, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 18 – Rwandan President Paul Kagame is now challenging African leaders to stop making glamorous developmental blueprints without backing them up with action.
Mr Kagame who spoke during the two-day Pan African media conference that opened in Nairobi on Thursday said African countries would only achieve their long and medium term plans if they stopped paying lip service to their national agenda.
The President whose country suffered genocide in 1994 explained that it was time for African countries to put into practice that which they claimed to stand for.
“We should move away from the drawing board, from the visions… the rhetoric to doing things that give us results. You can have a vision and it will remain on paper as a vision. But how do we move from the vision to actually doing the right thing that gives us results?” he posed.
He also asked African leaders to stop focusing on ceaseless politics and help their countries achieve their national goals. He said that Rwanda started its recovery path after the political elite together with its citizenry picked up lessons from the mistakes of the past.
“We projected that by 2020 Rwanda should become a middle income country with a $1,000 per capita. We started from $190 per capita and we are now $500 per capita. We have invested in education, health, agriculture, infrastructure, ICT and so on,” he said.
Also in attendance was Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai who said Africa needed leaders with foresight for it to achieve greater heights. Ms Maathai who added that Africa did not have much time to start working on its dreams of becoming an economic giant blamed politicians who were using their countries as door mats to propel themselves to wealth.
“I am still hoping that Africa will provide visionary leadership; it is selfless leadership…leadership that will not encourage corruption. We have created a society which as some people say is an eating society. We tend to live in Africa as if there is no future generation and unless we have leaders to show us which way to go, we shall continue going round in circles,” she said.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga who was among panelists discussing “Expanding Political Participation” blamed Kenya’s failure to achieve its national agenda on poor governance saying that it had led to loss of public resources and allowed their diversion to private pockets.
The PM also maintained that Africa would achieve its hopes of becoming one bloc and get out of its economic quagmire and suggested that those who were ready to work together should unite and move ahead with the agenda.
“Most African states are impoverished because of debt money that never went into development. Africa will only be able to compete against the rest of the world if it is united. Time has come for those who are ready (to integrate) to move on and then let the conservatives come and join later,” he said amidst applause.
The Premier also rubbished claims that language difference between African states was a stumbling block to the realisation of a united Africa saying that such excuses were the reason why Africa unity remained an illusion.
“When we talk about Anglophone and Francophone, Britain and France are in the European Union why should language divide us here when it has not divided our colonial masters? Colonial history, language barriers, tribes and so on are just excuses,” he said.
Former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa said regional blocs were crucial to the creation of Africa as a single entity. He explained that the strengthening of the African regional blocs (Eastern Africa, Western Africa, Southern Africa and the Maghreb regions) would determine whether or not Africa became one unit.
“I am a realistic optimist and the reason why I am pushing for the regional blocs is that I think it is the way for Africa to rid itself of the scourge of aid. It is holding us back in our integration process; we actually compete for aid which is ridiculous,” he said.
The panelists asked the media to play its role in helping Africa accomplish its agenda. They noted that the media had an important role to play and further asked members of the fourth estate to refrain from paying too much attention on the negative aspects of the continent.