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Home grown solutions can drive innovation & development says President Kagame at Africa Innovation Summit

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President Paul Kagame attended the annual Africa Innovative Summit along with President of Cape Verde, Jorge Carlos de Almeida Fonseca and former Mozambican President, Joaquim Chissano. The summit brought together entrepreneurs, innovators, financiers, policy makers and researchers to discuss how to showcase Africa’s emerging innovation centres.

President Kagame in his remarks said that right politics can drive innovation. “Where innovation is about knowledge, mindset, use of technology, and doing things differently with the aim of finding solutions to problems of the day. So here I mean politics that is people-centred and focused on service delivery, as well as the conviction that things must change for the better. This drive to make sure things work, is what enables us to create an environment that nurtures innovation for today and tomorrow.”

He explained that for government, this means connecting with the needs and aspirations of citizens who are the agents and medium of innovation, and ultimately socioeconomic transformation.

“Our countries face complex and longstanding challenges, and many of the solutions that have been tried have not worked as they should. We have everything to gain by opening up to new ideas. In our quest to empower our people and enable them to fulfill their potential, we simply need to keep adapting. And, as it is often necessary, we need to do things differently,” said President Kagame.

He called on participants to look to the best practices in other African countries as well as Asia, but beyond this, President Kagame encouraged Africans to look internally, to “home-grown” innovations to solve development challenges.

“Many countries in Africa are already doing so in order to resolve their unique problems. Rwanda is no different. Twenty years after tragic and extreme circumstances, we are trying to make things work and make them right.”

“We have drawn from Rwandan culture and tradition as well as further afield, for innovations in dealing with numerous important sector problems, including in justice, education, health, agriculture, governance and poverty reduction,” he said.

President Kagame shared Rwanda’s experience with Gacaca, a Rwandan cultural practice used to solve disputes and maintain national harmony. “One of the key issues the post-genocide government in Rwanda had to manage was how to deliver justice in a country with a non-existent judicial system. Prosecuting all the hundreds of thousands of suspects in conventional courts, which didn’t even exist at the time, would have taken hundreds of years or been just impossible…We decided to modernise this Gacaca system to deliver justice, and promote truth-telling about the genocide crime that had happened.”

Between 2002 and 2012, 52,000 Gacaca courts across the country tried two million cases, at the cost of less than one billion dollars.

Beyond Rwanda, President Kagame highlighted examples like M-Pesa, the Kenyan innovation that has revolutionalised financial services and m-Pedigree, an application invented by a young Ghanaian to enable consumers identify counterfeit drugs.

President Kagame concluded that progress, in all sectors including the cross cutting sector of ICT had the ultimate goal of ensuring that “Rwandans along with other Africans, are equipped with the education, skills, confidence and opportunities to innovate and be competitive globally.”

The first annual summit is a partnership between the Cape Verdean Government with AfDB, ECOWAS, NEPAD and private companies in the country

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