Kagame Takes on AU Chairmanship Committing to Break Intra-Africa Trade Barriers

President Kagame speaking in Addis Ababa after taking on the role as African Union Chairman

Rwandan President, Paul Kagame has been appointed the new African Union (AU) Chairman. He assumed the role on Sunday, during the 30th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethioipa, succeeding Guinea’s President, Alpha Conde.

President Kagame has been leading the reform process of the continental organization.

“It is a solemn honour, to accept the call to serve as Chairperson of our Union. Thank you for your double trust,” Kagame told African leaders in his acceptance speech.

“First as the leader of the reform process and now as the leader of our Union. I promise to do this with you and do the best job I can. Obviously, I will need your full support,” he said.

While he admitted that Africa had waited long to act in terms of achieving prosperity, Kagame said that this could still be achieved through creation of a single continental market, infrastructure integration and adoption of technology within economies.

He stated the need to fast track the adoption of the Continental Free Trade Area as a way of further integrating Africa.

“We are nearly ready to adopt the Continental Free Trade Area. It needs to be done this year. By committing to break down these various barriers, we will send a tremendous signal in Africa and beyond that it is no longer business as usual,” he said.

He also said that Africa needed to work towards ending foreign aid dependency and the narrative that Africa is a burden, but admitted that it was not going to be achieved in an overnight.

“We have helped perpetuate the narrative that Africa is a burden. This way of thinking has been around for decades. Fixing it won’t take a year, but it need not take twenty years either,” Kagame said.

He said that the unity that the different states share through the African Union was the biggest asset and a starting point to self reliance as well as redefining the continent’s ambitions.

At the same occasion, Kagame launched the Single African Air Transport Market which will create a single unified air transport market in Africa as an impetus to the Continent’s economic integration agenda. He said it was “a major step forward in transportation”.

The outgoing AU chairperson, President Alpha Condé of Guinea pledged to support Kagame in building the Africa.

“I am particularly glad to pass on the role to President Kagame who we also tasked with leading the reform process of the AU. It is our duty to continue to support him with ideas and concrete actions in our collective effort to build the Africa we want,” Conde said.

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