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Rwanda: Africa Should Compete With the Best - KagameFriday, September 19, 2014 > 09:51:19
President Paul Kagame yesterday opened the 50th World Export Development Forum (WEDF) in Kigali with a call for African economies to compete with the best if the continent is to improve its global competitiveness.
Kagame said for African economies to get that competitive edge, leaders must invest in human capital to empower Africans to be more innovative and add value to what they produce for export.
"Building competitive modern economies requires smart investments in human capital, and productive knowledge, after all, real wealth is in the head, not in the ground," Kagame said.
The Forum is being attended by more than 800 delegates from at least 73 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.
Rwanda is the first African country to host the global trade forum.
Organised by the International Trade Centre (ITC), WEDF is dedicated to the development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which according to Arancha Gonzalez, the ITC executive director, account for 80 per cent of jobs created in least developed countries and are vital to inclusive growth.
"We have a target to create 500 million jobs by 2030 through trade, that's a sovereign figure but SMEs hold the key to those jobs," Gonzalez said.
To achieve such a target, Kagame said African countries should root for regional integration as one way of ensuring that SMEs play their role in job creation, giving East Africa as an example of what countries can do together to break barriers that impede trade.
"We have removed non-tariff trade barriers, as well as restrictions to travel and work. Through the Northern Corridor Integration Projects, we are also taking a regional approach to addressing critical infrastructure problems by fast-tracking the steps that we need to take," the President said.
Regional integration should work as a ladder to larger markets and the ITC chief said African leaders need to work on building the capacity of African SMEs to help them internationalise their operations through value addition, standardisation and forming partnerships.
Advice to Africans stakeholders:
President Kagame gave a three point advisory that he thinks should be endorsed by those aspiring to make it through starting SMEs, noting that it all starts with a positive change of mindset.
"The first piece of the necessary mindset is to believe in ourselves, the second is to never give up and the third is to see competition as an opportunity rather than a problem," Kagame said.
Lamin M. Manneh, the UN resident coordinator, said ITC's choice of Rwanda as the host of the first WEDF in the African continent was the right one.
"Under the leadership of President Kagame, Rwanda has indeed made remarkable progress with respect to building a stable and democratic society, attainment of high levels of real economic growth and significant poverty reduction as well as laying the foundations for sustainable long term development and through the country's Vision 2020 and the EDPRS2 [second Economic Development and Poverty Eradication Strategy], we believe that it is now on the threshold of a truly inclusive economic transformational process," Manneh said.