It is undeniable that Rwanda has made and continues to make tremendous progress, President Paul Kagame said on Monday afternoon in the parliament while giving his State of the Nation address.
The annual event, held for the second time as mandated by the constitution as it was amended in 2010, was attended by senior government officials, members of the parliament, private sector, partners and civil society.
During the function that lasted for forty-five minutes, the Head of State highlighted Rwanda"s main achievements in 2012, a year that was marked remarkable progress in all sectors. Kagame for instance said that the country"s economy was predicted to grow by 7.7%, mainly driven by services and industry that grew by 13.5% and 6% respectively.
Yet the President noted that the growth would have been even better if not for two external factors. "Our economy would have grown faster without the global economic recession and conflicts in our neighboring country unfairly associated with Rwanda," he said. "That"s not true and some of those accusing us are in fact the source of this conflict."
Although some of the country"s partners used false reports to"suspend aid, thus violating agreed principles of international development partnerships, he continued, the country will courageously keep striving for self-dependence as it has been one of the most important goals.
"We have known all along that external support does not depend on us and can be stopped any time," he pointed out. "Our goal must remain to work hard in order to reduce our dependence on aid. It is important that we are not discouraged as we move forward towards this goal."
In line with the move towards self-dependence, the President commended Rwandans" initiative to establish and support the solidarity fund that was launched in August 2012. "I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rwandans of all walks of life for the Agaciro Development Fund," Kagame said.
The Head of State reiterated that a strong foundation of peace, security, good governance has been laid and that hard work has always defined Rwandans.
Among the achievements of the strong foundation Kagame listed the construction of the roads Kigali-Musanze, Kigali-Gatuna, Rusizi-Rubavu and Ntendezi-Huye, as well as the rehabilitation of others.
He also highlighted significant progress in the financial sector, with banks giving out loans totaling Frw 440 billion compared to Frw 339 billion the previous year. "If we keep improving the savings culture, there is no doubt that our economy will grow even more," he said.
The tourism industry also did well, coming on top of sectors that brought in foreign currency. As of October, it generated over US$ 232 million, up from US$ 204 million generated in the same period of 2011. The mining sector on the other hand earned revenues totaling US$ 128 million.
Exports grew by 74% and their value increased by 72% while national and international investment in Rwanda has increased to US$ 570 million, from US$ 483million registered the year before.
According to the President, the growth of investments has been a result of reforms improving business environment. Rwanda was ranked first in East African community in Doing Business Report and the 3rd one in Africa.
The address also shed some light on social welfare where the President said there has been good progress. He for instance noted that water and electricity were distributed widely across the country although he added that a lot still needs to be done to ensure a wider access.
It was also noted that progress in ICT has made easy access to services such as news, sending and receiving money and getting market prices of food, among others.
The launch of the 12-year basic education marked a new chapter in the education sector, Kagame said, adding that more Rwandans than ever are enrolled in formal education. Students in 9-YBE increased from 2,341,746 to 2,394,674. Pupils in primary school increased to 2,394,674 from 2,341,146 in 2011 (+2.3%) while students in secondary schools and higher learning institutions increased by 10% and 4% respectively.
Also in education, students in technical vocation schools have increased to 74,320 from 67,919 registered in 2011. "These students are acquiring skills enabling them to work in industries, agriculture and to become job creators," the President noted.
In the health sector, child mortality of under-fives has reduced to 54/1000 from 152/1000 in 2005. Malaria incidence dropped to 6% from 54% in 2005, and maternal mortality reduced to 134/100,000 from 750 in 2005.
During 2012, the justice sector reform has led to international courts extraditing crime suspects in Rwanda, the Head of State noted, while Gacaca courts that did a splendid job in delivering justice were concluded in the middle of the year.
In addition, the President reiterated Rwanda"s commitment to continue working closely with other African nations for sustainable peace and stability for the sake of prosperity for the continent and wellbeing of all Africans.
"We are on the right path, and what we need to do is to stay focused on our vision," Kagame urged Rwandans. "We need to work firmly to develop our country and our people even in the face of hardship."