The seventh edition of the Africa CEO Forum closed on a high note in the Rwandan capital Kigali with two Presidents, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Democratic Republic of Congo’s Felix Tshisekedi pledging commitment to support a new era of regional and bilateral cooperation to create new business opportunities that will transform the lives of all Africans.

Both Presidents were present at the opening of the two-day Africa CEO Forum that was officially flagged off on Tuesday March 25, 2019 by the host leader Paul Kagame; with Togolese Faure GnassingbĂ© and Ethiopia’s Sahle-Work Zewde joining over 1800 business leaders from all over Africa.

In a special and historic 30-minute session moderated by the Africa Report’s Editor in Chief Patrick Smith, the two presidents addressed issues that have shaped the largely frosty bilateral ties between the neigbouring countries often affecting integration initiatives such as cross-border trade due to conflict and resultant insecurity.

Issues discussed by the two leaders included the future of bilateral ties between their two countries and whether long-lasting reconsiliation is possible; they also discussed opportunities to colloborate on tranformative projects such as investment in energy, mining and environmental protection.

Kagame noted that regional instability will not be solved by playing blame games instead recomending that constant engagement with peers, is best, until mutually satisfying solutions are found. To the people of DR Congo and the region, President Tshesekedi has promised a new era of politics that seeks to burry historical hatchets and identifying with opportunities that benefit all.

“We have to believe in him. He has made a promise to his people and the region. We must support him, ” said President Paul Kagame noting that Rwandan problems often end up affecting Democractic Republic of Congo just as DRC’s problems often affect Rwanda, because of their geographic proximity.

In the past, militia groups operating in DR Congo’s vast territory have been a source of security threats to Rwanda often resulting into bilateral confrontations with previous governments in Kinshasa. But in what he calls ‘a new era of leadership’ President Tshesekendi has pledged to deal with the issue to pave way for better ties with regional neighbours including Rwanda.

“Our countries have and will always be neighbors. We politicians are simply passing actors. We must therefore exercise our leadership responsibilities to stop the senseless conflicts that only distract us from investing our resources in important partnerships that would transform our people and countries,” Shesekedi said.

Among those important partnerships, President Tshisekedi pointed out his country’s vast untapped energy resources which both DRC, Rwanda can partner to boost their energy generation capacities. “We want to concentrate on what we have and share in common such as the gas reserves in Lake Kivu, electricity generation at Rusizi dam so that we have more power {to spur private sector investment}.”

On the ongoing Uganda-Rwanda impasse that has seen restricted movements on Rwandans seeking to travel to Uganda, President Paul Kagame assured delegates of his own commitment to engaging with his regional counterpart until a meaningful solution to the problem is found.

“We need leaders of good politics, we must also have leaders who are willing to cooperate with each other to solve problems,” President Kagame said adding that leaders should aim to rise above their personal dislikes of each other to pursue issues that benfit their respective citizens such as integration.

Both leaders agreed that conflicts undermine and hinder the spirit of regional integration and that it is the reponsibility of leaders to avoid or address those issues that lead to conflict.

Organised by the Jeune Afrique Media Group, the Africa CEO Forum begun on Monday March 25, 2019 and has been attended by 1800 business leaders, investors, and government actors from both Anglophone and Francophone Africa. Seen as the continent’s most influential networking platform for private sector actors, delegates participated in over 40 discussion sessions themed around how Africa can move from multi-lateral trade treaties to actual business opportunities. Deals estimated at worth over US$1billion have also been sealed during the two-day summit.