Leaders of our High Institutions of Government present here;
Honourable Alain Destexhe, Chair of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and IMF;
Honourable Members of Parliament from Rwanda, Africa and beyond;
Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, Vice President of the World Bank for the Africa Region;
Dr Kamal ELKHESHEN, Sector Operations Vice President of the African Development Bank;
Mr Roger NORD, Deputy Director of the IMF, Africa Department;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a distinct pleasure for me and all Rwandans to welcome you to our country, and to host this important conference on what can collectively be done to develop Africa’s private sector.

There is no two ways about it: the private sector will drive Africa’s economic growth and bring about the prosperity our people need and deserve.

In Rwanda and in many other African countries, achieving and sustaining our economic development aspirations will depend on the extent to which we can mobilise both domestic and external private sector investments. We know that business creates employment that provides incomes to citizens, which in turn leads to social and economic progress of our nations.

Rwanda’s recent Household Living Conditions Survey indicates that over the last five years, more than one million citizens have lifted themselves out of poverty. We are conscious that continued growth in every sector and further reduction in poverty levels will depend on the active participation of the private sector. It is through the Private Sector’s role in fostering increased savings and capital formation, technology transfer, and better products and services for consumers, that sustained economic gains are achieved.

I am therefore particularly pleased that this conference brings together the key stakeholders whose collaboration is necessary for the private sector to thrive, and which in turn should lead to the transformation of millions of lives.

In Rwanda, we have constructive dialogue between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, investors – as well as civil society and our development partners – with the aim of shaping the policies and regulations that impact business.

This joint work has paid off. We have maintained macro-economic stability; we are successfully privatising government assets; we have achieved full liberalisation of our economy; and we have implemented significant reforms including in taxation, the business climate, as well as in our judiciary.

But I am convinced that we can, and must work harder to be more competitive in attracting the kind of private sector investment that will drive our prosperity.

We must promote science, technology and research, not only as tools for business but also to nurture innovation necessary for faster economic development.

We need to strengthen intra-African cooperation and trade. There is no reason why we should be the world’s suppliers of cheap commodities and yet remain a vast market dependent on the outside world for most of our consumption goods.

We should rapidly address our infrastructure shortcomings that range from insufficient energy, poor transport networks, to inadequate internet connectivity. As long as these challenges remain, we will not be competitive.

It is also important to develop a conducive business culture underpinned by high standards of service.

Finally, in doing all the above, our central objective should be to continuously ease the manner and cost of doing business in our countries.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen;

As we strive to address these issues, the legislative arm of our governments remains an indispensable partner. In my view, parliament has two major roles to support private sector development:

One is to develop a modern and appropriate legal and institutional framework that directly meets the interests of business, employees and consumers in a fair, transparent, and timely manner.

The other is for legislators to go beyond reacting to realities, and instead be more proactive in projecting future needs and adequately prepare for them.

I must commend the parliament of Rwanda for the excellent work done in introducing or reforming up to 14 commercial laws in the last few years that include the company law, law of secure transactions, law of arbitration, and the intellectual property law.

These have all contributed to improving our business climate, generating employment and increased opportunities for trade, as well as setting a fair ground for settling commercial disputes.

I would like to conclude by reaffirming our conviction that the private sector will always be the engine behind our social and economic development. Standing firmly behind the growth of private enterprise will ensure that we are all winners.

Let me say how much we appreciate the crucial support received from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and our other development partners, in our efforts to improve Rwanda’s business environment.

I also wish to express my gratitude to the Parliamentary Network and, in particular, Mr Alain DESTEXHE, for choosing Kigali as the venue for this conference.

It is now my great honour to declare this conference open and I wish you very fruitful deliberations.

Thank you.