The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: President Kagame's State of the Nation Address

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PRESIDENT Paul Kagame yesterday delivered the annual State of the Nation Address at Parliament. Below is the President's speech in full.

As we end the year, our economy is predicted to grow by 7.7% mainly as a result of good yields in the service and industry sectors, which increased by 13.5% and 6% respectively in the first three quarters of the year

Distinguished leaders of our country's high institutions

Members of the Diplomatic Corps and representatives of International Organisations,

Distinguished Guests,

Fellow Rwandans,

I am pleased to be here at Parliament for two important reasons: the first is to share with all Rwandans, friends of Rwanda and our partners, where Rwanda stands today. The second is to wish you all a Happy New Year, as is tradition during this period.

I want to begin by thanking every Rwandan who participated in the population census that took place this year. This survey enabled us to determine the number of Rwandans in the country as well as their socio-economic status.

The census will ensure that government planning and the services are more in line with Rwanda's population. Importantly, the results showed that population growth has decreased from 2.9% in 2002 to 2.6%. This is a clear indication that efforts to slow down population growth have been effective and, if we continue along this path, will ensure that our economy and the wellbeing of Rwandans are not negatively affected.

There is no denying the progress and development our nation continues to make. Various data show that Rwanda's economy continues to grow.

As we end the year, our economy is predicted to grow by 7.7% mainly as a result of good yields in the service and industry sectors, which increased by 13.5% and 6% respectively in the first three quarters of the year. This is encouraging.

Our economy would have grown even faster had there not been two external mitigating factors. The first is the global economic downturn which had repurcussions on Rwanda's economy. The second is the consequence of conflict in a neighbouring country that has been blamed on Rwanda when this is not true. We are not the cause of or contributing factor to this conflict, even those who claim this know it. Those who accuse us are actually the cause of the conflict.

As you know there is a report based on falsehoods which some of our longtime partners have used as the basis to suspend development aid, in a manner that violates agreed principles of international development partnerships.

I would say that these actions did not come as a surprise because we have known all along, from experiences we have had, that external support does not depend on us and can be stopped at anytime. They don't even need to have a reason, let alone one based on the truth. Our goal must remain to work hard in order to reduce our dependence on aid. What is important is not get discouraged as we move forward towards this objective. Suspension of development assistance may slow down the progress we are making but it should not stop us from doing our best to improve our wellbeing and to lift our citizens out of poverty as we have already done for one million Rwandans in the last five years.

There is no doubt that if we continue to work with full commitment, and with the right mindset, to take our country forward and grow our economy, the aid suspension may prove to be a valuable lesson for Rwanda.

The foundation has been laid. In addition to the hard work that has characterised Rwandans this year and in the years before, we have peace, security and good governance in our country. There is much more we have managed to achieve that I will talk about.

The number of banks and their branches continue to grow throughout the country. Cooperatives and SACCOs have also increased in number and proven to be of great value for their members and for the country's economy in general. It is not just the numbers, the quality of services also continue to improve.

Rwandans accessing financial services increased from 48% in 2008 to 72% this year. In total, banks and other financial institutions have given a total of 440 billion Rwandan francs worth of loans, which marks a major increase from 339 billion of last year. If we maintain and further improve our savings culture and make use of financial services, there is no doubt our economy will grow even more.

In 2012, Rwandan exports grew at 74% while their value increased by 22%. Our imports grew by 29% while their value increased by close to 14%. Although exports grew, there is still a big deficit, judging by how much we spend on imports. We must therefore increase the size and value of our exports in order to maximize benefits.

Investment in Rwanda, both internal and foreign, has increased this year. In the first three quarters of 2012, investments reached a total of $570 million, compared to $483 million last year. It is encouraging to note that investments are being made in projects that have a direct and positive impact on our economy. These include investments in electricity distribution, international hotels, and Rwandair which connects Rwanda to the rest of the world.

The incentives we have put in place to motivate businesses have contributed in a major way to this growth in investment. This partly explains why Rwanda was ranked first in "Doing Business" in the East African Community and third in Africa.

This year we continued to construct new roads including Kigali-Musanze, Kigali-Gatuna, Rusizi-Rubavu, Ntendezi-Huye, and also rehabilitated others. Big and small towns and trading centers around the country continued to be transformed and renewed. Water and electricity are more widely distributed in the country, although additional efforts are needed to ensure that many more Rwandans are able to access these utilities.

The mining sector continues to play a big role in growing our economy. This year, revenue from mineral resources totaled close to $128 million and is expected to rise which will result in more benefits for Rwandans, including additional employment.

The tourism industry also continued to advance and is now the biggest foreign currency earner. Rwanda's security and stability attracts visitors keen to see what is being done here and enjoy the country's various attractions.

By October this year, tourism generated $232 million compared to $204 million last year. It is critical that we strive to provide excellent service and customer care so that visitors to Rwanda leave as good ambassadors who will return and also encourage others to visit.

We should also be encouraged by the progress we have made in advancing Information and Communication Technology. It is now easier than ever to access numerous services, including news and information, send and receive money, get market prices of food stuff both within Rwanda and beyond.

We encourage all Rwandans, especially the youth, to take advantage of available technology as this will add value to our work and lead to increased revenues.

In the social sector, more Rwandans today are enrolled in formal education than in previous years, and more citizens are able to access appropriate health care.

This year, the number of schools at every level, as well as the number of students has increased. In primary school, the number of students increased by 2.3% from 2,341,146 last year to 2,394,674. In secondary schools, the number of students increased by almost 10%, up from 486,437 last year to 534,712. The number of students in universities increased by 4% from 73,674 in 2011 to 76,629 this year.

We also launched the 12-Year Basic Education to improve on the 9-Year Basic Education program we already had in place.

Furthermore, we are pleased with the increased number of technical vocational schools established, as well as the number of students, which has risen from 67,919 to 74,320. These students are acquiring skills that will enable them to work in industries, agriculture and also create their own jobs. We must continue to invest in and build the capacity of these schools so that Rwanda can benefit even more from the skills and knowledge of well-trained and greater numbers of graduates.

We have a duty to encourage Rwandan youth to acquire vocational training because Rwanda's economy will continue to depend on practical knowledge. But in order to motivate young people, leaders here today as well as parents everywhere must understand the value of vocational training.

We also note the number of international universities that have set up branches in Rwanda, such as Carnegie-Mellon University from the United States. This contributes to high quality education in general and allows Rwandans to access specialised knowledge previously only available abroad.

In the health sector, in 2012 we concentrated on increasing the number of hospitals and skilled medical professionals. You may know about a new program to bring doctors from abroad particularly from renowned American universities and hospitals to build capacity of Rwandan doctors and hospitals.

We reformed the community health insurance scheme so that every Rwandan is now able to access medical care anywhere in the country.

Diseases like malaria that had afflicted Rwandans for a long time, as well as child and maternal mortality continue to reduce significantly. Statistics show that deaths of children under the age of five has fallen from 152 of every 1000 in 2005 to 54. Maternal mortality has dropped from 750 of every 100,000 in 2005 to 134, while the number of deaths caused by malaria reduced greatly, from 54% in 2005 to 6%.

We will continue efforts to fight malnutrition that is often the result of bad mentality and illiteracy. It is not right that our country has attained self sufficiency in food and yet some parts of our country continue to experience malnutrition. We will continue to give our doctors advanced and specialised training as well as continue to manage and fight HIV/AIDS.

In the justice sector, laws continue to be reviewed where it is deemed necessary, based on international best practices. It is in recognition of this development that some international courts are sending back suspects living in their countries who may have committed crimes in Rwanda.

We have reduced the length of sentences and are working to transform prisons into correctional institutions. This initiative has resulted in a reduction in the number of detention facilities and detainees.

The Abunzi system of justice has taken root and citizens play a major role in this program that is based on Rwandan historical tradition. This system has been key in reducing cases that would have otherwise gone to courts of law. We have also established centres for access to justice in every District to provide legal advice to Rwandans.

Gacaca Courts that concluded this year did an outstanding job of delivering reconciliatory justice. These courts provided solutions for huge challenges faced by Rwandans as a result of the genocide. This also is evidence that Rwandans have the capacity to find solutions to challenges that we face, even in the future.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rwandans from all walks of life, both in the country and abroad as well as friends of Rwanda for contributing to the Agaciro Development Fund, which we created.

We will continue to work closely with other African nations and beyond in pursuit of long-term stability for our region, as well as work for development and improved wellbeing of all Africans.

We will also continue to offer our contribution to peace and stability in Africa and elsewhere in the world when needed and within our means.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that Rwanda is on the right path; what we need to do now is stay focused on our vision, implement the plans we have made, and never get discouraged in the struggle to take our country and our people forward even in the face of adversity - and I can assure you that we will have challenges. But we have to commit to facing these challenges head on and overcoming them. These obstacles should not discourage but energise us and strengthen our determination.

Let us show our resolve and commitment in this New Year, so that it may be even better than the year that just ended. May our economy grow and may we lift many more Rwandans out of poverty.

Starting with our own plentiful capacities in addition to our energy, let us continue to work for good results. On this, all leaders need to understand that they must be fully involved and committed. I wish to not only remind but also request this again of leaders.

As I said earlier, this is an opportunity to wish all Rwandans and friends of Rwanda a Happy New Year.

May it be a year of abundance and productivity for you all and your families, and may it also be a year of continued joint work to take our country forward to where we deserve to be.

Thank you, have a good evening and God bless you.

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