Kigali and the thousand hills

Francis Mupazviriho recently in KIGALI, Rwanda —
Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda famed for its lush thousand hills, meandering roads which create a spectacle, became the focal point of high-level discussions as officials from the African Union (AU), United Nations (UN), African Labour Ministers, senior Government officials, diplomats, civil servants from different ministries, academics, the civil society, media and the private sector converged at the Kigali Convention Centre for the Africa Public Service Day (APSD) commemorations held from June 21-23 2017.

Few years ago, my first insights to the East African country were first drawn by Nigerian academic and writer Dr Chika Ezeanya who wrote a legendary piece on her experiences there, particularly on the strict environmental regulations of the country.

The second article which came to mind was written by The Sunday Mail’s former business scribe, Augustine Moyo, some four years ago or so when he wrote a moving reflection Kigali.

Initially, this piece had meant to take that path, as yours truly almost got carried away, forgetting the task ahead of at least abridging the talking points which emerged during the APSD symposium which concurrently ran with exhibitions from AU member states.

But I digress.

Understanding APSD 2017 and AU Agenda 2063

The cord between the 6th edition of APSD commemorations held in Kigali and the AU Agenda 2063 is apparent. In 1994 the then Organisation of African Union (OAU) celebrated the first APSD commemorations in Tanjier, Morocco. Ever since the event has been celebrated biennially by the AU while member states hold commemorations of the event each year, on June 23. Kenya hosts APSD in 2019.

Zimbabwe belatedly commemorates APSD tomorrow in Masvingo. The tentacles of this event have further transcended the African continent with the UN having set aside June 23 as Public Service Day.

Back to Kigali. High level delegates from across Africa had descended to celebrate the contributory role played by civil servants in the national processes. And what best way to do that than African countries exhibiting their innovations!

Team Zimbabwe comprised of an inter-ministerial/ departmental delegation whose dividends paid off after the country won the top prize for the Best Pavilion and Exhibition Booth.

Public Service Labour and Social Welfare Minister Hon Priscah Mupfumira said Zimbabwe was humbled by this award.

“We are humbled by this award bestowed on us by AU member states who gathered in Kigali for the commemorations.

This speaks volumes of the work done by team Zimbabwe in preparing for this key event which started off as a fixture of the African Union (AU), but is now on the United Nations calendar as well.”

“The exhibitions were testimony to the work being done by civil servants across different ministries.”

Beyond the galore of exhibitions and triumphant moments by countries who won awards for innovations were serious discussions by AU member states which had gathered for APSD commemorations which seek to celebrate the contributory role played by civil servants in the national processes.

The theme for the AU commemorations held in Kigali was: “Entrenching a citizen-centred service delivery culture through partnering with the youth for Africa’s transformation”. The following were the sub themes:

Partnering with the youth to build a responsive and sustainable Public Service: Mrs. Awa Rivet (Senegal).

Leveraging ICT skills for quality service delivery: Hon. Phillibert Nsengimana (Rwanda)

Promoting self-reliance and empowerment of African youth for socio-economic development: Mr Raphael Obonyo (Kenya)

Nurturing a culture of professionalism and ethical values in Africa’s Public Service: Hon Protais Musoni (Rwanda).

During his official opening of the event Rwandese Prime Minister Mr. Anastase Murekezi who stood in for President Paul Kagame said the commemorations had to be understood with a futuristic lense, particularly the AU agenda 2063.

“The APSD is now a strategic event on AU calendar and this is the time for us to reflect on our common African aspirations and commitment in providing citizen centred services in line with the theme for 2017.”

“We must remind ourselves of the continental integration agenda which will take us through the next 50 years.

Commissioner for Political Affairs at the African Union (AU) Mrs Minata Samate Cessouma said the development drive of African states had to bring on board the youth who constitute the bulk of the population.

The inclusion of the youth at the AU processes was evident in many ways. Young people came to showcase their start-ups in line with goal towards enhancing service delivery.

There were great stories from the youth. Some, like a Kenyan graduate have start-ups seeking to make it easier for hospitals in conducting their daily work.

This in many ways depicted the continuing thrust of the public and private partnerships which have started at national levels but have metamorphosed into the continental discourse. Mindful of the task ahead and in line with Agenda 2063 in which the role of ICT’s and youth is central, the Kigali commemorations also became a moment of introspection.

In terms of leveraging ICT skills for development, Zimbabwe had a range of products which it show cased to the world. These included: the Harmonised Cash Transfer (HCT) for vulnerable persons; the Human Resources Management Information System (HRMIS); which is an application which one can download on Google Playstore. It is used for employee administration; the bio-metric verification and mobile money transfer for pension payouts being run by the National Social Security Authority (NSSA); e-health systems for electronic health records and other related internet based technological services and community information centres; which foster inclusion in use of ICT’s especially in rural areas where internet penetration rates are lower than in urban centres.

What became evident was the verve for innovation and conscription for ICT’s by the public service across Africa. It was evidence of the African public service in enhancing service delivery, not only out of the need to fulfil constitutional provisions but also the need to set benchmarks in line with future expectations now canonised under Agenda 2063.

Hosts Rwanda demonstrated their online systems which cater for, among other things: business registration, tax declaration, court case management and an innovation for managing drivers, in which points are deducted.

Other participants who included Madagascar, Kenya, Rwanda, Namibia and South Africa among other came to parade a range of innovations in line with not only the theme for APSD but as well as Agenda 2063.

By making particular reference to the “African” public sector, member states have distinctively arisen to the task ahead at a time when ICTs are now a must in the service delivery process. Digital technologies are now a frontier for economic development. Evidently the ease of doing business is now central to African states’ endeavours.

Of the four plenary discussions it was however the ones on the youth which dominated; particularly given the population demographics across Africa.

Questions about the meaning and term of economic empowerment, the strides thus far and the challenges among others were some of the issues raised.

The sentimentality of the debate mirrored the place of the youth in driving agenda 2063. It also became evident that African states are in the midst of enacting proactive policies as a coping strategy.

For example Senegalese panelist Djigby Digane talked about the call for investment in technical subjects; as a way to bridge the skills deficit, given the entrenchment of the arts and commercial subjects. It is anticipated such approaches will usher development across African states who have to tap the dividend of the youth’s human capital index.

In the plenary discussion, Zimbabwe also shared its Vocational Training Centres (VCTs) across the country, created with the sole purposes of skills training towards the youth. How to empower the youth sustainably, became another critical point of discussion. Guinea’s Minister of youth expressed concerns about the fact that 80% of youth businesses disappear after five years. There was also a call on empowering the youths in “value terms” and not through “financial means” alone which have largely become synonymous with proactive programs for the youth. Whether empowering the youth in value (through skills and other means), or through financial ways, there was a strong emphasis on sustainability.

It was recommended that there was need to review youth policies, enhance education and training and develop comprehensive plans among numerous other recommendations. Kigali 2017 therefore became the microcosm of the AU’s 2063 blueprint which is now a reference point across different summits in Africa.

Rwandese Minister of Public Service and Labour Judith Uwiziye finally presided over the declaration which made commitments to the theme, and its four sub themes in line with the goals of service delivery especially in the futuristic context of Agenda 2063.

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