The Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, believes that “Africa, without a single doubt in my mind, is the continent of the future.” This very firm belief in Africa’s future was expressed by Rugunda during his visit to the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University on Friday, May 26, 2017. Rugunda added that his confidence and optimism came from the youth of Africa: “The young, educated population coming up have the brains, they are bright young men and women.”
The event was part of the Policy Leaders Forum series at the Pardee School that brings senior international policymakers to Boston University for conversations with faculty, students and guests. Guests included faculty from across Boston University and the Boston-area.
Rugunda has been Prime Minister of Uganda since 2014. A physician by profession, he held a long series of cabinet posts beginning in 1986. He served as Uganda’s Minister of Health from 1986 to 1988, Minister of Works, Transport and Communication from 1988 to 1994, Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1994 to 1996, Minister of Information from 1996 to 1998, Minister at the Presidency from 1998 to 2001, Minister of Water, Lands and Environment from 2001 to 2003, and Minister of Internal Affairs from 2003 to 2009. Subsequently he was Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2009 to 2011 and Minister of Health from 2013 to 2014.
Rugunda discussed some of the challenges currently facing the Africa, emphasizing how issues including climate change exacerbate poverty across the continent.
“The world today is facing significant challenges. What strikes me straight away is environmental challenges — issues of climate,” Rugunda said. “They are affecting us, and they have already had devastating impact on the African continent and the African people. Poverty is rampant in certain parts of Africa, and climate change is aggravating this problem of poverty.”
Rugunda also discussed the growing interconnectedness of the world, and how events in one region of the globe can have great effect across the world. He also emphasized his belief that Africa is the continent of the future, filled with well-educated, energetic young people. “We are all brothers and sisters. It’s only fair that you should care about your brother and your sister irrespective of the geographic location and complexities of color and other often divisive tendencies. We are all brothers and sisters,” Rugunda said.
Dr. Rugunda spoke at length about the refugee crisis in Africa, and particularly in Uganda which is facing a large intake of refugees from South Sudan. However, he expressed his firm commitment to working with the international community on providing support to refugees. He recalled that as a young student he himself became a refugee and his own medical school tuition was paid by the United Nation’s refugee program. Getting emotional, he said, “this is something I can never forget or be grateful enough for.”
Adil Najam, Dean of the Pardee School, welcomed Rugunda to Boston University and moderated the conversation at the Policy Leaders Forum. Rugunda mingled with the guests at a reception and then led a conversation with a standing room only audience at the Policy Leaders Forum. Amongst those present were Ruth Moorman (BU Trustee and Chair of the BU Board of Overseers), Sheldon Simon (BU School of Public Health Advisory Board member), Timothy Longman (Director, BU Africa Studies Program), Fallou Ngom (Director, African Languages Program), Dennis Hanno (President, Wheaton College), Julia Pettengill (Executive Director, African Food and Peace Foundation), Karen Ansara (New England International Donors), and many more.