President Paul Kagame has reiterated that the Covid-19 pandemic has been an extremely difficult period of stress, highlighting the fact that families and small businesses have experienced a great deal of loss.
And, while the worst may be behind us, Kagame said, the road back to normal is still long.
“That is why we have a responsibility, amidst all this disruption, to maximize the strengths and assets that Africa does have,” he said.
Kagame was speaking at the 6th edition of the Global Business Forum Africa that kicked off on Wednesday, after a one-year delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Covid pandemic has been an extremely difficult period. That is why we have a responsibility, amidst all this disruption, to maximize the strengths and assets that Africa does have.” President Kagame | Global Business Forum Africa #GBFAfrica2021 pic.twitter.com/lJerQpz7r9
– Presidency | Rwanda (@UrugwiroVillage) October 14, 2021
This year’s edition is hosted by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and is a platform for global business leaders to discuss the opportunities on the continent.
The two-day event, holding at the Expo 2020 Dubai, revolved around the theme; reset, restore and renew with the newly launched Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement highlighted.
According to President Kagame, it is imperative that global leaders strive to seize the new opportunities that have been generated to work with partners to build a more prosperous and cooperative future for all.
Africa is the largest free-trade bloc
In his remarks, Kagame pointed out that Africa is now the largest free trade area in the world, in terms of the number of countries, since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.
“Africa met this crisis well-prepared in at least one important respect: The African Continental Free Trade Area, which was decades in the making, had just entered its operational phase in July 2019,” he said.
Also important is the 15th ratification of the African Medicines Agency treaty that was deposited with the African Union. The treaty, Kagame said will therefore come into force next month.
This, he asserted, will be a game-changer for Africa’s ability to produce high-quality vaccines and medicines for our continent.
However, “the progress of African economic integration will mean more trade and investment between Africa and the rest of the world, not less.”
He also said that despite the challenging era, the United Arab Emirates, and Dubai in particular, have long played a key role in linking Africa to the wider global economy.
“This inter-connectedness has been mutually beneficial, and we wish to continue to deepen those collaborations.”
Pandemic relatively under control
While it remains that no country or continent has been spared the damaging effects of the Covid pandemic, Kagame said that as vaccine distribution improves globally, the pandemic is becoming more manageable.
For instance, he said, travel and commerce are beginning to recover.
“However, we are not going back to the same economy that we knew in 2019. Some of the changes will be profound and lasting.”
Among other examples, the head of state said that the crisis in international shipping and transportation is already generating new thinking.
Similarly, the Fourth Industrial Revolution innovations in artificial intelligence and 3D printing, for example, are making it possible to make products almost anywhere, at a competitive cost.
But, he argued, “Manufacturing and supply chains will need to become more resilient, more local, and more technologically advanced.”
And thanks to advances in engineering, and good partnerships with companies like BioNTech and others, life-saving vaccines and other pharmaceuticals will increasingly be produced in a decentralised fashion, including in Rwanda.
These changes, according to the Head of State, were already underway before the Covid pandemic, but are now likely to accelerate.