It is great privilege to be here in Kampala at the Africa Now Conference with my fellow colleagues and leaders of Africa, influential business actors and important academics and experts on development. I am grateful to President Yoweri Museveni and the Government of Uganda for the warm welcome and hospitality accorded to me and my delegation. I also congratulate the organizers of this conference – the Africa Strategic Leadership Center for making it very successful event.
The title of this conference “Africa Now” is unique because most analysis tends to focus on what Africa was and can be. While these are important, it is the present efforts, successes and lessons that inform the future and from which we can build on from the past. We must move forward with not just hope for the future but confidence in our present endeavors. This is what President Yoweri Museveni was referring to when he spoke of the need for transformation in our continent. I fully agree with his analysis that we should move from quantitative production to qualitative production. My sister Samia Suluhu, the Vice President of Tanzania also referred to the need for inclusive development and leadership where women and youth play a key role in continent progress.
It is now that we need the leadership to catalyze Africa’s socio-economic transformation; It is Now that we need to Forge a future that works for African youth and women; It is now that we need to understand and mitigate the cost of Climate Change on Sustainable Economic Growth; It is Now that we need to find local, national and global solutions to common challenges such as trade and security and, finally, it is Now that we need to connect our economic future through digital and physical infrastructure to achieve an integrated, Secure and Growing Africa.
Excellences, Ladies and Gentleman,
have had the privilege of attending different sessions in the conference and listening to many ideas, policies and proposed actions and I can sincerely say that I am hopeful that we can achieve our continental aspirations if we strengthen our partnership. No challenge is insurmountable, no mountain too high and no distance too far, if there is common purpose and the determination to cement this on our part. African solidarity has always been based on meaningful collaboration and, I belief that we have the necessary institutions, people, vision and leadership to achieve the Integrated, Secure and Growing Africa that we can accelerate to achieve our development. In his invitation letter to me, H.E. President Museveni stated that he was “An eternal Afro-Optimist” and I want to let him know that we all share his love of, commitment to, and pride in our beautiful continent.
However, we must also be realistic and accept that for Africa and its diverse people to fulfill their great potential and escape from the poverty trap and underdevelopment, we must collectively have very serious discussions and a continental strategy regarding economic transformation, investment, growth as well as employment for the Youth. Our continental experience informs us that our greatest economic assets and advantages, like our youth and natural resources, can often become a detrimental issue if we do not investment in them and manage them well. We can no longer afford this in a globalized world where every other continent is pulling together and getting ahead and we are already working to just catch up.
Leadership and common responsibility are the key pillars of reform, change and progress. The Integration, Security and Economic Growth of Africa are the responsibility of each and every political and business leaders as well as citizen. In other words, we all need to be proactive in moving this beautiful, rich, but often challenged, continent forward. The era of “waiting for the State to do everything” is thankfully over. Governments, business leaders and citizens must work together closely to create a new social contract based on a forging a future that works for all the people. We must become more engaged and innovative in the way we do business, politics and benefit from continental and global partnerships. We must impartially measure the impact of our policies and think together because together we are stronger in every way. Africa’s opportunities are boundless. We have among the youngest population in the world, valuable land and sea resources and a historical tradition of partnership and solidarity.
Moreover, because of technology and improving basic public services such as education and health, Africa has an opportunity to leapfrog in many areas key to our common development including manufacturing, Transportation, Logistics, and the Digital Economy alongside traditional areas of strength like agriculture. Intra-African Trade is simply a must if we are to prosper as a continent. We need to be able to make, market and sell African made goods and services to ourselves first and foremost. The reality is that Africa is our main market and where our producers and entrepreneurs have the most advantage and where we can maximize opportunities through supply chain activities and impact investing. More importantly, the initiation and development of Continental Free Trade will transform the socio-economic future of Africa and its people with new opportunities, jobs, skills and reverse the damaging brain drain. I am proud to announce that Somalia was one of the first signatories of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
However, to succeed in this objective, Africa must be better connected by road, rail, air and sea. We need enormous investment in infrastructure to connect our people to future continental and global opportunities.
Alongside infrastructure, we must invest in key enablers and sustainers of economic growth. The Enablers are competitive economic policies and the creation of a continental wide conducive investment environment which benefits all stakeholders, most importantly, the countries and their people.
The questions we must ask ourselves are:
Are African goods and services able to move freely across borders? Is our financial sector interconnected? Do we have the policies and effective governance to mitigate their potential risks? Do we have the skills and Energy to produce on a large scale? Do we have the education and skills to ensure we sustain and benefit from economic growth? Do we have the mechanisms of cooperation to strengthen our continental partnership for progress?
Alongside these important questions, we must also seriously consider how to mitigate risks and mobilize institutional investors’ capital for development as well as how best we can use the International Financial Institutions in joint cross border projects. These valuable and well-resourced organizations must think innovatively and, in the case of the Least Developed Countries many of which are on the African Continent, be fragile sensitive.
The Sustainers, on the other hand, are investment and cooperation in all forms and the protection of our valuable environment which provides us all with life and opportunities.
Excellences, Ladies and Gentleman,
Let me conclude my remarks by saying, of course Somalia has gone through tough times for the last 30 years. As result, a lot of our people ended up in refugee camps in different parts of the world. One of the areas they came is here in Kampala, Uganda as well as in many parts of Africa. However, I will tell you one for sure, when you are poor or homeless that does not prevent you from becoming self-sufficient and that is a lesson that everyone can learn from the Somali people. I would like to give you one example; we have about 50 Somali refugees here in Uganda. Many of them are self-sufficient even though they came here as refugees slowly they end up as to be entrepreneurs. They started their own business with the help of the people and the government of Uganda under the leadership of President Museveni for his Pan-Africanism ideology.
Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests
It is a must we achieve a Secure, Integrated and Growing Africa for our people. It is their right and our duty. However, it is clear to me from our continental experience that we can achieve zero tensions and no conflicts to silence the guns, to more create jobs while growing our economies. As Africans, we must finally turn potential into reality and transform our collective future.