Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame assumed leadership of the African Union during its 30th summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last week.
But what captured the imagination of many Africans was not his selection per se but, rather, his acceptance speech. Most of the African elite are hardly interested in the African Union because they don’t expect anything of substance to come out of it.
The union has long been seen as a club of mostly corrupt, inept and power-hungry men with nothing to offer Africa other than presiding over the collapse of their economies.
With that context in mind, it was refreshing that an African leader managed to capture the African people’s imagination with an electrifying speech at the African Union.
The gist of Kagame’s speech was that African countries must come together and integrate their economies if they don’t want to be left further behind by the rest of the world.
The Rwandan leader, who previously led a reform process of the African Union, used this occasion to announce the launch of the Single African Air Transport Market, which, if duly implemented, should lower the cost of air transport in Africa. He also expressed hope that the Continental Free Trade Area could be adopted this year.
“By committing to break these barriers, we will send a tremendous signal in Africa and beyond that it is no longer business as usual,” Kagame said.
Kagame also addressed the controversial issue of funding. For instance, it’s a shame that more than 50 years after independence, the African Union needs a donation from China to build its own headquarters.
According to Kagame, a levy on eligible imports coming into member countries has been approved by finance ministers and is being implemented. The proceeds will enable the African Union to fund its own activities and programmes.
Kagame’s speech brings hope of restoring the pride of Africans, particularly in light of US president Donald Trump’s characterisation of African countries as “shitholes.”
It’s up to Africans to transform our countries so that this dear continent stops being the laughing stock of the world. With leaders like Kagame, the African Union can play a constructive role in this direction.