Enlightened sense of self-interest is what was behind Rwanda’s decision to open its borders to all African nationals, President Paul Kagame has said.
The head of state said this yesterday, during the first day of the ongoing World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja, Nigeria.
In his remarks, President Kagame stressed that: “Common sense and enlightened self-interest are the reasons we opened our borders to all African nations.”
Currently, Rwanda stands among few nations that have opened their borders to all African nationals.
Since January last year, African nationals coming to Rwanda are given visas at all entry points, a milestone that has considerably boosted trade and investment.
President Kagame delivered his remarks while appearing on the same panel with Prime Minister Moussa Mara of Mali, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and President of African Development Bank, Dr. Donald Kaberuka for a discussion on the need for African nations to open their borders to each other.
Rwanda involves citizens in decision making
Addressing challenges that come with opening borders, the head of state stressed on the importance of involving citizens and added that benefits overweigh the costs by far.
“We chose to put in place infrastructure to address challenges that come with opening our borders. We haven’t taken any steps without having conversations with our citizens. We have been able to fill skill gaps and the benefits go to the people,” Kagame said.
President Kenyatta urged African nations to increase political will towards achieving free movement of people across the continent as well as prioritise complementarities over competition.
“We need to be facilitating business not obstructing it. If we facilitate business, we can transform our continent that much faster. We need to look at our neighbours not as competitors but focus on our comparative advantage. If your neighbour grows, so will your citizens.”
Eliminating trade barriers
During the session, Presidents Kagame, Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Mara also signed a call to action from the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Africa and the World Nations.
The statement called on African States to eliminate barriers to business, student and tourist travel across Africa.
President Kagame ended the day with the Grow Africa Invest Forum where he stressed the importance of agriculture.
“The importance of agriculture cannot be overstated. It has been there for long and will continue to be there. We are focusing on it to make sure we are maximising the benefits for ourselves and for our people,” Kagame said.
He also shared steps Rwanda undertook to rebuild the agriculture sector, saying: “Defining the problem properly, focusing on the real issues, connecting with the ordinary citizens and farmers and ensuring their participation based on their understanding of the importance of agriculture in transforming their lives. We have seen improved seeds, productivity methods, use of technology and improved land management,” he added.
Held under the theme, “Forging Inclusive Growth, Creating Jobs,” this year’s forum brings together more than 1,000 business leaders and government officials from across the world to discuss innovative structural reforms and investments that will create jobs and ensure sustainable growth across the continent.