African of the year

The 2018 African of the year award goes to outgoing African Union Chair and Rwandan President, Paul Kagame ‘ Africa’s Miracle Man’. The buzz surrounding Kagame peaked my interests in the topic and a series of questions lingered too long for Umoja Bingwa to just accept the status quo. Firstly what is The African of the Year Award, what does it really mean to be African and how does Kagame best fit the above criteria ?

Starting with the African philosophers of the 20th century such as W.E.B Du Bois – the first African American to receive a PhD from Harvard in in 1895, Trinidadian Lawyer , Henry Sylvester- Williams ,Martinique philosopher Frantz Fanon and Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah formed the global movement known as ‘ Pan Africanism’. “Pan Africanism – is an ideology that seeks to end both the physical and mental enslavement of people of African descent around the world and of all people living on the African continent – regardless of their skin colour, creed or ethnicity ” (Roessler and Verhoeven , 2016 ;p 31 ). The intellectuals mentioned above defined Pan Africanism in the 20th century and an aspect of being ‘African ‘ is somewhat showed in the definition as people living on the continent regardless of their pigmentation.

You may be thinking ‘ UB – your intro is about the 2018 African of the year, why live in the past and cite people from the late 1800’s ‘. Well as outdated as it may seem, this definition occurs as a theme in the 2018 Walt Disney – Marvel super hero movie Black Panther winning 3 academy awards. The main conflict is between T’Challa and Killmongers views on how Wakanda failed the African Continent and the rest of the world by only advancing Wakanda even though they have more power and technology to globalize and help the world rather than their age-old isolationist policies. This theme still exists in 2019 and at the same time this fictional piece was marketed as an ‘African’ movie but fits the 20th century Pan African discourse.

Charles Ngwena,  Professor of Law at the University of Pretoria contests these views on Africanism in his book What is Africanness?  This book contests nativism, which has held Africans hostage since both the inventors of Africanism (colonialists ) and the emancipatory reactions to the colonialists (Pan-Africanists ,negritude ,Afro centralism and African-Radicalism ) . Ngwena argues that even the colonialists and emancipatory black/ African discourses that stand in opposition to each other still share the same paradoxical logic of identity. Such as generic Afrocentric beliefs that promote chauvinism and exclusionary tendencies (Ngwena 2018 : p7-9) . He later introduces Gikandi’s view on Africanness in an Afropolitan context.

Afropolitanism: ‘to be Afropolitan is to be connected to knowable African communities , languages and states . It is to embrace and celebrate a state of cultural hybridity – to be African and other worlds at the same time (Ngwena 2018:p 141) . This is the closest we can get to Africanness because it’s not static like the colonialists and nativists and can reveal cultural hybridity rather than exclusion. Of course, he does find issues in terms of the class of people who are privileged to emulate the term, but the aim of the book was not to reformulate identities but rather critique their implications through orthodoxy and genericness.

Forbes Africa 2018

The Africa of the year award is awarded by the All Africa Business Leader Awards (AABLA) in partnership with CNBC Africa. This award is set to honour business leaders who shape Africa’s economy. All that curiosity to come find that this is based on the geographical sense and the economic impact to the continent. Seeing ‘African’ of the year my curiosity peaked a minor phenomenological study on ‘Africanness’ , the results that came with the study didn’t factor business or economy in their efforts to identify Africanness . So, the headline should of read African Business Leader of the Year. Alas for argument sake lets go with African of the year of 2018 to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. I still wonder why President Kagame, who has been in power for two decades and here’s what I found.

Unlike South Africa’s problem with Alph Lukaus reviving people from the dead, Kagame has banned 6000 churches in Rwanda to curb  ‘illegal intentions’ or false prophecy. Rwanda is ranked 2nd In Africa and 29th by the World Bank report. Rwanda has reduced reliance on donations and domestically funds 84% up from 36% two decades ago. The economic growth rate of 8.9% in 2017-2018 ” At the center of the tiny country’s recovery is President Paul Kagame who led the revolt that ended the genocide. ” -Collins Mwai

” We have been able to show that entrepreneurship, business and intra-Africa Trade that have been lacking are actually more important than focusing solely on the market outside of the continent … It helps people come together and we keep reminding them your neighbour is more important than someone far away from you. We are all neighbours one way or the other.” Paul Kagame 2018

2018 African Of The Year – President of Rwanda Paul Kagame

President Kagame’s efforts to promote capitalism and youth led start ups , with the YouthConnekt initiative that encourages the youth to be innovative and cash prizes are given to stimulate innovative entrepreneurship. In March 2018 the concept of a single African market was summited in Kigali Rwanda    for the African Continental Free Trade Area and 49 countries have signed .

Every time I meet him ( Paul Kagame )  I am amazed at his courage , leadership , the care for his people and his country; he is a president who believes in the future. Jack Ma

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka – Executive Director of UN Women said ” We appreciate president Kagame’s strong support for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Under his leadership, women have played a significant role in Rwanda’s development, with the country this year breaking its own world record of 68% women in parliament and achieving a gender-equal cabinet . “ 

What I have read on Kagame has stark contrast to what I have found out. It’s all pleasant and I did not know the pleasant. I have read about the violent Kagame , like many African strongmen  the Kagame, whom  is feared by opposition.

Adam writes the Hutu militia responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda sought refuge in Congo while the Rwandan army carried out a counter genocide by pursuing these militia into the Congo and helping themselves to more than $250 Million worth of Congo’s natural resources in one two year stretch alone. ” Multinational corporations have also been in on the take. Today these companies have been eagerly extracting Congo’s diamonds , gold ,timber ,copper , cobalt  and columbium tantalum or coltan ‘. Human Rights organizations reported a death toll of almost four million including the two million that are refugees, most are ordinary men ,women and children caught in the crossfire .”Mass rapes by HIV- infected troops ,schools and hospitals looted”.(Hochschild, 2019 ; p316). Here is a Youtube link that features Adam in the documentary

Although I do not think the interviewer asked the questions that would demystify Kagame’s history but here is what he had to say, “So , 20 years has been a journey of difficulties but I think of the good stories too, and that is what encourages all of us. We have had tragedies and at the same time , the efforts of bringing people together through reconciliation , through deciding which direction we take for our future… The people have responded with energy , with positivity and that has not come to nothing it has actually borne fruit“- Paul Kagame 2018

According Martin Meredith President Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo sought to assert his independence by dispensing his Tutsi backers (Kagame) and turning to Hutu militia for support . ” Kagame ordered the Rwandan army to invade and overthrow him , Uganda supported Rwanda in trying to overthrow it for elite groups of army officers , politicians and businessmen Congo offered rich pickings“.(Meredith,2015 ;p 641). In 2002 a peace deal was made, however proxy forces sponsored by Rwanda and Uganda continued to plunder Eastern Congo. Patrick Karegeya a Rwandan national was murdered on 2014 in Sandton hotel in South Africa. He was establishing an opposition party to Kagame’s regime before he was strangled to death in his hotel room at the Michael Angelo.

SA police ordered to explain 5-year delay in Rwandan dissident’s murder probe

Well now that there is a better understanding of Africanness, the criteria for the AABLA of the year award. Suppose the African of the year award would go to anyone outside of business leadership, probably not allowed to call it the African of the year award, Afropolitan of the year for 2018?  Is Paul Kagame still the winner. Is he the super hero Africa needs and would Rwanda be the Wakanda that Africa has? I believe Akon would be one of the contenders.   Akon has provided solar power to 18 countries in Africa while creating 5,500 jobs. No known blood on his hands, who would you suggest for Afropolitan of the Year?


Fabricius, P. (2019). Patrick Karegeya: SA police ordered to explain 5-year delay in Rwandan dissident’s murder probe. [online] Daily Maverick. Available at: [Accessed 21 Mar. 2019].

HOCHSCHILD, A. (2019). KING LEOPOLD’S GHOST. [Place of publication not identified]: PICADOR.

Meredith, M. (2015). The fortunes of Africa. Simon & Schuster Ltd.

Mwendera, K. and Vanek, M. (2019). 2018 African Of The Year – President of Rwanda Paul Kagame. [online] Forbes Africa. Available at: [Accessed 21 Mar. 2019].

News24. (2019). Rwanda closes thousands of churches in bid for more control. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Mar. 2019].

Ngwena, C. (2018). What is Africanness?.

Verhoeven, H. and Roessler, P. (2017). WHY COMRADES GO TO WAR. [S.l.]: C HURST & CO PUB LTD.

Zorka, Z. (2019). Beyond Solar Power: Akon’s ‘Akoin’ Aims to Build Africa’s New Economy | The Source. [online] The Source. Available at: [Accessed 21 Mar. 2019].

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