Perth- Australia, October 26th 2011

  • Chair of this session, Mr Aig-Imoukhuede;
  • Co-Panellists:
  • Distinguished guests;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen;

Thank you very much Aigboje for your kind introduction. I am very pleased to be with you this morning, and I would like to thank the Commonwealth Business Council for hosting this Forum and for inviting me to address you today.

May I also take this opportunity to say that the Commonwealth Business Council was our gateway into the Commonwealth and I thank a number of people who made it possible for me and Rwanda to be a part of this body.This business forum provides a useful platform for global debate on important trade and investment issues.

Like elsewhere, partnerships between government and the private businesses are the way forward for sustainable development. We have seen time and again that neither business nor government alone can flourish without the other.

Government support enhances strategies to foster private sector growth and sustainable economic development.

But it is only in partnership with business that wealth creation commensurate with the needs of the people, as well as prosperity, will happen.

But there is an equally important partnership – that between local and international investors. This has the potential to increase dividends as there is easier flow of capital and maximization of innovation, entrepreneurship, market knowledge, labour, and established business networks. The result is a win-win situation.

I am pleased to say that for some time now, Africa has been on this path, though sometimes not noticed as it should be. In fact, I can confidently say that Africa has become one of the best places to do profitable business, and is considered as a key partner to many players in the new world economic order.

Most African countries have now achieved political stability, sound macro-economic policies, improved corporate governance, and sound economic growth. My own country has sustained an economic growth rate of over 8% in the last ten years.

For decades there has been a perceived risk of investing in Africa that was beyond what can be considered reasonable, afterall, risk exists everywhere. However, as African countries we are addressing the risks that do exist with seriousness, and at the same time, seizing the vast opportunities open to us. As a result, African investors and international corporations are increasingly making undeniable profits, and attitudes are shifting towards decided optimism.

Several reports confirm what has been said before, that investments in Africa provide higher returns than other regions – even over some other emerging markets.

For instance, the World Trade Organization has this year reported that, at 4.7%, Africa had the fastest average rate of GDP growth of any region between 2005 and 2010.

The renewed interest of private equity funds and large multinationals is evidence of this.

Moreover, Africa has many opportunities that have yet to be fully exploited in several sectors: from services such as IT and Telecomms, finance and tourism to mining, manufacturing and agriculture as well as infrastructure projects across the continent.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

It is also true to say that African countries have reformed the way we do business in order to make investment more profitable.

In Rwanda’s case for example, the latest World Bank Doing Business Report, released only a few days ago, shows that our country improved from 58th position last year to 45th in ease of doing business out of 183 countries. This ranking makes Rwanda the 2nd most reformed economy in the world over the last five years. It is noteworthy that we moved from the 143rd position in 2009 to 67th in 2010, and to 58th in 2011.

For example, it now takes 24 hours to set up a business, construction permits are now obtained in 30 days as opposed to several months, and the frequency of filing tax returns has been reduced from a monthly basis to quarterly.

Such policy reforms have significantly changed the business landscape mainly because African policy makers fully own them, and see their value. If Rwanda has made this progress, I’m sure any other country can do so, and much more.

In addition, it is important for African to continue with regional integration for the collective socio-economic benefits of their people. We have several well performing blocs including the East Africa Community, the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa, and ECOWAS in West Africa. It is important to stress the need for intra-Africa trade and investment that has the potential to greatly improve the livelihood of Africans. I would like to appreciate Aigboje in this regard for walking the talk – Access Bank has invested in Rwanda and other African countries.

The East African Community, for instance, constitutes a single market, provides for free movement of goods, persons, labour, services, capital and the right of residence and establishment of business.

As a result we are talking of a market of a total population of more than 135 million with a combined GDP of US$ 74.5 billion.

Of course, nothing is risk-free and there are still challenges to confront despite the real progress that has been made. As Africans, we are keenly aware, for instance, that in order to increase our appeal we have to offer an increasingly competitive environment, particularly regarding infrastructure. In the East African region, we are working hard to make our offer competitive.

In Rwanda, we have rolled out fibre optic cables to connect our country and with our neighbours, and we are engaging international partners for the construction of major transport projects: a new international airport and a railway linking Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, with the possibility of DRC.

The majority of those infrastructure projects are either on a purely private sector investment basis or on private-public partnerships.

Clearly though, more remains to be done to further develop Africa’s infrastructure and, more generally, its business environment.

But this can only be realised by actively engaging with the private sector, and that is why you are all so critically important to our development.

Although as governments we are keen to act as enablers, we believe that the private sector should be the prime movers of our economies.

What is needed now is to seize this moment for renewed partnerships, and work together to explore all the opportunities within our continent. As for Rwanda, you will find us always ready to build and nurture mutually beneficial partnerships – we look forward to seeing many of you present today visit our country.

Let me conclude by congratulating the Commonwealth Business Council on successfully hosting this business forum and express gratitude to all of you here for your presence.

I thank you all for your kind attention and wish you productive deliberations.