Kigali, 14 September 2015
Let me start by saying how pleased I am to join you for the launch of the latest Household Living Conditions Survey. I thank the presenters and just wish to say that good numbers, like good people, don’t lie. But we still have to keep improving.
I also thank everyone involved in producing this report. I would wish above all to thank all Rwandans for their continued collaboration with Government institutions, and for their active participation in development programmes.
Policy-making based on evidence is earning us the results we need as Rwanda continues its journey towards socio-economic transformation.
With the fast pace of development that Rwandans expect, more frequent reporting enables us to make better policy decisions. I therefore commend the shift to three-year reporting and encourage our institutions to use technology and other means to update data at even shorter intervals.
Today’s survey results confirm what we see around us and the stories we hear directly from Rwandans of all walks of life in visits around the country. You hear messages mainly of hope not desperation. This leaves us with the fact that there are still many problems to deal with, but there is an opening into the future with this hope.
Since the year 2000 our GDP has nearly quadrupled. Agricultural production has grown twice as fast as the population and Rwandans own more assets than ever before. Inequality, which has been put in the correct perspective here, also continues to fall, which reflects the values of our society.
Among the results that stand out from this report is the rate of enterprise growth in rural areas, which has been significantly higher than even in towns and cities. This, even as Rwandans continue to migrate to urban areas at higher rates.
This shows there is still so much value to unlock in our countryside, and that Rwandans can forge a bright future for themselves and their families no matter where they choose to live and work. We have to pay attention to our youth, so that the opportunity provided by our demographic situation is realised.
In response to Government’s call for smaller family size, fertility has slowed by one third in the last ten years.
On this, I differ slightly with some people. Please, don’t slow too much. It’s all a question of balance. We shouldn’t be wanting to rely on importing people from outside. We will continue discussing how to get the balance right.
I take the opportunity to thank Rwandans for their embrace of this reasonable approach. It’s balanced, and it’s reasonable, which is key. It means healthier families with higher incomes, and a stronger and more resilient nation overall.
I am also pleased to see that the biggest gains in literacy in the last decade are among the most disadvantaged. This shows that the poorest are not being left behind — and they shouldn’t be — in the implementation of policy. In fact, focus has been put on this category and we should maintain it.
This trend extends to income and technology too. Ten years ago, almost none of the poorest 20 per cent of Rwandans owned a mobile phone. Today one-third of those poorest 20 percent do.
These improvements are meaningful, and they only happened because of the hard work and commitment of public servants, as well as the contributions of Rwandan taxpayers, and here I also want to thank our development partners.
However, my reaction to these statistics is determination rather than satisfaction. I think it must be the same for all of you. We should be more determined if we are to be satisfied.
For example, we fell short on creation of non-farm jobs. This may help explain why university graduates have the highest unemployment rate, almost six times the national average. We can’t allow this worrisome trend to continue.
This will of course continue to be a joint endeavour between our young people, their parents, and leaders in Government and other levels, because there are various ways to address this problem.
One of them is to continue to invest heavily in TVET, so that these programmes touch on people going for education at different levels. There I saw secondary school level, university level, having TVET programmes touching the secondary and university levels would reduce this problem significantly because It doesn’t help that you graduate from university and there is very little you can do when you are out there on the job market.
So it really raises a question, what was it that you were preparing for, or what were people were preparing you for? TVET provides the kind of skills that will help unemployment. We will have to put focus on this. As I said, it is a collaboration, but these young people must also have the right attitude, because a bad one can also create problems. Some people think they should go to university even if they are not acquiring anything from there. If we become more open to other options, and we at other levels encourage them and invest in what gives them these skills, then I think we may make some significant progress.
The only fitting response to this challenge therefore, and other remaining challenges, is to get back to work and figure out how to significantly speed up progress towards the Rwanda we want and indeed deserve.
Along with the rest of Africa, Rwanda has learned valuable lessons from the implementation of the MDGs, which have been a useful instrument in contributing to our vision.
Key among these is that governments must take into account the aspirations of our citizens and internalise the ownership of development programmes. We look forward to building on today’s results in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals that will be adopted this month.
Before I conclude, I cannot miss mentioning one other aspect, among the many I have talked about, and that is this situation of malnutrition. I think, this is out of our own carelessness, to some extent self-inflicted.
I want to tell our leaders here that all of us to pay attention to this issue in all shapes and forms and make sure we eradicate it. We have the tools to do it and we can’t afford not to do it. I don’t think anybody enjoys seeing a big part of the population of children stunted when we can prevent it.
So please, I call upon you, and in some polite way warn you, that those who have responsibility will have to pull up their socks and do something about this.
We see a lot of improvement in agriculture, you are aware of the One Cow Per Family programme, you see chickens running around in rural areas, you see vegetables. It’s about putting all that on the plate and ensuring your child eats it.
Let me conclude by once again saluting the resilience of Rwandans in the last two decades. We have achieved good results despite Rwanda’s unfortunate history, as well as other more recent shocks and the many kinds of complexities we have all along faced.
The main value of the progress recorded to date, besides the positive effects on individual lives, is to demonstrate what is possible and that we we have what it takes to bring about the transformation of our country and our region.
We must stick to the course and never take anything for granted. We look forward to continuing this journey in collaboration with all our partners.
I thank you very much.