By Kelvin Jakachira
Africa is today celebrating Africa Day, the 60th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and its successor, the AU, amid a myriad difficulties besetting the continent.
On May 25, 1963, African leaders met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, along with leaders from African liberation movements, culminating in the formation of the OAU, now known as the AU, whose mainstream mandate was to champion Pan-African vision for an Africa that was united, free, and in control of its own destiny.
Sixty years on, Africa might have successfully overcome colonialism and gained full sovereignty, but the reality is that the continent is blighted by bloody armed conflicts, deepening poverty, disease, ever-entrenching despotic rule, corruption and, adding salt to wounds, the continent is most affected by the effects of climate change.
To overcome these challenges, Africa is worryingly heavily dependent on the benevolence of its former colonial powers to either provide financial resources or human capital to extricate it from this abyss.
But every dark cloud has a silver lining.
And the knight in shining armour is none other than Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
Kagame is widely revered not only in Rwanda but across the African continent as a problem solver and solution finder to many of the problems that are besetting the African continent.
Apart from lifting Rwanda from being a shattered backwater failed state to a model country, now touted as the Singapore of Africa, Kagame’s magic wand is visible in helping transform Africa and restore African pride and dignity.
The Rwandan president is widely extolled as the continent’s standard bearer for good governance and socio-economic progress.
Many Africans across the continent envy Rwandans for having such a visionary and dedicated leader that others wish he could be seconded to their own countries and fast-track socio-economic advancement.
When he left as the rotating chair of the AU in 2018, he had initiated reforms that had reorganised the organisation into a more coherent and robust social political bloc.
When he took over the chair in 2018, Kagame hit the ground running.
He championed a proposal to levy a 0.2% tax on each country’s imports to finance the AU, which would provide the organisation with funds to wean it off of its donor dependence.
Kagame launched the African Union Peace Fund, aimed at developing a mechanism for self-financing Africa’s peace and security activities.
Despite being endowed with massive natural resources, the continent has no means to fund its peacekeeping operations. It relies on the benevolence of the West to support its peace and security operations.
Kagame sought to address this challenge.
“Promoting peace and security is one of the core functions of our union,” he said at the launch of the peace fund. “However, up to this point, we have lacked a credible mechanism to fund our priority operations in this domain. We depended too extensively on external resources.”
To strengthen and bolster the economies of countries on the continent, Kagame initiated the game-changing African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA), which was unveiled in Kigali in March 2018.
Africa has suddenly become the world’s largest free trade area, with an integrated, continent-wide free trade zone encompassing 54 countries and 1.3 billion people, and a GDP exceeding $3.4 trillion.
The Bank estimates that it will boost regional income by 9%, or $450-billion, and lift 50 million people out of extreme poverty by 2035.
To accelerate the implementation of the AfCTA, Kagame initiated the introduction of the AU passport so as to enable the free movement of people, goods and services across the continent.
So effective was his reign at the AU that head of Africa advocacy at the International Crisis Group, Elissa Jobson, said Kagame demonstrated that the AU chair – for a long time considered to be merely a figurehead – can be used to promote national interests and boost a leader’s international profile.
To put icing on the cake, Kagame was named as the African of the Year at the All Africa Business Leaders Awards and appeared on the cover of Forbes Africa.
To effectively accelerate regional trade in the new digital era, Kagame initiated Transform Africa to develop concrete steps that can move the continent into the 21st century of information communication technology development.
In October 2013, he hosted a summit to operationalise Transform Africa, which was attended by over 1 200 delegates, including leaders from Burkina Faso, Gabon, Kenya, Mali, South Sudan, and Uganda; senior representatives of more than 100 countries, top executives of major global brands such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, HP, Samsung, SAP, and Korea Telecom, policy makers, academics, and civil society representatives.
At the summit in Kigali, the African leaders committed to put ICT at the centre of their national socio-economic development agendas given that the continent was undergoing an unprecedented upsurge in mobile penetration and broadband connectivity.
At the recent Smart Africa Summit held in Zimbabwe, the African Development Fund and Smart Africa Alliance launched a $1.5m project to enhance digital trade and e-commerce ecosystems across the continent.
Cross border e-payments through the Digital Payments and e-Commerce Policies for Cross-Border Trade Project will be facilitated for governments, the private sector and small and medium-sized enterprises.
Kagame and four other African leaders were in attendance in Victoria Falls.
So successful is the Smart Africa concept that it prompted Stuart Brotman, a Howard Distinguished Endowed Professor of Media Management and Law and Beaman Professor of Communication – University of Tennessee, Knoxville to comment: “Here, the developed world should look more closely to the developing world for models where doing well by doing good is more fully congruent by design.
“The Smart Africa initiative is blossoming with each passing month. Our nation would benefit greatly by studying how its large-scale private-public sector partnerships can be beneficial for all who are engaged, and for the public at large.”
On security and peace, Kagame has helped bring stability to Mozambique, which was struggling to deal with a Jihadist insurgency in the northern province of Cabo Delgado that had overwhelmed government soldiers and spread to other provinces.
Following pleas by the Mozambican government, Rwanda deployed a crack intervention force that has neutralised the insurgency and resulted in the rapid re-establishment of government control in Cabo Delgado. Over 3 000 people had been killed, some through beheading, and more than 800 000 people had been internally displaced.
The swift intervention in Mozambique was a result of a bilateral agreement.
Rwanda also intervened to repel rebels that were on the verge of storming the capital of the Central African Republic at the end of 2020 and start of 2021. Rwanda has helped restore peace and calm in the CAR.
In addition to these effective interventions, Rwanda is currently the fifth-largest contributor to UN missions globally and the second-largest continental contributor.
Rwanda’s role and its performance in these missions have earned it a reputation for having a highly disciplined and effective military and police force.
To help improve healthcare in Africa, Kagame championed the production of Covid-19 vaccines in Africa and made the continent less reliant on imported vaccines.
This was at the height of disclosures that rich countries were hoarding doses of Covid vaccines, putting people living in poor countries, especially in Africa, at risk.
At the time many advanced economies had achieved vaccination levels of above 80 percent and in some instances it was established that the rich countries had bought enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations three times over.
Meanwhile, Africa only had about 8 percent of its population inoculated against the virus with countries such as Ethiopia and Nigeria with only 1.4 percent and 2.3 percent respectively vaccinated against Covid-19.
Kagame protested, slamming the vaccine inequality while calling on rich countries to do more to expedite the distribution of Covid inoculations in Africa. As a result, Covid vaccine production plants are being set up in Rwanda as well as in Senegal as part of a plan to boost regional healthcare.
Kagame is playing a key role in restoring the dignity of African migrants trapped in strife torn Libya after failing to illegally travel to Europe through the North African country.
The migrants are subjected to sub-standard treatment in the squalid detention camps they are kept in.
Kagame moved in and offered sanctuary to the distressed migrants, and over 1 600 of them have moved to Rwanda with options to apply to settle in countries they wish to go, stay in Rwanda, or go back to their respective countries of origin in a dignified manner.
As part of the skills exchange among Africans that Kagame is actively promoting, up to 158 educational personnel from Zimbabwe, comprising teachers and lecturers, were deployed in Rwanda last November. More are expected to be transferred to Rwanda.
In a game-changing development in Africa’s sporting landscape, the globally famed National Basketball Association and International Basketball Federation set up Africa’s top-tier basketball league, the Basketball Africa League (BAL). Teams are drawn from many African countries, and games are spread across the continent in the spirit of promoting talented African basketball players.
The 2023 BAL finals will be played at the world-class 10 000 seater BK Arena in Kigali.
The play-offs featured leading teams drawn from countries such as Senegal, Egypt, South Africa, Mozambique, South Sudan and Mali. The BAL materialised as result of Kagame’s engagement with celebrity basketball players from the NBA with African backgrounds.
This did not end with promoting basketball on the continent but also football, and Kagame also continuously engages Fifa with the aim of promoting talented Africans through football academies.
At the 73rd Fifa congress in Kigali, Rwanda, the 2026 edition, which will be co-hosted by the US, Canada and Mexico, was expanded from 32 to 48 teams, with Africa emerging as the biggest beneficiary.
The continent will have nine slots in the expanded 48-team tournament. Africa was represented by five teams at the last Cup tournament played in Qatar.
Kagame hailed the new format, saying he was positive about the increased engagement and visibility for African teams at future Cup tournaments.
“I welcome the expansion of the number of teams participating in the next Cup. Under this format, the slots available for African teams will almost double, creating even more engagement and visibility on our continent,” he said.
* Kelvin Jakachira is International Editor for AB Communications, a multimedia group in Zimbabwe.
** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or .