Geo-Economics and Politics

‘We are moving forward’: African presidents at the #SpecialMeeting24 call for inclusivity and collaboration

Anwar Ibrahim, Prime Minister of Malaysia; and Africa's Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President of Nigeria; and Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda

From left: Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President of Nigeria, and Anwar Ibrahim, Prime Minister of Malaysia during the Opening Plenary: A New Vision for Global Development session at the #SpecialMeeting24. Image: World Economic Forum/Deepu Das

Julie Masiga
Communications Lead, Centre for Health and Healthcare, World Economic Forum
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  • Over the past 10 years GCC countries have collectively invested over $100 billion in Africa.
  • These investments and partnerships are timely and much needed because, according to the Africa Finance Corporation, Africa has a $150 billion infrastructure funding gap.
  • African leaders were among those attending this week's Special Meeting on Global Collaboration, Growth and Energy for Development.

This week, presidents Bola Tinubu of Nigeria and Paul Kagame of Rwanda participated in the Special Meeting on Global Collaboration, Growth, and Energy for Development in Riyadh. Their participation coincided with the development of economic ties between Africa and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.

This evolving economic partnership holds immense potential for both regions, promising significant advancements in diversification, investment and sustainable development. The fact that companies in the GCC have already pledged $53 billion in investments in Africa, earmarked for critical projects addressing food security, the energy transition, and infrastructure development, is a testament to this potential.

And it’s not just the GCC that’s keen to invest in Africa. Danish shipping company AP Moller-Maersk signed a deal to invest $600 million in Nigeria’s seaport infrastructure on the sidelines of the Special Meeting.

While Africa welcomes and appreciates this investment, the presidents were unequivocal in their message at the Special Meeting: Africa is open for business, but equity, inclusivity and collaboration must be at the heart of every transaction.

Watch their Opening Plenary: A New Vision for Global Development session here.

Putting people first

Speaking on Rwanda’s role in regional and international trade, Kagame spoke about the complexities of Rwanda's history, geography and economy, saying that the country embraces its African identity and is keen to engage with Africa’s sub-regions. The president spoke about the importance of inclusivity for a country like Rwanda that was almost irretrievably damaged by the 1994 genocide.

He emphasized the importance of inter-African collaboration within the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), saying he was optimistic about Africa’s future as a central player in global affairs. Closer to home, the president attributed Rwanda’s progress to significant investments in its people, accountability and good governance.

We put people at the centre of everything we’re doing. That means investing in our human capital. We have invested in education, health and, above all, technology.

Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda

With reference to Africa’s dealings with the rest of the world, Kagame highlighted the North-South divide as an issue that needs to be addressed urgently, especially considering the global shocks that affect all countries.

He referenced the AfCFTA as an instrument of unity on the continent, a vehicle with the potential to bring Africans together and move them forward. Here again, he spoke on the importance of collaboration, urging the international community to recognize the value of investing in and with Africa.

At the same time, he called on African states to shed the "victim mentality" and leverage the continent's vast resources for the benefit of its people.


Decisive leadership

President Tinibu took office when the Nigerian economy was struggling. One of his first acts as president was discontinuing fuel subsidies, a move that saw the cost of living rise sharply. Speaking at the Special Meeting, Tinubu said that his decision to remove the fuel subsidy was not one he came to lightly but was necessary to save the country from bankruptcy.

While the effects of withdrawing the subsidy were felt by the majority of Nigerians, the president said that measures were put in place to cushion the most vulnerable in society.

Further afield, the president commented on the state of security in West Africa and the Sahel, urging the world to pay attention. In his capacity as the chairman of the Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS), he denounced the unconstitutional changes of government in the region and called on nation-states to de-escalate conflict and prioritise intra-regional trade.

Tinubu said it was imperative to focus on growth, stability and economic prosperity for the West African people. He cited poverty in the Sahel and ECOWAS region as a key driver of political unrest and called on leaders to ensure the region's prosperity by ensuring peace, stability and economic growth.

Capital formation necessary to drive the economy, such as agriculture, food security, innovation and technology, must be an inclusive programme for the entire world. No one must be left behind.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President of Nigeria
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