Good morning. Thank you for the invitation to join you today for the first Golden Business Forum.
I first want to extend a special welcome to all the visitors who have travelled here to participate. Please feel at home, and come back often.
The private sector is absolutely central to Africa’s transformation. For too long, development was seen as the task of governments and NGOs. Business was rarely included in the conversation even though the business people were always a significant part of that development. That attitude held us back both as Rwanda and as a continent.
But a decisive shift has been underway. Over the past 15 years, African countries have been among the strongest performers on the World Bank’s Doing Business index. Business leaders now participate regularly in African Union Summits in a meaningful way.
Most importantly, the pace of regional and continental integration has accelerated significantly. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is now in force, and trading will commence in July 2020. The Protocol on the Free Movement of People has been signed and the ratification process is underway. Once in effect, Africans will no longer require visas to travel within Africa, among other valuable rights.
You know, on this point, we need to understand that, one, how are you going to allow otherwise free movement for goods but you don’t allow free movement of people? Also, we have to understand that even with these restrictions on movements of people — visas, all those requirements — actually people have been moving. They move across borders whether you give them visa or not. They only choose which routes to take.
And some of these people are brothers and sisters, only that they live on the opposite side of what is known as ‘the border’. So it is up to us leaders, mainly political leaders, to really make it easy for all of us, because in the end, we benefit without exception.
Similarly, the adoption of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is set to eliminate internal barriers for African airlines.
These agreements are set to remake African economies for the better, generating new opportunities for the firms who are ready to take full advantage. Of course, we expect that African companies will be in the lead showing the way.
The progress at the continental level complements what we have been doing in our East African region. We are working to build shared railway and power transmission infrastructure. The Single Customs Territory and the associated digital applications have enhanced trade facilitation. These measures, among others, have already resulted in increased trade volumes within our region, and higher revenues.
I therefore wish to commend the Private Sector Federation for organising this forum, which we hope to see become a regular event. And Chairman of PSF— since you gave me an open invitation — I promise you I will be a regular attendee, whether in this office or outside of it if the invitation remains open.
And I wish to thank again the other participants from across Africa and those who came in from Asia — I am told there are a significant number of Chinese here present and from other places in Asia and also Europe — thank you very much. You are most welcome.
Africa’s continued growth requires global linkages, especially through business-to-business relationships. The more we trade with each other within Africa, the more we will be able not only to export to the rest of the world as well but also increase the understanding of each other and create a good relationship among our nations. Definitely, there is this direct correlation.
Governments are only part of the equation. We cannot do it without the private sector. The Continental Free Trade Agreement will only produce the results we expect if you — the business community — make it work for us.
That is the most important message I wish to leave with you.
I hope everyone will be able to enjoy the 22ndRwanda International Trade Fair as well before it concludes on Sunday. I also wish you a very successful and productive day as you continue your deliberations. Asanteni sana.