods and services that should be accorded preferential treatment from each bloc.
Leaders gathered in Kigali are expected to address this issue as well as how to protect the continent from cheap imports from mainly Asia which hamper industrial growth.
“There are mechanisms to sort these concerns out. There is medicine for it. You put a common tariff for external goods. If the tripartite area becomes a reality, we can put in place the external barrier for cheap external goods,” President Museveni said.
President Kagame said that there is more trade going on between Africa and Europe or Asia than that going on within Africa itself, adding that this should be corrected.
“We are always looking at ourselves doing business with others yet we are not doing business amongst ourselves; yet if we increased intra-Africa trade, some of these problems would be addressed,” Mr Kagame said.
The investment summit seeks to maximise Africa’s investment potential and boost intra-Africa trade, which is below 15 per cent compared to trade with other parts of the world like Asia.
Address by President Paul Kagame at The Global African Investment Summit
Kigali, 5 September 2016
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.