Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame delivered separate lectures in two universities in the State of Massachusetts.
At the prestigious Princeton University, Raila put a powerful case for Africa, noting the continent has Â made economic strides in the last several decades and will expand further in coming years due to political advancement.
â€œIf the continent you have in mind is of dictators and looters, think again,â€ Odinga said.
To provide context for his argument that Africa has progressed and continues to move forward politically and economically, Odinga noted several economic and political indicators.
Over the past 20 years, real income per capita in Africa has increased over 30 percent, gross domestic product is expected to increase six percent per year across the continent, and 45 African nations are now considered democracies of varying degrees, he said.
Chinese foreign investment in African infrastructure and raw materials has also increased, proving that Africa is a developing hub of trade, Odinga argued. Furthermore, he said that Chinese investment is not an exclusive partnership, so other nations should follow Chinaâ€™s lead and enter Africa as well.
Though recent discoveries of vast oil reserves in over 12 African nations have triggered international predictions that more conflict lies in Africaâ€™s future, there are â€œequally compelling reasons to be hopeful,â€ Odinga said.
â€œAfrican nations are determined to invest oil money in infrastructure and human well-being,â€ he said, and added that â€œthe power of the gun no longer confers the pride it once did.â€
However, despite significant developments, challenges remain if growth is to be sustained, Odinga acknowledged.
African nations must address five key issues to move forward: expanding democracy, building infrastructure, facilitating inter-African trade, addressing poverty and combating corruption, he said.
The issues of corruption and infrastructure development, Odinga argued, are particularly important for African economies.
Corruption is a widespread issue that deprives Africa of an estimated $148 billion annually, he said. Similarly, the lack of infrastructure internally and on the international level limits economic development and inter-African trade that could contribute billions to African economies.
To solve these complex issues, African states need to take initiative, citizens of African nations need to speak out, and the international community must assume a role as well, he argued.
Odinga expressed his support for President Barack Obamaâ€™s $7 billion initiative to bring solar and wind power to Africa â€” a project entitled Power Africa â€” as a critical step in building much-needed energy infrastructure on the African continent.
More broad future goals, Odinga said, should include unification similar to that of the European Union, so that travel and trade among African nations can increase and benefit all.
The spread of technology and the growing African middle class prove that a unified Africa is not only possible but also developing right now, and is rendering national borders in Africa increasingly meaningless, he added.
On the state and international levels, however, the dialogue must shift from issues of sovereignty and nationalism to focus on forming a community, Odinga said.
Nevertheless, Odinga said that Africa is poised to enter the international stage as a location for economic investment and industry.
â€œThe Asian tiger has danced on the stage for far too long, the African lion is now here and saying, â€˜I am awake,â€™ â€ he said.
The lecture, â€œThe Awakening African Lion: Raila Odinga on the Continentâ€™s Transformations and Challenges,â€ was held at 4:30 p.m. in Roberston Bowl 016 and was sponsored by the Wilson School, the schoolâ€™s Innovations for Successful Societies and the Universityâ€™s Program in African Studies.
At Tufts University, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame was making an equally powerful case for Africa and his country. Kagame revisited the ‘inaction’ of the international community as Rwanda genocide was taking place.
As part of the 20th Anniversary of the massacre of over 800,000 tutsis and moderate hutus, Rwanda pitched for ‘never again’, telling the world that Africa learnt its lessons.
“What we learned is that people must be responsible for their own fate. If you wait for outsiders you will just perish,” said Kagame.
Kagame was touring universities around Boston to speak about the country’s recovery from its 1994 genocide.
Kagame maintainedÂ European powers played a role in triggering the conflict and that the international community failed to intervene to stop it.