For two days, between November 22 & 23, students from Burundi, Rwanda and Congo gathered at the French Institute of Burundi in Bujumbura, Burundi for the first ever Students For Liberty Conference in Francophone Africa. The event gathered over 300 participants who learnt about the ideas of freedom, entrepreneurship, innovation and social change and the role of young people in breaking the barriers of prosperity and opportunities in these ‘troubled’ countries.
As Aimable Manirakiza, the host of the conference noted: “the youths are the driving force in promoting social change to achieve a better future in the Great Lakes region where citizens have a poor understanding of limited government, the rule of law, respect for private property and free enterprise.”
Dr. El Hicham Moussaoui, Director of the French liberal think tank “Libre Afrique”, who touched on “How to stave off the curse of natural resources in Africa with economic freedom” told the participants that Africa is being killed by its leaders and not Westerners as evidenced by the behavior of the African governments. Moussaoui charged African countries and especially the younger generation to promote economic liberalization and avoid customs overcharging that pushes the closure of African economies.
Dr. Patrick Mardini, President of Lebanese Institute for Market Studies (LIMUS) illustrated how to fight poverty in Africa through liberalism. Mardini cited an example of a man who after fishing in the lake, consumes 2 fishes, sells 1, saves and finally buys a boat – thanks to free enterprise. He stressed that this is possible if there is respect for the private property rights of the person who owns the fish and the free access to the fish market. This market access will allow the entrepreneur to invest and create jobs for more people. Mardini concludes that Africa needs a limited government, respect for private property, the free market and free enterprise to achieve social change in the Great Lakes region on the one hand, and also in Francophone countries.
Dr. Emmanuel Martin, during his teleconference session, explained the nexus between freedom and development to achieve social change in Africa. Christophe Seltez, Regional Director of SFL France also remarked on how to defend the liberal ideas in a given society where he testified of the importance of the ideas of freedom for individual and social change.
The conference also featured presentations from other speakers that include Gisèle Dutheuil, Irvine Floréale Murame, an entrepreneur, economist and activist Faustin Ndikumana, Dr. Sururu Adolphe, Alain-Amrah Horutanga, Bella Shabani, Hassan Mahwege among others.
Participants learned from the best on classical liberal ideas and free markets. New friendships were forged and new perspectives for a freer future in the Great Lakes region also formed.