President Paul Kagame has made a case for easing movement across the continent for goods and services, saying it will have a huge role in addressing a majority of the youth’s concerns.
The President made the remarks at the inaugural YouthConnekt Africa Summit, which concluded in Kigali yesterday.
The two-day forum, which convened some 3,000 delegates from about 90 countries, sought to find solutions to youth concerns such as unemployment and entrepreneurship.
The United Nations estimates that about 60 per cent of the continent’s youth population is currently unemployed.
President Kagame said addressing some of the most pressing challenges does not require financial resources but political will.
Among the solutions include easing free movement of people and services across the continent.
“We must take advantage of the things we can do quickly that require only political will. For instance, none of the Africans in this room should have to go through the hustle of visa application to live, learn or do business with fellow Africans,” he said.
Kagame said it was contradictory that there is a lot of talk on the importance of integration and, at the same time, countries were denying each other visa-free access.
By delaying free movement across the continent, Kagame said, Africa was denying itself an opportunity to increase trade and investments, which can empower young people.
“It is not a technical issue, it is a political issue. There must be political will for countries and regions to work together,” he said.
The big challenge
The 2017 African Visa Openness Index report, by the African Development Bank, showed that free movement across the continent is still a big challenge.
The report showed that African passport holders continue to face visa hurdles when travelling to African countries despite the potential benefits of visa free movement such as increased investments and industrial growth, increased job creation, larger market for African goods, increased integration and enhanced intra-regional trade.
Going by the report, an African passport holder requires a visa to access 54 per cent of countries on the continent with only 10 countries not requiring a visa for Africans.
The President called on the youth to be active citizens in the continent’s development, saying most of them have grown in better conditions compared to their parents.
“Whatever we want as Africans for our continent, we will have to fight for it. Africa’s prosperity will be built through patient work and commitment by us,” Kagame said.
“You own our collective future, through technology, entrepreneurship and, above all, dignity.”
Speaking on a panel session with President Kagame, Jack Ma, the founder and chief executive of Alibaba Group, Asia’s largest e-Commerce platform, called on the youth to take advantage of the opportunities of trade online.
He said that rather than bring his business to the African continent, he would support the development of e-Eommerce platforms in Africa.
Among the avenues of his support include taking about 200 young African investors to his firm’s headquarters to learn the latest skills in the industry.
He also committed to start a $10-million enterprise fund to support emerging e-Commerce firms on the continent.