Statement by His Excellency Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwandaat the ITU Telecom World 2009, on Monday 5 October, Geneva, Switzerland .

  • Excellencies Heads of State and Government;
  • Excellency Moritz Leuenberger, Federal Councilor and Head of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications;
  • Excellency Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General;
  • Excellency Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General International Telecoms Union
  • Business and technology industry leaders;
  • Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

I begin by congratulating the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Touré and his team for bringing together this impressive gathering of corporate and government leaders to discuss the role of ICTs in addressing global challenges. You continue to raise the United Nations family of institutions to a higher level to serve the underserved global majorities to improve their lives.

While this gathering takes place amidst the global crisis and climate change, this is also a period of considerable new opportunities. We witness everyday further evidence that environmental protection and economic development are inseparable if we invest in innovative solutions to save our planet.

That is why we are gathered here as public and private sector leaders, policy makers, experts and knowledge workers to reflect on how to employ ICTs to address the economic crisis and climate change in a more sustainable manner.

The powerful theme of this Summit – Open Networks – Connected Minds – is therefore appropriate and has a particular meaning for us in Africa.

Being late-comers in embracing, and indeed starting from a low base in creating information and communication technology sectors, ICT is nonetheless fundamentally transforming our nations and continent.

Consider for example the recent developments on our continent since the “Connect Africa Summit” held in Kigali in October 2007. Investments in communications infrastructure alone exceeded eight billion US dollars.

The impact of these investments on Africa has been significant in a number of ways.

Firstly we have seen a reduction in charges averaging 30% thereby enabling more people to access communications services and improve their livelihoods.

Secondly these investments have produced returns of over 40 billion US dollars for the investors.

Thirdly these investments have contributed significantly to the expansion of our nations’ tax bases, creation of small and medium enterprises, as well as new jobs.

Finally, these new infrastructures are proving to be very powerful tools of regional integration as they link individual countries while connecting them to international gateways.
This is vindication of our belief in the private-led growth and development, and in the role of ICT as an industry as well as a facilitator of other sectors.

We may highlight the following developments in the Rwandan context since the Connect Africa Summit.
Over half a billion US dollars have been invested in communication infrastructure – 70% of which was private investment.

The cost of communications has been reduced by 35% and as result of this increased investment, reduced costs and expanded coverage, the number of users has increased by over 200%.

These billions of dollars in investment and returns in Africa are neither aid nor loans that lead to national debt traps.

This remarkable progress in Africa and in our country is due to improving business environment, better policies, enhanced Public Private Partnership and increased efforts in skills development for our workforce. This surely indicates that that Africa is becoming an integral part of the global economy especially when one considers that most of the noted infrastructure is improving its connectivity to other markets.

It is also important to note that Africa continues to reform its institutions creating a more conducive investment climate. This has been recently confirmed by the World Bank Group’s 2010 Doing Business Report which shows that Africa’s investment Climate is improving at a fast rate with Rwanda ranked as the top global reformer.

In conclusion, we are gathered at the ITU Telecom World 2009 with the shared purpose of engaging in a dialogue to ensure that ICTs remain a focus for new economic and social development policies. I trust that we will approach this important task with innovative insights for practical ICT solutions.

In this respect, the emerging markets including Africa must be seen as ever growing markets and as a part of many solutions and not as a burden, or as presenting many challenges.