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Without security, all progress in Africa is not sustainable, the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, said on Thursday, May 22, during the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Kigali, Rwanda.
President Ondimba was appearing on a high level panel during a session titled “Have your say! Dialogue with Leaders”, where he joined other Heads of State including Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda to respond to questions from participants.
Reacting to one of the questions, Ondimba said that despite Africa’s enormous resources and stable economic growth, insecurity in several parts of the continent is a disruption to sustainable development.
“We must be practical. Talking about trade and other nice things are more soothing to the ear than security. But it won’t be until we have sufficient security against internal, regional and continental threats that we can be sure of real development,” Ondimba said.
“After securing security, we can be confident that our achievements will be safeguarded, and also have the capacity to construct infrastructure such as regional railways, airports and highways that will facilitate trade and help us to integrate faster.”
Yoweri Museveni of Uganda added that although the continent has made commendable growth, which no other continent matches in the last 50 years, there is still a dire need for true ambition and political will.
“Statistics say that Africa has high rates of growth in spite of lacking infrastructure – no roads, no electricity. That shows you the great potential on this continent. But the problem of growing without infrastructure is that the sectors which create more jobs, like manufacturing, are not the ones that grow,” Museveni said.
“I have always believed that industrialization is the sure way through which we can develop. And, as you can see, we in East Africa are fast-tracking initiatives that will ensure that our borders are painted away. Between Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, many exciting projects are ongoing in railway, road construction and facilitation of regional trade.”
According to Paul Kagame of Rwanda, countries should do away with old colonial tendencies which emphasize national development ahead of regional integration.
“We rise together or fall together. It is not going to be enough for one country to do so well when others are doing so badly.
“We have suffered colonialism and external influences that define us as Anglophone or Francophone. Don’t worry about new colonial efforts because the old ones have not yet left us. What we should do now is to construct infrastructure that stretches out of our national jurisdictions,” Kagame said.
“Our weaknesses in Africa have become a source of temptation for others to abuse our resources and dictate terms. We should give more respect to our natural resources and ensure that before they benefit anyone else, they benefit our citizens first.”
Although it has abundant natural resources, including a population of 1.1 billion, rich soils, vast minerals and oil, Africa remains the world's poorest and most underdeveloped continent.
These are a result of a variety of issues including corruption in public sectors, tribal and political conflicts, an untapped private sector and high levels of illiteracy.