Kigali, 21 August 2015

President Kagame has called on Africans to change the narrative and start taking charge of their destiny. While speaking at the official launch of the Meles Zenawi Foundation Symposium on Development in Kigali today, President Kagame paid tribute to the late Meles Zenawi, the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia who he said rejected the false choice between the state and the market and the separation of democracy from development.

“He rejected the false choice between the state and the market. Every developed economy, without exception, is the fruit of a free market, and a strong developmental state, working in tandem. The orthodoxy of shrinking the state to the bare minimum, and replacing it with externally-funded non-state actors, left Africa with no viable path out of poverty. Not to forget the fact that some of the problems of our continent are really self-inflicted. A third way had to be found and fortunately there has been some progress in this regard. Second, Meles’ starting point was that democracy and development are actually inseparable. There is no trade-off, no choice to be made between them. Indeed, they are almost the same thing.”

President Kagame said one cannot make sense of the development gains that have been recorded in parts of the continent without understanding how deeply the citizens are involved in governance and accountability.


“Democracy and development both depend on a good politics, in which there is no room for the powerful special interests who benefitted most from the predatory states created by colonialism, and propped up by Cold War cynicism. Yet lately, the word democracy has been twisted to bring developing countries, our own, to some kind of order, especially those which have sought to liberate themselves from these prejudices. Our democratic advances are constantly negated, and in actual fact subverted. Ours is the true democracy of citizens, not the false one of institutionalised corruption and division or rent-seeking, as Comrade Meles usually said. We cannot be bullied into accepting policies that misrepresent us and do us harm in the end, as we have seen over many years.”

While appearing on a panel alongside the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, and the Ghanaian Vice President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, which sought to discuss the concept of The African Development State, President Kagame pointed out that in the debate about democracy, the questioning is more often than not a one way affair.

Why is the state good for you and bad for us? What it really means is get rid of the state and I will fill the void for you. People who say the market is good and the state is bad for you should be asked if they have a state. Those who tell us the state is bad for us mean that they will fill the void and become the state and run the markets. The problem is people provide the definition thinking of their own interest, not where it will be exercised. Predatory states shouldn’t be a name tag only given to bad situations in Africa but to all bad situations wherever they are. Are bad leaders a monopoly of the African continent? Do you only find bad leaders who lack vision on the African continent? Aspirations and struggles to improve well-being take place everywhere. We can avoid bad leaders through these very struggles”

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn stated that thebiggest threat for Africa is poverty and that Africans were determined to fight it.He defined the developmental state as full commitment to eradicating poverty and accelerated, broad base, inclusive growth.