President Paul Kagame is presiding over a two-day National Dialogue Council (Umushyikirano), which will lay the ground for Rwanda’s trajectory to become a developed nation by 2050.
While opening this year’s Umushyikirano, President Kagame said that the government’s Seven Year development program will be discussed, “and this will be the beginning to take us to our vision of becoming a developed economy by 20250.”
Kagame outline a checklist.
First, he said, “We have to maintain our good [development] path, but also continue fixing what went wrong,” Kagame said.
“The state of our nation is something we should evaluate constantly. Is the pace of development as fast as we would like? Are we looking after the well-being of all Rwandans without leaving anyone behind?” Kagame said.
This is a big plan, a big vision and a tall order that requires a pragmatic thinking. How will Rwanda get there?
Kagame offered a few strategies.
“We have to prioritise the quality of education,” he said.
He said Rwanda must offer education to all its citizens; education that delivers the best quality, education that is relevant to the current global trends.
He said the desired education must provide the right skills and capabilities for building an advanced economy Rwanda envisions to achieve.
“We need to examine, conduct research and apply the latest technologies to achieve what we want,” he adding that, “this is must be everyone’s responsibility underpinned against the right mindset.”
The President reminded participants that Rwanda has overcome big challenges before. “Some challenges seemed insurmountable, but we went through them and we continued rebuilding ourselves. And as years pass by, we gain more capacity.”
Before unveiling the vision to the gathering at Kigali Convention Centre, Kagame delivered the State of the Nation Address.
Right off the bat, Kagame revealed that agriculture grew by 8% in 2017, despite challenges such as the armyworm and drought in some parts of the country.
Cooperation among government institutions has made delivery of inputs to farmers more timely and reduced corruption in the system. Increased access to irrigation has also helped raise productivity.
The hard work of citizens, the president said, has really paid off and, “I wish to thank you for this and ask you to keep it up.”
“It is encouraging to note that graduates are also finding entrepreneurial success in agribusiness. I call on more young people, to consider the opportunities in this sector.”
Conference tourism strategy is bearing fruit, he said. Rwanda hosted 169 international meetings in 2017 alone, bring in tens of thousands of customers to hotels, restaurants and the national airline; RwandAir.
In other areas, he said, Rwanda decided to invest in domestic seed production, to improve quality and also reduce dependence on unreliable supplies from abroad.
Economically, there was US$1.5 billion in new investment and infrastructure deals registered in 2017, including the new international airport, which is under construction in Bugesera.
The Made in Rwanda strategy has already boosted production. Compared to the same period last year, exports have hence increased by 50%, while imports declined by 3%. As a result, trade deficit fell by more than 20%.
More than 8,000 new manufacturing jobs were registered in 2017 and we will continue to build on this, he said.
Mineral exports have bypassed the value of all other exports, combined, attributable, in part, to more effort in value addition and new exploration.
He also pointed out that electricity supply continues to grow as government plans to work with industrial investors to ensure a competitive tariff.
This, says Dr. Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a political scientist and researcher who is attending the event, indicates that, “Rwanda is determined to stay the course in as far as working towards being free of aid is concerned.”
While the interactive event is expected to dig deep into more complex today, Kagame noted that, “Without doubt, our country has grown stronger and more united. But we can keep doing better…the expectations of Rwandans are growing fast. This is not a problem, so long as it pulls our ambitions higher, and fuels a culture of always striving to do more and better.”
Over 2000 participants from across Rwanda, development partners and Rwandans from diaspora are attending.