We are on the same page that traditional aid, while useful, is never going to be enough to bring about sustainable development. We are at the limit of what government-to-government action alone can achieve. I take this, in fact, as a welcome indicator of progress. A strong private sector is absolutely central to prosperity.
The time is right to put commercial and investment relations at the centre of our joint agenda. A broader relationship is therefore necessary between Africa and higher-income countries, together with the international financial institutions that serve us all.
Governments can most importantly catalyse the private sector in three major ways, beyond the core task of maintaining macro-economic stability.
First, by making it as easy as possible to do business. Wherever it is found, even outside of government, bureaucratic red tape serves special interests, not the public interest. It contributes to poverty and slows progress generally. Therefore eliminating such barriers is a very important first step.
But administrative reform on its own is not enough, and so the second job for the governments is to reduce the cost of enterprise by building critical infrastructure through public-private partnership. Indeed, some of the most attractive and impactful investment opportunities are in the roads, bridges, ports, railways, power plants, water and sanitation infrastructure, and communications networks that Africa needs so urgently to drive its growth.
The third task is to work together to dispel the notion that Africa is inherently riskier than other developing markets. By integrating with the global economy, business conditions have gotten better. Contracts are respected and the continent is increasingly stable. Governance, transport, and internet connectivity have all significantly improved in recent years.
Companies are doing well in Africa, and not only in extractive industries. Opportunities in retail, construction, agribusiness, and financial services are very strong. Africa’s population will continue to expand, including the middle class, and our cities are some of the fastest-growing urban areas in the world.
The point is not to obscure the fact that Africa continues to face serious challenges, including from climate change. We still have an enormous amount of work to do. The message instead is that Africa’s problems are manageable so long as the private sector can be counted on to bring its scale and know-how to the task, supported by strategic collaboration among governments.
We ultimately share the same aspiration for our peoples. Our task as leaders is to build secure, fair, and inclusive societies, in which both citizens and migrants can reach their full potential as human beings. When access to opportunity is curtailed, for example by excluding women and youth, the result is lack of public trust, followed by instability.
Migration will always be a factor in the modern world. However, we can work together to ensure that migration is safe, orderly, and mutually beneficial.
Let’s challenge ourselves to do things differently and more quickly this time. Endless rounds of discussion won’t solve our problems. The sooner we arrive at clarity about the way forward, the better.
There is no need to overemphasise the need for Africa to continue to reform, as we are doing, and also for Africa to take full ownership of doing our business, as we build on these strong partnerships that have been offered by our friends from the developed world.
By H.E. Paul Kagame
President of Rwanda.