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Rwanda President Urges Commonwealth Countries To Prioritize Youth Development


(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame has harped on the need for Commonwealth countries to harmonize and translate common visions into action to build back a shared future, prioritizing the youth.

President Kagame gave the charge while speaking during a panel discussion at the opening plenary of the on-going 2022 Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF), which commenced in Kigali, the Rwanda capital city on Tuesday.

The Forum, a run-up to the official opening of this year’s Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (CHOGM), is the first and largest in-person gathering for governments and businesses across the Commonwealth since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hosted jointly by the Rwandan government and the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, this year’s business forum addressed the CHOGM 2022 theme,

“Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming”, with a focus on a global reset, dealing with the pandemic’s impact and the Commonwealth’s role in rebuilding the global economy.

The Commonwealth is home to a growing membership of 54 countries, covering 2.5 billion people (60 percent under 30), representing a third of the world. The combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Commonwealth community stands around $13 trillion and is estimated to reach 19.5 trillion in 2027.

Kagame, who was commended by fellow panelists for transforming Rwanda, said: “We seem to understand what we need to do. We should just do it”.

He also called for a balanced Commonwealth and harped on the need for cultivate and nurture a sense of belonging and togetherness amongst all Commonwealth countries.

“We need to keep making sure that when you talk about the Commonwealth, you mean the commonwealth; not just being common to a few, so everyone in the Commonwealth family feels they are part of it. So even those at the lower level feel not left behind”, he added.

Alongside the Rwandan leader and the African Development Bank Group President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, other panelists were Australian mining businessman, Andrew Forrest, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Climate Data Cooperative, Subak, Amali Chivanthi de Alwis MBE, and Managing Director and Executive Vice President at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group, Makhtar Diop.

Notably, this year’s CBF opened with a resounding call for action to do more to spur intra-Commonwealth trade, protect the environment and invest in young people for an equitable common future.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said intra-Commonwealth trade exports had rebounded from $700 billion in 2019 to an estimated $760 billion in 2021, the highest ever recorded in value terms.

Scotland projected that intra-Commonwealth exports would grow steadily over the next five years, surpassing the $1 trillion mark by 2026. “We hope to put trade back on track following the economic setbacks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the spillover effect of the Ukraine conflict”, she reassured the audience.



She further noted that there was substantial progress in boosting intra-commonwealth trade and investment towards the goal of $2 trillion in intra-commonwealth trade by 2030.

Recognizing the presence of the African Development Bank President, she extolled Adesina’s leadership of the institution and its achievements.

The Africa Development Bank chief who spoke of the Bank’s ‘Job for Youth’ scheme and its ‘Coding for Employment’ programme, explaining that these programmes greatly contributed to youth becoming leaders.

Dr. Adesina also noted that the future of the Commonwealth must be well-shared across its 54-nation family, must be youth-driven, and climate-resilient. He said it was also important for everyone to have equitable access to vaccines.

“We have to prioritize young people in all our financing. We must create youth-based wealth. What the youth need is access to skills, education and finance”, he added.

He commended President Kagame for showing exemplary leadership in Africa. “A common future needs good leadership to make the people believe they can build their life where they are. I don’t believe the future of the youth in Africa lies in Europe. I don’t believe it lies in Latin America, Asia, or anywhere else. It lies in Africa growing well, able to create quality decent, competitive jobs for its young people”, he stressed.

The IFC’s Diop said Commonwealth member countries must have ambition and vision and also go on to implement them. He said the IFC had initiated products to support trade finance in Africa and help de-risk investment.

“Trade financing will be essential to building a resilient ecosystem of value chains in Africa. We have a lot of businesspeople who don’t know the continent as we know it. They would like to put their money into the economies but ask us to derisk it, so we’d use our resources to de-risk it to attract more investment”, he further explained.

He equally expressed confidence in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area as one of the ways to boost exports from Africa.

Australian miner and businessman Forrest backed calls to invest in education for children. “We’ve got to invest in boys and girls for equal education outcomes”, he said.

Africa, according to him, must also adapt to green energy, taking advantage of its vast renewable potential. “Let’s capture that for the kids. Let’s capture that for the economy. Let’s capture that for quality”, he added.

For Subak’s Chivanthi de Alwis, the Commonwealth must protect the planet and invest in education to give young people the skills for the future.


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