The secret behind Rwanda’s good progress in building a business friendly environment started with a conviction that no one else but Rwandans had to do it for themselves and that there were no other alternatives.
This is what President Kagame told African entrepreneurs on Saturday during a two-day meeting of the annual Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme in Abuja, Nigeria.
He was speaking at a presidential dialogue featuring Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, President of Senegal Macky Sall, DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, and Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.
Here, more than 5000 entrepreneurs in attendance got to closely engage with political leaders and ask them questions.
This was also an opportunity for African entrepreneurs to know the role of government in creating a business-conducive environment.
President Kagame said mindset change was essential because there were times in history when people were used to sitting back and wait for things to be done or offered to them which undermined their creativity and innovation.
“The first thing we had to deal with, was the mindset of our people. Because, there is a history where people were used to sitting back and things being offered to them for free from abroad, or whatever things done for everyone,” he said.
Kagame told the leaders that after this, there is need to invest in skills and infrastructure, followed by laying foundation for ease of doing business, entrepreneurship, encourage creativity and innovation which cannot happen unless and until you invest in a conducive good governance environment.
“That is how we tried to do it, and we were under pressure because of where we are coming from and we had to convince ourselves that we can do it and that there is no other alternative. We started doing our best. That is how we have made good progress,” Kagame said.
Moreover, Kagame said that they also tried to do it because there were no alternatives for them.
“Looking back in time for our country, we sank so low that there was no lower point to go. The only way to go was up and up we tried to go.”
He further said that they had to do their part, and use later assistance to make sure that they strengthen themselves, base and then build on that.
At the same time, he added, they had to look for ways of doing things differently from what people were used to. In actual fact, it was not politics because he said they were used to the politics of saying the right things and going very little about that.
“Therefore, in the change of mindset, people are made to say, that development is something they must do and that prosperity is something they must achieve. So, how do we get there? We had to create that vision of how we move forward,” he said.
Meanwhile among other things he said contributed to Rwanda’s success was also that they promoted women in all areas of life and maintaining gender balance
He said that women make up 62% of the Rwandan parliament while women ministers make up 50%. In Rwanda’s judiciary, 45% are women.