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Leadership for African Progress: Unleashing Potential through South-South Cooperation

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Kingston, Jamaica: Officials from the Government of Rwanda stand for a photo-op at the conclusion of an assessment mission for Justice sector digitisation in Jamaica (July 2023)

Roughly 60 years ago, as countries across Africa achieved the independence for which they had struggled for decades, a new age dawned on the continent with the promise for self-determination and socio-economic prosperity. In the six decades that have followed, much has changed but, as evidenced by the social, economic and political challenges that the continent still faces, African countries are still yet to fully live up to the potential that independence occasioned.

Leadership plays a pivotal role in shaping the destiny of nations, and as we reflect on the what our countries and continent need to achieve the transformative potential that independence brought with it, it becomes imperative to explore the kind of leadership that can help Africa fully realize its promise.

Rwanda: A Case Study

In recent years, Rwanda, a nation scarred by the devastating 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, has emerged as a compelling example of what can be achieved with effective leadership and a commitment to progress. Rwanda has undergone a remarkable transformation in various sectors, setting the stage for sustainable development.

  1. Visionary Leadership and National Unity

One of the crucial factors driving Rwanda’s success is the visionary leadership that has prioritized national unity, reconciliation, and social cohesion. By embracing a collective national identity and transcending divisions that had been stoked by colonial powers and encouraged by post-independence governments, Rwanda has been able to foster an environment of stability and inclusiveness; one that puts citizens at the centre of the development discourse and gives them a voice in decision making processes. This unity has enabled the country to harness its resources and human capital towards a common purpose.

  1. Investing in Human Capital and Education

Recognizing that sustainable development starts with its people, Rwanda has invested heavily in education and human capital development. The country’s commitment to quality education and skills training has empowered its citizens, particularly the youth, to actively participate in the nation-building process. By nurturing a skilled workforce, Rwanda has laid the foundation for a knowledge-based economy and technological advancements.

  1. Embracing Innovation and Technology

Rwanda has embraced innovation and technology as catalysts for progress. The country has positioned itself as a hub for digital innovation, attracting investments in technology infrastructure and promoting digital literacy. Initiatives such as the Rwandan government’s partnership with technology companies to deliver healthcare services and the successful implementation of the world’s first drone delivery network highlight Rwanda’s commitment to leveraging technology for social and economic development.

In the three decades since 1994, the results of Rwanda’s approach are self-evident, be it in promoting gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, improving access to quality healthcare, easing access to government services through digitisation, or fostering economic growth through a conducive red tape-free business environment. Rwanda proves the transformative potential of leadership committed to unity, accountability, thinking big and – most importantly – finding solutions from within that are tailored to the people’s needs, context and realities.

Maximizing Africa’s Potential through South-South Cooperation

Africa’s quest for progress demands a fresh approach to leadership, one that is not only anchored in finding local solutions to development challenges, but also capitalizes on the proximity of shared experiences and strengths of fellow developing nations. South-South Cooperation offers a platform for African nations to exchange knowledge, share best practices, and collaborate on solutions to common challenges. By leveraging the collective wisdom of nations that have overcome similar obstacles, African leaders can accelerate development, promote sustainable growth, and foster self-reliance.

To fully realize Africa’s potential, South-South Cooperation must be embraced as a guiding principle. By fostering collaboration among African nations, this framework enables the sharing of experiences, resources, and expertise. African countries can learn from each other’s journey and replicate successful strategies tailored to their own contexts, while also contributing their own unique insights to the collective development agenda.

For those countries that have embraced South-South Cooperation, examples of success are already apparent. Kenya has achieved significant results in improving health and nutrition by learning from Mexico’s experience in diversifying corn products. Benin’s knowledge sharing partnership with Morocco has been crucial to its public administration reform.

Rwanda benchmarked on Burundi to build a successful community-based health insurance scheme which has been the biggest contributor to achieving near universal health coverage at 96%. The country has also has built a strong partnership with Chad, collaborating with the latter in both streamlining Public Finance Management through a successful implementation of the Integrated Financial Information Management System (IFMIS), and an ongoing drive to digitise Chad’s tax revenue management systems.

Nevertheless, more can be done to maximise Africa’s potential through South-South Cooperation.

  1. Trade and Economic Integration

South-South Cooperation can pave the way for enhanced trade and economic integration within Africa. By promoting intra-African trade and removing barriers to commerce, African nations can tap into their collective market potential, foster industrialization, and diversify their economies. That is why it is crucial that signatories to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) fast-track the implementation of the policy and regulatory frameworks necessary to reap the benefits of the economic initiative.

  1. Infrastructure Development

Collaboration through South-South Cooperation can facilitate infrastructure development, a crucial component for unlocking Africa’s economic potential. By pooling resources and expertise, African nations can address infrastructure gaps, including transportation, energy, and telecommunications. Joint infrastructure projects, such as the East African fibre optic cable system, have the potential to bridge the digital divide and spur economic growth across the continent.

  1. Knowledge and Experience Sharing

South-South Cooperation creates avenues for African countries to exchange knowledge and experiences, leading to the replication of successful models and the avoidance of pitfalls. By fostering a culture of knowledge sharing and mentorship, African leaders can collectively drive positive change.

 

Rwanda’s role in South-South Cooperation

The leadership Africa needs to fulfil the promise of independence lies in embracing the principles of South-South Cooperation. Spurred by the results yielded by a citizen-centred approach to development and a willingness to learn from others, the Government of Rwanda created an agency dedicated to streamlining its South-South Cooperation activities.

In addition to providing advisory support and technical cooperation to various partner countries such as Chad (Public Finance Management & e-taxation), Nigeria (e-taxation), and Jamaica (Justice sector digitisation), since 2018 Rwanda Cooperation has hosted over 400 delegations from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean for knowledge exchange visits and trainings in areas such as Ease of Doing Business and Investment Promotion, Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, e-Governance, Environmental Protection, and more.

The agency’s commitment to unleashing the potential of South-South Cooperation is also evident through its recent launch of the Rwanda Cooperation Governance Centre. The centre is slated to be a knowledge sharing hub for all foreign parties interested in gaining insights into Rwanda’s experience and expertise through Study Visits and Training Programmes on various topics, to advance the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Agenda 2063.

Chief Financial Officer, Jean Freddy Makuza, receives AUDA-NEPAD delegates at the Rwanda Cooperation Governance Centre for a weeklong study visit

The centre will also double as a space for all involved actors in South-South and Triangular Cooperation at the national, regional, and international levels to debate and exchange ideas on the policy frameworks necessary for the continued institutionalisation of South-South Cooperation on the continent and beyond.

 

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