Good morning to you and thank you for the kind introduction, as well as the invitation to join you today. I am honoured to be at King’s College London and appreciate all of you for taking the time to be here on a busy Tuesday morning.
Before we begin the conversation, I would like to take the liberty to make two broad points.
The first is that yesterday’s UK-Africa Investment Summit was successful. I believe we will see positive momentum in 2020 in terms of the relationship between the United Kingdom and Africa, including Rwanda.
The timing is good. Britain is looking to re-imagine its global trade and investment arrangements. And later this year, the world’s largest new free trade area will become operational in Africa, covering nearly the entire continent.
The African Continental Free Trade Area demonstrates to investors that there is solid political will in Africa for a deeper regional integration agenda. We have good reason to take advantage of these developments and work more closely together.
In June, Rwanda will also serve as host of the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, picking up where we left off in London almost two years ago.
The Commonwealth is a community of values, with continued relevance for today’s world. More than one-third of its member states are African. These are reasons why Rwanda chose to join in 2009.
In that connection, we are soon considering exempting citizens of the Commonwealth, as well as the African Union and the Francophonie, from paying visa fees when entering Rwanda.
I am pleased that the International School for Government at King’s will launch a Commonwealth Civil Service Training Programme during CHOGM 2020 in Kigali. This is a very welcome offering, which Rwanda is happy to be associated with.
I also want to say a word about Rwanda’s transformation over the past 25 years, as we sought to address our country’s tragic history. More than ten percent of our population had been wiped out. Another third was displaced. The Africa of which Rwanda is a part was undergoing momentous and often difficult changes, which also affected us.
The only way to survive was to make peace with ourselves. And the only way to prosper as a landlocked country was to invest in our people and cooperate economically with our region.
Three mindset issues inform everything we have done within that wider context. They are, in brief:
- Urgency, because everything was a priority;
- Unity, because division nearly annihilated us;
- And self-reliance mixed with a global outlook, because we have the ability to solve our own problems, but learning from and collaborating with others makes things go faster and better.
The undeniable progress we have seen in Rwanda is the result of applying these principles to the challenges we faced.
The most important part was for citizens themselves to be part of the process ensuring that they benefit from public policy.
Well-being has both subjective and objective elements. Rwanda’s progress on human development indicators, such as income growth, healthcare, gender equality, and education, is matched by independent surveys that ask Rwandans how they feel about the country’s future.
We still have a long way to go but Rwandans are increasingly confident about their lives and they can clearly see the direction our country is headed in.
With that, I am glad we have an opportunity today for this conversation with Alexander Downer, and with all of you as well.
I thank you.