I have been in Kigali the last three days, in the presence of leaders and influencers that only the Eisenhower Fellows can pull together. It has been an insightful 3 days in a city that has shown that Africa can have a future, we just have to create it ourselves. I heard submissions on the future of work, technology and governance on our continent. I came away from this beautiful city hopeful, educated and impatient for progress. I have seen and heard a President talk about progress, not in the future tense of cheap political promises, but in the present perspective of ongoing achievements. I have been awed by the articulate Ministers who are younger than any I have seen before, talk about their country with a passion that is unforced. Here they are, reaping the fruits of seeds sown in strife two decades ago, and it is beautiful to see.
Kigali is what they say it is… and more. It is as clean as they say, it is as planned as they say. And there is not a single motorbike rider without a helmet. Being a Ghanaian, seeing security personnel in so many public places was initially disconcerting… but they grow on one. Their non intrusiveness means they hang on the horizon of daily city life. Men in black with machine guns, watching everything, silently. Seeming spectators in a haven of industriousness, progress and nutritional abundance.
In the country of a thousand hills, the capital in the night is a blaze of lights shimmering off the surrounding, looming mountains, overhanging a hive of vibrant city center recreation.
There was talk of the open Africa. What our continent will become after the inter country free trade agreement comes into force in July. Ratified by 52 of the 55 countries so far, the new agreement aspires to merge our strengths in a borderless, unified trade entity of 1.2 billion persons who will be majority of the global work force in 50 years. In a world where every other continent is aging faster than Africa, it is our responsibility to ensure that we make the decisions today that enables our future workforce to be cognitively optimized adults. If the reality is that 50% of children under 5 years are malnourished today, then we are hamstringing the future potential of an entire continent, our future depends on them.
Just by forging together, Africa can create the biggest trade zone in the world, with enough space to fit USA, Europe India with space to spare. Just by forging together we can create a value overnight of trillions of dollars of cumulative GDP. It is a value that is really difficult to overlook on the global negotiating table, a relevance we will never have with splintered presentations from each of the 55 nations.
Forging together means strengthening continental institutions. It means strengthening governance, synchronizing tax regimes, restarting the conversation on common currency, optimizing already existing communications, banking, energy, security and other infrastructure. It means better strategies for dealing with emerging problems on the continent, whether it is Ebola in Congo, or civil strife in Sudan. It will no longer be acceptable that the response to internal emergencies be orchestrated off the shores of the sleeping giant and transplanted unto passive local governments.
The evolving responsibilities that leadership in Africa has to face for a better continent are astronomical. But where better to frame these challenges than in a country that has pulled itself out of the depths of a tragic genocide. Walking along the pavements etched into the rolling hills of Kigali, it was difficult to say no to how soluble our problems are. This was a place that smelled of death 25 years ago. This place had dogs eating the flesh of dead owners on streets, just 25 year ago. And here they were, hosting me in a Wakanda. Who was I to even whisper that the aspirations of a new Africa were impossible to reach?
How dare I?
By Teddy Totimeh a Ghanaian Pediatric Neurosurgeon on his recent work trip to Kigali, Rwanda