The Vice-President, Mr Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, has called for the adoption of a people-centred development paradigm that will not yield to the demands of special interest groups.
He said such a paradigm must also have a broad consensus devoid of any outside influence.
The symposium, which had the theme: “African Democratic Developmental State,” was designed to create a platform for rigorous intellectual deliberations and in-depth analysis of issues related to development.
The concept was inspired by the late Ethiopian Prime Minister’s commitment to ensure the state played a prominent role in building robust, accountable institutions to facilitate rapid sustainable development in Africa.
It was also considered as a viable alternative to the neoliberal model of the 1980s and 1990s.
Mr Amissah-Arthur called for the creation of political space for governments to pursue the long-term development interest of their people without yielding to demands from donors and special interest groups.
While urging African governments to follow their development agenda, he also called for the integration of the countries in the various economic zones in Africa to create alternative markets for their produce.
According to the Rwandan President, Mr Paul Kagame, the forum was a befitting tribute to the late Prime Minister Zenawi’s vision and intellectual legacy.
He said the late prime minister’s conception of a developmental state rejected the false choice of free market over state, arguing that there could not be any developed economy in the world without a strong state.
The president indicated that the orthodoxy of shrinking the power of the state to the barest minimum and replacing it with externally funded non-state actors such as NGOs left Africa with no viable path against poverty.
Mr Kagame affirmed that the issue of democracy had always existed and that true democracy belonged to the citizens and did not condone institutionalised corruption and division or rent seeking.
The Rwandan leader said Africa could not be bullied to accept policies that misrepresented the people and ultimately harmed them.
“African intellectuals, think tanks and others who should be speaking up must be fearless in articulating the continent’s stories and aspirations for the future,” he remarked.
The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Mr Hailemariam Desalegn, stated that every developmental state should be obsessive in bringing about radical transformation that improved the lives of their people.
He also said for the developmental state to succeed, there should be policy space from the donor community and international NGOs in the governance of the state.
Mr Desalegn cited examples of dominant party democracies in Japan and Sweden which had stayed in power for decades for which reason he opined that African countries could also have dominant systems of democracy.
The Executive Director of the Meles Zenawi Foundation, Madam Azeb Mesfin, commended President Kagame and the people of Rwanda for accepting to host the maiden symposium.
She expressed the hope that such high-level discussions by key policy makers would go a long way to contribute to continental conversation in search of different options for development.