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Replacing role of the state with externally funded NGOs left Africa in poverty – Kagame

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Paul Kagame - Rwanda President
Paul Kagame – Rwanda President

Rwanda President, Paul Kagame says Africa’s poverty is as a result of replacing the state with the role of non-state actors like non-profit organizations (NGOs).

Speaking at the first Meles Zenawi Foundation Symposium on Development in the Rwandan capital Kigali Friday August 21, 2015, citing what Zenawi, who died three years ago stood for, Mr. Kagame said the revolutionary leader of Ethiopia first, rejected the false choice between the state and the market.

“Every developed economy, without exception, is the fruit of a free market, and a strong developmental state, working in tandem. The orthodoxy of shrinking the state to the bare minimum, and replacing it with externally-funded non-state actors (here you can say NGOs), left Africa with no viable path out of poverty,” he said.

“Not to forget the fact that some of the problems of our continent are really self-inflicted. A third way had to be found and fortunately there has been some progress in this regard,” he adds.

Kagame argued that, secondly Meles’s starting point was that democracy and development are actually inseparable.

“There is no trade-off, no choice to be made between them. Indeed, they are almost the same thing. While there may be some examples of non-democratic developmental states, they should not be the example for Africa, with all its diversity,” he said.

Kagame believes that one cannot make sense of the development gains that have been recorded in parts of Africa without understanding how deeply its citizens are involved in governance and accountability.

According to him, democracy and development both depend on good politics, in which there is no room for the powerful special interests who benefitted most from the predatory states created by colonialism, and propped up by Cold War cynicism.

“Yet lately, the word ‘democracy’ has been twisted to bring developing countries, our own, to some kind of order, especially those which have sought to liberate themselves from these prejudices. Our democratic advances are constantly negated, and in actual fact subverted,” he said.

Mr Kagame noted that the youth of Africa are constantly being told that the continent’s backwardness is the fault of their leaders and cultures.

“They are told that an external buffer is needed to protect Africans from their governments and even from themselves. It is time for clarity,” he said.

He stated, “the democratic ideal has been at the heart of our various liberation struggles from the beginning, and it has guided us ever since, as we build new modern institutions. Ours is the true democracy of citizens, not the false one of institutionalised corruption and division (or ‘rent-seeking’, as Comrade Meles usually said). We cannot be bullied into accepting policies that misrepresent us and do us harm in the end, as we have seen over many years,” he said.

Adding, “If some of us took up arms to fight for our future, it was so that our children would never have to do so,” he said.

He called on African intellectuals, think tanks, and others who should be speaking up, to do so “be fearless in articulating our stories and our aspirations for the future,” he said.

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, in his remarks said there is the need for African countries to build social capital and called on African leaders to share their developmental concepts and ideas with the people.

According to him without being tested to see if it would work, neo-liberalism was forced on Africans with the argument that the state should be at arms length with the business community.

He however said a democratic state can both be democratic and undemocratic, adding that it is possible to achieve what he calls democratic developmentalism in Africa.

The Symposium was organized by the Meles Zenawi Foundation, hosted by the government of Rwanda was supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB).

It was under the theme: “African Democratic Developmental State.”

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, in Kigali, Rwanda

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  1. Development of Africa must be an ultimate topic for e
    very Africa leader, in sighting to involve youth in development. I like everything abt Africa.

  2. Africa development must be an ultimate topic for e
    very Africa leader, in sighting to involve youth in development. I like everything abt Africa.

  3. Beatrice UFITINGABIRE


    The content of this article is an absolute reality, however, if todays’ slavery is manipulated consensual, then whom to accuse? The end result will be positive is we (Africans), not only some if not one leader, understand it. Only then we can find an absolute solution which not more than freeing ourselves under condition that we accept the temporally pain that is to go with it in addition so loss of lives of victims of course..