Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has taken over the African Union chairperson position from Guinea’s Alpha Conde who exhausted his one-year term.
Kagame joined the 30th African Union heads of state and government summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, immediately after attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.
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He met with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the WEF on Friday where they discussed the strengthening of US-Africa relations as he assumes the leadership of the AU.
The meeting follows an uproar over reports that indicated that Trump referred to African nations as “shithole countries”. He denied the reports after reactions from some African countries and the African Union demanding an apology and a retraction.
Trump said in a subsequent statement that “the United States deeply respects the people of Africa” and he looks forward to welcoming many of the African leaders to the White House.
Kagame said in his inaugural address as AU Chairperson on Sunday that: “We have helped perpetuate the narrative that Africa is a burden. This way of thinking has been around for decades. Fixing it won’t take a year, but it need not take twenty years either.”
He called on all Africans to be disciplined and focus on the continent’s common goals.
As the new African Union chairperson, Paul Kagame will serve for a year and supervise the African Union’s reforms set aside for implementation by members.
Pres @PaulKagame makes his inaugural speech in front of his peers as the new President of our Union for the next year. He is also supervising the #AUReforms on behalf of the Union. His personal commitment to this transformative agenda for the Continent remains key #30thAUSummit pic.twitter.com/oqI15o19Px
— Moussa Faki Mahamat (@AUC_MoussaFaki) January 28, 2018
Below is the full speech of the new AU head, President Paul Kagame.
It is a solemn honour, to accept the call to serve as Chairperson of our Union. Thank you for your double trust. First as the leader of the reform process now as the chairperson of our Union. I promise to do the best job I can. But I will need your full support.
President Alpha Condé is a professor, a teacher, and I can safely say that I have learned from him. I have also seen his very big heart for Africa. Please join me paying tribute to his impeccable service to the African Union
Africa’s defining challenge is to create a pathway to prosperity for our people, especially young Africans. Elsewhere this has been achieved through industrialisation. But the growth trajectory that transformed Asia is no longer a viable option for Africa. We waited too long to act.
Technology has evolved so rapidly in recent years that Africa’s window to follow that strategy is narrowing much more rapidly than previously understood. We are running out of time but we must act now to save Africa from permanent deprivation. We must create a single continental market, integrate our infrastructure and infuse our economies with technology.
No country or region can manage on its own. We have to be functional and we have to stay together. The financial and institutional reform of the African Union derives all of its urgency from these realities.
Africa has assets and strengths to build on, starting with the African Union and its tangible commitment to unity. This is an advantage which no other region of the world possesses in such abundance.
Unity must be our starting point as we work to re-define Africa’s plans and ambitions. These changes need to happen.
There’s no country on our continent that does not want to be part of a more assertive and visible Africa. The programmes, policies and priorities of the African Union contain the right tools for the job.
I pay tribute to previous leaders of the African Union and former Heads of State for paving the way forward. Because of their foresight, we are in a position to adopt three historic agreements of the highest importance for building Africa’s wealth.
Today we launch the Single African Air Transport Market, a major step forward for transportation. We are nearly ready to adopt the Continental Free Trade Area. It needs to be done this year.
By committing to break down these various barriers, we will send a tremendous signal in Africa and beyond that it is no longer business as usual. Our people deserve a brighter future. Their sacrifice and hard work should be rewarded with better lives for families and communities.
We are thankful to Heads of State who champion important themes and priorities of the Union at every Summit. I ask that we pay careful attention to their reports, and act on the recommendations offered.
I wish to commend the efforts of the African Union’s professional staff which often goes unheralded. Your hard work and talent are greatly valued. We are going to be asking you to do even more going forward.
Soon we will have the funds to support the African prosperity agenda. The levy on eligible imports is being implemented, the Golden Rules were recently approved by Finance Ministers and we have a more credible budget process in place.
We have helped perpetuate the narrative that Africa is a burden. This way of thinking has been around for decades. Fixing it won’t take a year, but it need not take twenty years either.
None of us would be wrong to feel angry about the time & potential we’ve lost. But at the stage we’re at, we should choose to respond with discipline & facts, in order to refocus us on our common humanity.
I wish to close with a message to Africa’s young people. Elders should be able to enjoy the pleasure, of telling you how hard they had it at your age, to better appreciate what you have, and inspire you to work harder.
However, too many Africans come of age in the same conditions as their parents and grandparents, and sometimes the hardships endured are even worse.
Our job is to make sure that every generation enjoys a better one than the last. Young Africans, men & women, you have a full role to play. For women esp whom we need to unreservedly accord their full rights & roles We cannot build Africa without you.