Good morning to you.
First, let me start by thanking you for your birthday gift, and it was a surprise to me, as it was last evening. I had decided to take off the whole of afternoon and evening, relaxing, and watching football. Then, later on, I got a message that there are people who want to see me because they have urgent matters to raise with me. So, I was taken to somebody’s house. I knew this, now, was one of those things I am getting used to dealing with, getting to listen to people’s problems and concerns, and so on. So I went, and when we were there, I found people had prepared a birthday dinner for me. These were family and friends.
But as I was going there, and I wanted to share this again with you, in my mind saying, again problems coming on a Sunday that I had put aside for just resting and so on. I just wanted to say, and maybe it links with why we are here. I listened to so many problems, most of which I cannot even provide a solution for. But I want to assure you, that one way of solving problems, is just by even listening.
When somebody has a problem and you may not be able to address it, listening to that person goes a long way to actually alleviating the pain that person has. So, it’s a step towards addressing problems even if you just have to listen.
So, I am pleased to join you today, for the opening of the 2022 African Philanthropy Forum Conference, and I am happy to welcome you to Rwanda.
First, let me commend Tsitsi Masiyiwa, and the entire African Philanthropy Forum leadership and team.
Over the years, you have succeeded in building a platform that brings together philanthropists from all walks of life, to collaborate and develop homegrown solutions, for our continent.
I, therefore, have no doubt that this is only the beginning, of a very bright future.
In recent decades, significant progress has been made to close the gender gap.
Still, women and girls remain vulnerable. Even for all the rankings that were referred to about Rwanda, indeed there is a lot more to do than we have actually done, and I wish to express my full support for the Africa Gender Initiative.
This is an innovative way to bring together philanthropic actors to pool resources and make an impact on gender inequalities.
Discrimination against women and girls is fuelled by distorted mindsets that perceive women as inferior to men.
To begin with, men must reject and reverse this. Now, even women, you must refuse that. They are not inferior.
Yet African women hold important leadership positions, and they are active agents of change.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel. And every day, just in our own settings here in Rwanda, we have reminded ourselves, and remind each other, and every day we tell our women, our girls, that they should build on the opportunities that are available in our system.
Putting some provisions in the system is not enough alone. We have many women, in fact, they outnumber men in parliament. We have gender parity in Cabinet. We have, by all kinds of mechanisms, tried to raise women standing and positions in places of responsibility. But that’s not enough. That’s never enough until the people themselves will actually take that responsibility and use it, and do the very things that can help us to reverse that kind of situation.
I, therefore, encourage all of us, to build on this strong foundation, whether here or elsewhere, as there are many trying to cut out these kinds of efforts, and create more just and inclusive societies.
For example, innovative philanthropy is, as we have it here in Rwanda, I want to share with you, is unconditional cash transfers, we have here.
In Rwanda, we have been working with GiveDirectly since 2016 to test and target this mechanism with vulnerable households, with good results we have registered.
We are now looking at how to scale the model up.
Beneficiaries receive a one-time cash transfer and decide for themselves how to spend the funds, with no strings attached.
Of course, here, there has been a debate. The traditional way of supporting these vulnerable groups is to give them something, decide where they put it, and how they use it.
Well, in some cases, it succeeds. Maybe out of 10, 3 benefit. And with this way of giving cash to people, and they decide what to do with it, and so on and so forth, people were arguing that this is just throwing away money. And we were saying no, we have to accompany that. And I think Dr. Senait said it earlier, government systems and working with this group, we just wanted to encourage people, and we have a discussion with them before they are given money, but not telling them where to put their money. Well, we advise them where not to put their money. At least we tell, and mostly these are men when they get money they should not just go spend it in bars after receiving it. This is all we advised them, and I can assure you that the experience is, maybe out of 10, 7, or 8 actually benefit, and you see the transformation beginning to take place.
So, now, if the question was where you lose more than the other, it is very obvious. You lose more by trying to keep handholding everybody and telling them how to spend that money, what they spend it on, and everything else they do. I think there is more to lose there when you give this money to people and they decide how to use it. And especially, a couple of things happened. One, from the beginning they know this is money in their hands. If they waste it, they are likely not to get any more money coming their way. Second, something more important, is that they feel responsible. They feel they have been given responsibility for managing their own lives and transforming that. So, there is nothing better than assisting somebody, but also giving them that sense of responsibility for themselves. We’ve seen it work.
And in fact, this is what happens in the case that I mentioned earlier. We also keep having a conversation with women and girls in this effort of trying to create a gender balance and equality, that once they have this in their hands, they’re in places of responsibility, they should actually use it. You can’t be a minister, a member of parliament, a head of one of these companies, the other, and you waste that opportunity. You pull yourself up and your fellow women because it is going to be a struggle and a process to create that equality we always seek to achieve.
So, this contributes to a more balanced and sustainable philanthropic relationship, because everyone has the right to choose the best way to better their lives as I said earlier when they are given this money.
But this mirrors the challenge before us, as a continent, as well. It’s not just here in Rwanda, it is similar to other places. What may work here will work in other places, or what has worked in other places that we have established, most likely we apply it and we succeed. So, we learn from best practices.
Increasing philanthropic initiatives by African individuals and organizations is critically important, but not only because of the money.
It is about having the dignity, as Africans, to choose for ourselves the future we want, and work diligently towards it, together.
Philanthropy, which was properly defined, and involves giving. I want to assure you, giving actually also means receiving, especially with good results from what you have given. If you’ve given people what you think will change or help transform their lives, and you see it succeed, and you see it changing lives, you should be receiving satisfaction in this case that what you did was worth all the efforts and all the money you put into it. That’s why we make sure that, and must make sure that what we give really has these returns in terms of changing people’s lives. That satisfaction is going to be more than even the money we spent.
Once again, welcome to our country Rwanda, your country if you choose so. I wish you a joyful stay in our country and a productive conference.
Thank you so much for your kind attention.