First of all, it’s a great day in many ways today.
I am very pleased to join you and welcome you to Kigali, which you have built in a way – Kigali, our capital city, is not just for Rwandans, it is for Africans, it is for friends from across the world, and people who are the family of IRCAD and IRCAD Africa – we want you to feel that you are our family as well. You are most welcome.
So many things have been said. For me, personally, I have not been with the opportunity to be of a very significant talent in any field. But what I tried to do, I created an idea, that maybe since I’m not talented in many things, I developed an idea that I should be talented in managing the talent of others.
So, that’s what enables me – through friendship, and what was said earlier – thank you young Marescaux to remind me – we have a history, Rwanda’s history, weaves through all this that was said.
First, for our country, every yesterday was expected to be the tomorrow. And that’s how we are in one place of underdevelopment for a long time. Because what was yesterday was what was expected tomorrow. So we reversed the trend. We tried to say how about having tomorrow as yesterday reversed?
Two things here: the parts of the history I really want to speak to. While what has been happening in the past was expected to be happening in the future, we wanted to see the future as having arrived and passed in our background and being something new.
So, that’s how we came to embrace doing things in a manner that we have come to be used to. I remember in 1998 – some of my friends who are into technology globally – in 1998 when we were trying to rebuild the country and we were talking about using information and communication technology. So, one of these friends – a very rich person and who is into technology – asked me: why would you be thinking of investing into – you are nothing, more or less, because we had nothing – into technology when your people are starving, they have no health, all kinds of stuff. And I told them, it was a group led by one of my friends: I said, that’s true. Our people are starving anyway. Our people have no good health. That’s all true. But does keeping away technology really give them food? So, I said we are trying to invest nothing, the little we have, in a way that we divide it and spread it to cover food and cover health. But cover technology which cuts across all of them.
I saw somebody use the “multiplier effect” term. I said technology has a multiplier effect. It doesn’t take away anything from anybody in any case. So that’s how we started developing this idea.
Now I’m leading to saying, Professor Marescaux – you could have chosen to go somewhere else, not in Rwanda, as the story he told. I wanted to thank you for taking the risk in trusting us, but I think, maybe it is high risk, but it has also become high reward. It has benefited Rwandans in a way probably you will never realize, Marescaux and the others who work with you, IRCAD International and others who join you, because they understand the cause and the vision you have. But more so the vision to use the tools to advance knowledge, to advance technology, and to bring it to places where it is not expected because many people once they say – well Africa in many cases is not deserving, or it comes as a second thought, as an afterthought every time in many conversations – but the fact that you said no, this is not going to be an afterthought. Let’s take it to Africa.
Well, and above all, that’s why I called it “high risk”. In Africa you chose Rwanda, there must have been something that was connecting you with us, to believe in us. But it was to try and close these gaps that have resisted with our people, the people of this country, the people of the continent, and others on other continents. I think it was a combination of value and values. So, I wanted to specifically thank you for that. You will not be disappointed, even at a personal level, you will feel that what you invested in has had a huge effect in changing many people’s lives through improved and access to health of a certain high level that was not expected that people never thought about.
My other pleasant thing here is that what you have created in this IRCAD Africa indeed is not serving Rwanda alone. It is serving Africa. And it is also improving and taking beyond the talent we have in Africa to a much higher level. I’m sure you’ve seen those who have been here, coming from across Africa, of a very high standard in their fields and area of talent. So, bringing people together and bringing them together in our country here and around this centre of excellence has limitless value in understanding and feeling.
So, when I entered this room, I first wondered if I was in Strasbourg. When you invited me and went came to Strasbourg, to IRCAD, and had the pleasure and honour of being honoured there by being recognized in the way you did, we are very happy to be associated in this way and in any other way because of what this stands for.
The training program in minimally invasive surgery that we have come to fully understand and see the effects of in many ways is something that is going to change lives to a very high degree. And again, you should be thanked for that – all those who have contributed not only to its development but also to mainstreaming it in the practice of surgery and the effects it has had on health.
So, you were talking about being Rwandan. I invite everyone here, wherever you have come from, to be, as I said we are family, so you should be Rwandan, in all sense I mean. If you want a passport, the next day you can have it. And maybe, Minister of Health, the next day – I am not threatening your job – but I’m only saying you could have two three ministers in addition to your position.
And this encourages us to keep investing significantly in public health infrastructure, and knowing that there are no limited in terms of quality and therefore we should also make sure there are no limits in terms of quantity so that it goes around and reaches everyone as the case should be.
Let’s continue bringing together the best and the brightest that we have, especially across Africa, in Rwanda, and working with those from across the rest of the world. That’s how we can build a better world for all of us to live in.
So, I really just came here to express my gratitude and promise that we will work with all of us together for the rest of the journey that is ahead of us that is long. And with people like that in this room, I think we can keep making tomorrow yesterday.
Thank you very much.