Strengthening Africa’s Resilience: Kikwete’s Perspective on Confronting Challenges and Embracing Opportunities

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Former President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania delivered a compelling keynote address at the recent African Leadership Magazine Persons of the Year Awards Ceremony, held on March 15, 2024, at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel in Addis Ababa. The distinguished African elder statesman, who was also honoured with the esteemed African Peace and Security Leader of the Year Award, expressed a blend of surprise and gratitude, emphasizing the collective efforts of Africans in shaping the continent’s trajectory.


In his key address on the event’s theme, “Building Resilient African Economies,” President Kikwete highlighted the formidable economic challenges facing the continent. He emphasized the resilience shown by African economies amidst global uncertainties such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and climate-related threats. However, he stressed the importance of visionary leadership and innovative strategies to drive sustainable growth in the face of these challenges.

While his award fell within the Peace and Security category, President Kikwete seamlessly transitioned to discuss the event’s theme, highlighting the intricate connections between economic stability, peace, and security. He drew upon insights from the 2023 African Economic Outlook to underscore the resilience exhibited by African economies, despite the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and external geopolitical tensions.


President Kikwete expressed concern over the escalating global food and energy prices, highlighting their inflationary impact on different regions of Africa. He emphasized how these price hikes exacerbate economic disparities and drive migration in search of better opportunities. President Kikwete lamented the dangers faced by migrants, particularly those undertaking perilous journeys across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea.


Furthermore, President Kikwete underscored the necessity for adaptive governance in Africa to foster competitiveness and sustainable growth. He emphasized leveraging the continent’s abundant resources and youthful population. President Kikwete advocated for visionary leadership, innovation, and a renewed commitment to unity and solidarity as crucial foundations for navigating Africa’s economic landscape.


In his words, “Governments in Africa must adapt so that they are able to remain competitive and foster sustainable growth. Our continent, Africa, possesses numerous advantageous factors, including abundant natural resources, a youthful population, and the ingenuity of our people. This is one area where Africa’s potential is limitless.” He added, “In my view, what is required at this pivotal moment is visionary leadership, innovation, and a revitalized commitment to the principles of unity and solidarity.”


President Kikwete transitioned to address the pressing challenge of climate change, underscoring its disproportionate impact on Africa, affecting agriculture, food security, water resources, and public health. Recent catastrophic events in countries like Mozambique served as stark reminders of the urgent need for action. Drawing upon reports such as the African Economic Outlook 2022 and the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report, President Kikwete stressed Africa’s imperative engagement in global climate initiatives. He called for increased investment in climate action and green growth, highlighting the potential role of the private sector in financing such initiatives.


Shifting gears, President Kikwete also tackled the critical issue of education in Africa. He emphasized the transformative potential of the continent’s burgeoning youth population when equipped with quality education and skills. Despite persistent challenges in the education sector, including high dropout rates and gender disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Kikwete expressed optimism about the African Union’s declaration of 2024 as the Year of Education. He underscored the importance of evidence-based policies and increased investment in education financing, commending organizations like the Global Partnership for Education for their role in advancing educational outcomes across the continent.


Reflecting on the African Union’s proclamation of 2024 as the Year of Education, President Kikwete remarked, “It is heartwarming indeed to note that the African Union (AU) has proclaimed 2024 as the Year of Education. This marks a historic milestone that reinstates education at the forefront of the policy agenda. We maintain optimism that the AU, in collaboration with key development partners, will successfully achieve enhanced outcomes throughout the entire education spectrum. These include improved education financing, evidence-based policies, and inclusive systems that prioritize quality foundational learning. Moreover, it is expected that there will be increased investment in education financing and collaboration with teachers, placing them at the core of these efforts. I feel proud that GPE played a part in the Year of Education at AU Summit.”





Addressing the health challenges in Africa, President Kikwete acknowledged the strides made in the health sector while noting the mounting burden of non-communicable diseases among the youth. He stressed the necessity for comprehensive approaches to tackle evolving health trends and bolster the resilience of health systems to outbreaks. President Kikwete advocated for strengthening health infrastructure, ramping up investment in research, and fostering closer collaboration with international health organizations to enhance disease prevention and response measures. These interventions, he emphasized, are vital for addressing immediate health threats and fortifying healthcare systems for the future. President Kikwete commended the African Union’s establishment of the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, underscoring its pivotal role in coordinating continental efforts to combat diseases. He urged continued support to bolster the institution’s capacity to fulfil its objectives effectively.


Addressing the democratic challenge in Africa, President Kikwete acknowledged the continent’s strides in embracing democratic principles, notably the increasing prevalence of regular and competitive elections. However, he underscored persistent challenges such as electoral management and respect for term limits, emphasizing the pivotal role of transparent and peaceful electoral processes for democracy and stability.


In discussing the rule of law, he recognized both progress and areas for improvement, particularly in ensuring judicial independence. Despite advancements in human rights and gender equality, the recurrence of military coups remains a significant threat to democratic ideals. President Kikwete called for condemnation and concerted efforts from African and international bodies to prevent and resolve such coups. He commended collaborative actions by the African Union, regional entities, and the international community in denouncing coups and supporting the restoration of democratic governance in affected countries.


Regarding regional integration, the former president highlighted its relevance for Africa, given its composition of small economies and geographical interconnectedness. He emphasized the pivotal role of regional economic groupings (RECs) in fostering continental unity and driving progress through innovative policies and projects. Initiatives like transportation networks and energy grids were cited as means to bridge connectivity gaps and stimulate economic growth and social development. The former president praised initiatives like the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) for promoting seamless connectivity across the continent.


The African elder statesman noted that “in the pursuit of economic emancipation, AfCFTA also serves as a route to rectifying economic inequalities in our continent. This can happen as AfCFTA ensures a level playing field for all member states, where both large and smaller economies can participate actively in the continental market and thrive”. The former president expressed optimism that AfCFTA will address the popular paradox where it is said that Africans ‘produce what they don’t consume and consume what they don’t produce.’ President Kikwete urged member countries to commit to concerted efforts in simplifying customs procedures, harmonizing standards, and eliminating bureaucratic obstacles to trade. He stressed the importance of addressing infrastructural challenges and building institutional capacity, with a call for active involvement of the private sector in implementing these interventions.


Highlighting Africa’s interconnectedness with the global community, the former president emphasized the need to recognize the continent’s role within the broader global landscape. He acknowledged the presence of global powers like the United States, China, European Union, and others, which offer both opportunities and exert pressures on Africa due to their substantial investments and strategic interests in the region. President Kikwete advocated for collaboration with international partners while maintaining independence to address Africa’s challenges effectively. He emphasized the importance of international partnerships, noting that while the global community can provide insights and support, solutions to Africa’s challenges must ultimately emerge from within African communities and societies, rooted in their understanding of their unique context.


In closing his remarks, President Kikwete expressed gratitude to the African Leadership Magazine for organizing the awards ceremony, emphasizing the importance of promoting positive narratives about Africa’s achievements. He encouraged the magazine to continue spotlighting stories that celebrate African successes, fostering pride and unity across the continent.


Additionally, former President Kikwete was recognized with the prestigious African Peace and Security Leader of the Year Award at the ALM African Persons of the Year Awards Presentation Ceremony, in recognition of his exceptional pan-African leadership, particularly in championing Africa’s dignity, amplifying its voice, advancing its agenda, and notably, his significant contributions to peace and security on the continent. Dr. Ken Giami, the Publisher of African Leadership Magazine, presented the award to former President Kikwete, acknowledging his outstanding achievements.


Accepting the award with humility, President Kikwete expressed gratitude not only for himself but also for the countless Africans contributing to the continent’s progress daily in various capacities. He acknowledged a diverse spectrum of contributors, ranging from political leaders and economic influencers to religious figures, security personnel, civil servants, and ordinary citizens, all united in elevating Africa’s living standards.


“I am deeply grateful to the African Leadership Magazine for the opportunity to participate in this significant event, celebrating the remarkable achievements and contributions of exceptional African leaders,” remarked President Kikwete, acknowledging the honour bestowed upon him.


Other honourees during the event included H.E. Adanech Abiebie, Mayor of Addis Ababa City, Ethiopia; Hon. Justice Martha Koome, Chief Justice of Kenya; Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, CEO of FirstBank Group, Nigeria; Jeanette Chanda Makgolo, Commissioner General of the Botswana Unified Revenue Service; Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, CEO of FirstBank Group; Dr. Jesca Nkwabi, CEO of KOM Group, Tanzania; Kennedy G. Bungane, CEO of African Bank, South Africa; Henry Saamoi Bio, CEO of International Bank Liberia; Daniel Asiedu, CEO of Omisic Bank Ghana; Daere Akobo, Founder/Chairman of Pana Holdings, Nigeria; Mike Kamungeremu, President of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC); and Ing. Dr. Clifford Braimah, CEO of Ghana Water Corporation Limited, Ghana; Akol E. Ayii, CEO of Trinity Energy Group, South Sudan.


Others included Dr. Biniam Belete, Founder of Mekedonia Charity Association; Dr. Zafivanona Lainkana, Director General of the Malagasy Customs Commission; Prof. George Openjuru, Vice Chancellor of Gulu University, Uganda; Engr. Worku Gachina, Director General of the Ethiopian Artificial Intelligence Institute; Dr. The Hon. Kailesh Jagutpal, Minister of Health and Wellness, Mauritius.


The ALM Persons of the Year (POTY) awards presentation ceremony is a flagship annual event of the African Leadership Magazine, which has been held consecutively over the past 12 years, convening policymakers, private sector leaders, civil society leaders, thought leaders and all stakeholders from across Africa and the rest of the world to discuss issues bothering on Africa’s socio-economic growth and development. The event has also become a prestigious platform for honouring people-centred leadership and Africans who are pursuing a pan-African agenda in their chosen fields of endeavour.


About African Leadership Magazine

The African Leadership Magazine is the flagship publication of the African Leadership Organisation (UK) Limited. For the past 16 years, the organization has been dedicated to promoting impactful leadership in Africa and showcasing African opportunities globally. Through its various initiatives, including quality Afro-positive content, trade facilitation, market entry solutions, business networking platforms, and public sector training and consulting, the African Leadership Magazine plays a vital role in driving positive change and development across the continent.


For media inquiries, please contact:

Ehis Ayere


Phone: +44 (0) 23 9265 8276

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