I am pleased to join you for the first-ever African Drone Forum.

A warm welcome to Rwanda to all those who have come, from near and far.

We are greatly honoured to be your hosts, and I wish to thank the World Bank, and other supporters, for partnering with us to organise this inaugural forum.

I understand that some of you visited Karongi yesterday for the start of the Lake Kivu Challenge Flying Competition, which will continue there later this week.

This tournament has a great practical value, because competitors get to demonstrate what is possible, on the ground.

Rwanda is committed to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, as a key pillar for transforming our country and our continent, both socially and economically.

We are already seeing some of the benefits, not to mention the even bigger potential that lies ahead.

The use of drones to deliver life-saving blood products and vaccines to remote health centres, is already a reality in Rwanda, through our partnership with Zipline.

A Rwandan company, Charis UAS, is using drone technology for crop monitoring and mapping, to support the productivity of our farmers.

Another application already in use, is the inspection of power transmission lines from the air, to help make our electricity grid more reliable.

There is also a pilot project to test the effectiveness of drones for mosquito spraying.

There is so much that can be done with this technology. The African Drone Forum therefore comes at the right time.

Let me offer a few thoughts on the importance of this work for our continent.

First, the policies and regulation that we put in place should promote innovation, not slow it down.

Our experience in this sector has been that the priorities of safety, security, and innovation can all be effectively catered for, within the regulatory framework.

Second, continued investment in physical infrastructure and human capital, should go hand-in-hand with the adoption of drone technology.

Why limit ourselves to just using drones? We can also design and manufacture drones in Africa, as demonstrated by examples at this forum.

This allows the technology to be tailored to our specific needs, and to help create new industries that generate employment and prosperity.

Finally, cross-border cooperation is essential.

The flying competitions taking place in Karongi illustrate how much there is to gain, by fostering regional cooperation in this sector.

I trust that the 5th East African Community Aviation Symposium, taking place later this month, will bring us closer to regional harmonisation in terms of policy and regulation.

The African Drone Forum is about turning challenges into opportunities.

This can-do mindset should inspire and guide us more broadly, in all that we are trying to achieve for our continent, and the world as a whole.

Let’s challenge ourselves to ensure that the outcomes of this gathering are practical and meaningful for the people of our continent.

I wish you fruitful deliberations, and I also wish the best of luck to all the teams competing in the flying competition.

Thank you all for visiting Rwanda, and thank you for your kind attention.