Kigali, 18 December 2014

Leaders of Rwanda’s High Government Institutions

Diplomats and Invited Guests

Banyarwanda, Banyarwandakazi

Allow me to begin by thanking citizens who are actively participating in this 12th Umushyikirano.

I thank not only those of you gathered here in Parliament, from all over Rwanda and the Rwandan community abroad, but also, and perhaps especially, the millions of Rwandans around the country, and across the world, who are following on TV, radio, and the internet.

Umushyikirano is not a spectator sport or a talk show. The contributions that you make can affect the direction of our country.

What happens here matters, because you, the citizens, matter.

Please also join me in extending a warm welcome to the friends from abroad, including our development partners, who have joined us here today.

The value that Rwandans place on voice, accountability, and participatory governance,is reflected in our country’s distinctive governance institutions, such as this National Dialogue Council.

With these mechanisms, Rwandans speak their minds, while continuously renewing our commitment to the guiding principles enshrined in our Constitution.

As we open Umushyikirano, it is fitting to recall these tenets:

We preserve national unity and combat the ideology of genocide

We seek solutions through dialogue, consensus, and power-sharing

We find the positive values that we need to flourish inour history and culture

We treat every citizen equally and fairly

We consider integrity, accountability, and merit the defining criteria of public service

We must promote the social and material well-being of society as a whole

Banyarwanda, Banyarwandakazi

Today I also fulfil my Constitutional duty to report to you on the state of our nation.

This year, 2014, was no ordinary year. The reality of our past is unspeakable, and yetRwandans found ways to talk about it. In so doing, the enormity of the distance we have travelled together was plain to see.

We are the same people, and this is the same country. Yet, at the same time, everything is completely different, because our mindset has changed.

What was, will never be again, because Rwandans will not allow it.

These are truths that we carry in our hearts, giving urgency to our work, and reminding us not only,that we are capable of doing things that seem impossible, but also, that we have little room for error.

The state of our nation is strong, stronger than it has ever been before.

Rwanda’s economy has continued to grow steadily. Today is 7.8% larger than it was a year ago, and we are on target to exceed our growth forecast for 2014.

Two-thirds of that growth came from the service sector. We will continue to work hard to enable our citizens to take advantage of the new opportunities in this area.

Most Rwandans earn their living from agriculture, where we have seen steady improvements. This sector accounts for one-third of GDP, and it grew 6% over last year.

Rwandan farmers not only feed the nation, but also export to neighbouring countries.I wish to thank them for their hard work, and active participation in programmes, aimed at modernising the sector.

However, there is room to further increase agricultural productivity and self-reliance.

For example, we are taking steps to reduce dependence on rainfall, by deploying more irrigation infrastructure across the country.

We are also investing in new research to prevent diseases, such as the one currently affecting cassava farmers across the country.

All land parcels in Rwanda have now been demarcated, and more than six million land titles are in the hands of owners, securing their property rights.

Because our finances are transparent and well-managed, investors are eager to buy Rwandan government bonds, which we use to finance key infrastructure, that will eventually result in more jobs, and higher incomes, for Rwandans.

This year, the Kigali International Airport was completely refurbished, without having shut down for even one day. Our capital successfully hosted several international conferences, often simultaneously.

Thiscreates jobs for Rwandans, and builds our country’s reputation as an efficient, safe, and friendly destination.

Technology is increasingly part of the daily life of every citizen.

Mobile money accounts have increased to five million from one millionin the last three years. In fact, there are more mobile accounts today, than bank accounts, whichcontributes significantly to financial inclusion.

High-speed 4G internet is now available, thanks to an innovative public-private partnership. This will expand opportunities both for entrepreneurship, and public service delivery.

Today Rwanda is generating 40% more power, than at the beginning of the year, as a result of new hydro and solar power generation projects.

Cooperation with our neighbours, has yielded a number of concrete results, that make it easier for citizens to travel, and do business in East Africa.

Beyond our region, the exemplary service of our peacekeepers abroad,continues to save lives and improve security. They bring honour to our country and we are proud of their commitment.

Today, there isgrowing awareness,that the way in which Rwanda went about solving our problems,may be helpful to other countries experiencing difficulty.

In a few days, we will complete our tenure on the UN Security Council. We thank our fellow African countrieswho entrusted us with this responsibility.As members of the international community, we will continue to be helpful where we can, and look for ways to do more.

Rwandans can take satisfaction,from the progress we have made this year, and in the last two decades. But there remain areas where we can, and must, do better.

To better prepare young Rwandans for the job market, we have increased the number of technical and vocational schools,more than five-foldin recent years, to 365.

As we develop skills, we must continue tonurture entrepreneurship,and promote private sector development. Our economy must be able to create the number of jobs required,to absorb our greatest resource, Rwanda’sever growing youth population.

The recently established National Employment Programme,will coordinate job creation and business development countrywide.

We have made unprecedented strides, in building our health sector, in terms of infrastructure, human resources, which have resulted in real gains in the health of our people.

But as we safeguard these gains, we must continue to improve the quality of our health services.A robust health system is the best insurance, against current and future health crises.

Everything we are doing, is fundamentally about preserving and enhancing life.

It is simply not acceptable, for Rwandans to be killed and maimed, in preventable accidents on roads, in workplaces, or in areas prone to natural disaster.

It is not acceptable that Rwandans are trafficked abroad to lose their lives, or work in conditions of forced labour.

We must work harder to protect the value of each individual life and livelihood. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this in the days ahead.

The state of our nation is strong, but to maintain the pace of progress, we cannot afford to congratulate ourselves, or get complacent. It is now time to set our sights even higher.

The reality is that we have only just begun, to address the challenges we must solve,in order to make Rwanda a self-reliant, middle-income country.

To move to the next stage, it is not enough to work hard. Rwandans already do that. Indeed, if hard work was all that is necessary, then Rwandans would already be some of the richest people in the world.

We also have to work smart. This means using technology,to drive improvements in the quality of public services and private enterprises. But it also means setting higher standards for ourselves, at all levels, and working to meet them.

For example, we continue to lag in attention to detail and the quality of customer service, in our business sector. Training is part of the solution, and we should increase our efforts in that regard.

But Rwandan customers, too, must become more demanding and more willing to provide feedback, to businesses where they fall short.

After all, if no one is complaining, what incentive is there to improve?

Thismindset of expecting high standards of quality, should follow us in all our endeavours. Good enough is not enough. The strength of our service sector depends on this.

We can only compete globally, if our quality and productivity standards, exceed those of the market.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these and related topics as we deliberate here at Umushyikirano.

The resilience, hard work and long-term vision of Rwandans, over the last twenty years, have paid off. As we now look even further into the future, we must remain focused and committed, to our vision,of a united, self-reliant and prosperous nation.

Thank you.