I am honoured to join you today, for the commencement ceremony of the class of 2023.
To the graduates, congratulations. You should be very proud of your accomplishments.
Never stop dreaming big, and believing in yourselves.
A big thank you goes to my good friend, Howard Buffett, and to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, led by Ann Kelly.
We would not be standing here, without your invaluable contributions to Rwanda’s development, and the trust you have placed in our country and people.
Graduates, as we celebrate this important milestone in your journey, we owe it to ourselves to recall the story of this world-class institution.
Allow me to share three lessons, which can be of relevance to you, as you embark on a new chapter in your life.
Lesson number one: Have a vision.
Since its genesis, RICA’s mission has been to address the long-term challenges of smallholder farmers through conservation agriculture.
Agriculture is a critical driver of Africa’s economic growth. But we have not yet unlocked its full potential.
Graduates, in this context, I challenge you to identify a problem, give it your full attention, and make it your purpose to solve it.
You will experience many setbacks. Having a vision is often the difference between giving up and persevering.
Lesson number two: Many will doubt you. Still, always do what you think is right.
To be successful, you have to walk the path less travelled. More often than not, this means being misunderstood or criticized.
Three years ago, at the launch of the Nasho Solar-Powered Irrigation project, I remember Howard Buffett, in his remarks, describing an interaction he had with farmers.
He told them about his plan to bring center-pivot irrigation to Rwanda.
No one believed it could work.
Today, this system is improving farm productivity.
At Nasho, students work closely with local farming communities, and use this first-hand experience to inform their research.
With your skills, knowledge, and entrepreneurial spirit, you are well-equipped to bring innovations to the field of agriculture.
Lesson number three: Nothing worth doing, is achieved alone.
RICA’s partners, including the Government of Rwanda and many others, have contributed to building RICA into the internationally-recognized institution that it is today.
Surround yourselves with like-minded colleagues, who motivate you to be your best.
Do not forget the meaningful relationships you built with your fellow graduates, and with faculty and staff, and stay in touch with each other.
In Africa, the problem is not a lack of talent or natural resources.
The problem is not collaborating productively, and putting our collective wealth to good use.
These lessons resonate well with our transformation journey, as a country and a people.
Because of our context, we had to do things differently.
We have also put a high value on regional integration, and collaborating with our neighbours and partners.
Many friends, like Howard Buffett, also bet on our success, and invested in our vision of a better Rwanda.
Howard, I think we have not disappointed you.
Fast forward, years later, and our shared aspiration for agricultural development has led to this outstanding graduation ceremony today.
Howard, my dear brother and friend, thank you once again for the support and for your vision as well.
Graduates, the ball is now in your court.
We count on you, to go out in the world, and bring positive change.
Once again, to you and your families, congratulations. I wish you all the best.
I thank you for your kind attention.