Increasingly, integrating countries from across the continent and creating connections among citizens will make Africa an ideal home for all, President Paul Kagame has said.
President Kagame made the remarks at the opening of the 3rd YouthConnekt Africa Summit underway in Kigali convening over 8000 young people from across the continent.
The President said that the summit is in the spirit of bringing together young people irrespective of gender, religion, borders and this means integration and connection.
This, he said, would expand their context of ‘home’ from their individual countries and regions to the entire continent.
“So to be able to connect people across the world, you should have a starting point. The starting point maybe home, home means home, whether in Rwanda, Mali or Cameroun, or from where you have all come from.
“That word, connect, starts from home and then you go beyond home. You have initially someone you call a neighbour or a neighbouring country and that too becomes home as well and a neighbour feels like you’ve provided a home to him and that’s how people connect. Connect expands the definition, expands the home, home stops being Rwanda for me, and home becomes Africa for me,” Kagame said.
Integration, he said, is not only important for geographically smaller countries such as Rwanda but for all nations’ survival and relevance in the current global state of affairs.
“Those who are lucky to come from big countries, those you call big countries, I have a message for you, that you are better off, together with even smaller countries. Especially in this world full of sharks,” he said.
Adding: “Alone, it doesn’t matter the size, the sharks will eat you up. Together, we constitute the size that those sharks cannot swallow. They can’t swallow us.”
Together, African countries are bigger, can get further and can achieve much more faster.
“When you want to go far, you come together, and walk together. When you want to move fast, then you better go alone. But why can’t we have both? Isn’t it possible? We can be together, move far, and still move fast. Moving fast now this time becomes an issue of ambition,” the head of state said.
The President urged the youth not to sit waiting for governments to solve all their challenges and called them to be more involved and innovative in seeking the results they seek.
“You don’t have to look to government and say government is not doing this, government is not good at doing this. But government is actually you,” he said.
Among the ways young people can be involved in governance including taking part in elections and joining public service in different capacities.
Fielding questions from the summit’s participants, Kagame said that Rwanda is a believer in facilitating free movement of people across the continent hence adopting a visa on arrival policy for citizens across the continent.
He allayed fears that free movement of persons would increase crime rate noting that by Rwanda’s experience there had not been any impact on the levels of security.
Assistant Secretary-General and Director of United Nations Development Programme Regional Bureau for Africa Ahunna Eziakonwa said that Africa remains the youngest continent in the world with a rapidly growing youth population that is expected to double by 2055 hence the need to tap into demographic dividend.
The continental summit, first held in 2017, was conceptualized from the Rwandan version of the annual summit launched in 2012.
The summit features over 100 speakers who include leading professionals from policy influencers, political and industry leaders, to public, private and development sector youth champions.
The agenda will cover key issues affecting young people including creating jobs for Africa, turning passion into profit and bridging the gender divide.
Other subjects on the agenda include the digital economy and opportunities therein and opportunities in the agriculture sector.