Paul Kagame

PRESIDENT OF RWANDA

Rwanda 2015  I  Politics & Diplomacy  I  Top Story

BIOGRAPHY Born in October 1957, Rwandan military leader and politician, who, as leader of the Rwandan Patriot Front, defeated Hutu extremist forces to end the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In 2000 he became president of Rwanda. He studied at Makerere University in Uganda, before joining the forces of Yoweri Museveni, who overthrew Ugandan Presisent Milton Obote in 1986. 

I AM CONVINCED THAT AFRICA PRESENTS THE NEXT FRONTIER FOR BUSINESS AND OFFERS A PRIZE MARKET THAT EVERY INVESTOR SHOULD SERIOUSLY CONSIDER.

50th YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

This is a time for self-examination and reflection on our past, as well as looking forward to securing a much better future. During this decade, many African countries will mark fifty years as independent states. Fifty years is a short time in the life of a nation, but it is long enough to have made significant changes in the lives of our citizens. In Rwanda, for instance, it is only in the last 18 years that we have regained the dignity and identity that we lost twice – first, under colonialism and then, ironically, at the time of independence.

This century that some have dubbed the African century offers us immense opportunities and prospects that Rwanda and the Continent should seize and build on. For over a century, including the last 50 years of independence, Africa lost immense opportunities, largely due to unbalanced relationships within the global community that were often predatory and even abusive in nature. These relations, built on injustice and prejudice, were possible because some among our citizens, and even leaders, accepted and accommodated such bad practices, and in so-doing, betrayed and undermined what should have been our independence.

We are also conscious that along the way, external factors have adversely interfered in Africa’s governance, often supporting lack of accountability in governance and hence promoting illegitimate interests. For many years, our people were told and made to believe lies and myths manufactured from within and outside, distorting everything about who we were, who we should be, and what we should do for the healthy development of Africa, and specifically Rwanda.

PRIVATE SECTOR DEVELOPMENT

There is no two ways about it: the private sector will drive Africa’s economic growth and bring about the prosperity our people need and deserve. In Rwanda and in many other African countries, achieving and sustaining our economic development aspirations will depend on the extent to which we can mobilise both domestic and external private sector investments. We know that business creates employment that provides incomes to citizens, which in turn leads to social and economic progress of our nations.

In Rwanda, we have constructive dialogue between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, investors – as well as civil society and our development partners – with the aim of shaping the policies and regulations that impact business. This joint work has paid off. We have maintained macro-economic stability; we are successfully privatising government assets; we have achieved full liberalisation of our economy; and we have implemented significant reforms including in taxation, the business climate, as well as in our judiciary.

But I am convinced that we can, and must work harder to be more competitive in attracting the kind of private sector investment that will drive our prosperity. We must promote science, technology and research, not only as tools for business but also to nurture innovation necessary for faster economic development. We need to strengthen intra-African cooperation and trade. There is no reason why we should be the world’s suppliers of cheap commodities and yet remain a vast market dependent on the outside world for most of our consumption goods.

We should rapidly address our infrastructure shortcomings that range from insufficient energy, poor transport networks, to inadequate internet connectivity. As long as these challenges remain, we will not be competitive. It is also important to develop a conducive business culture underpinned by high standards of service. Finally, in doing all the above, our central objective should be to continuously ease the manner and cost of doing business in our countries.

FUTURE OUTLOOK

As we look to the future, we must recognise that independence, like liberation, is a process and with it come obligations and responsibilities across the board. We must build on the lessons of our fore bearers across Africa that demonstrated the values of sacrifice, courage, and resilience during their quest for independence. Today, new ways of perpetuating the old order have emerged in a subtle manner, often disguised as defence of human rights, free speech, and international justice.

To ensure the prosperity of our people, we must overcome these detractors with increased citizen participation, cooperation at all levels – nationally and internationally – as well as greater African economic and political integration. Our countries’ liberties and prosperity are very closely linked and mutually reinforcing. In Rwanda, as we begin the next stage of our journey, we will continue to entrench the values that have brought us this far – unity, hard work, mutual respect and shared responsibility.

As a responsible international citizen, Rwanda is committed to contributing to regional and global peace and stability. We are aware that we can travel safely, faster and farther in the company of others. And so, while our determination to build an independent country should not be compromised, we also recognise that we can guarantee our independence better with cooperation based on mutual respect and benefit. Today, Rwandans are addressing our own challenges even as we have sought and received support from others.

I am convinced that Africa presents the next frontier for business and offers a prize market that every investor should seriously consider. Looking over the next fifty years, we must acknowledge the role of our young people as the new drivers of our transformation. It is our duty to pass on to them a better Rwanda and Africa than we inherited. But our young people must also understand that they have a responsibility to take our countries to the next level.