Davos, 28 January 2011
Lerato Mbele: Mr. President,How do you Find Davos 2011?
President Kagame: Davos always provides an opportunity for exchange of ideas and every time it has taken place under different kinds of environment and settings and things happening in different parts of the world, different from what was happening in the previous years. It’s a good atmosphere, there is a vibrant community trying to discuss issues as people understand them and trying to look for a way forward
Lerato Mbele: Rwanda is named one of the top ten growing economies in the world. How are you doing it?
President Kagame: We focus first of all on correct policies and ensure every Rwandan is part of that. We start with what we have in place. For example, we have a large potential in Agriculture which was not realized and which serves to improve many lives of people who depend on it. We have invested heavily in rural areas to improve Agriculture so that every Rwandan has not only food security but can also have income from their activities. We have also seen services industries and financial services grow from month to month.
Lerato Mbele: You have addressed a session on knowledge-based economy and this speaks about a passion of yours which is to make technology an integral part of development. Some people call Rwanda the Singapore of Africa. Tell us about that model of growth.
President Kagame: The model of growth is built on people. It’s how you invest in people both in health and education and enable them have skills on which they can depend and which can make them competitive, not only regionally but also globally. We have sought to do this because this has no limit. You may invest in Agriculture and realize its full potential but there is a limit to this, considering the size of the country, scarcity of land, etc. But with education, knowledge and skills there is no limit – the sky is the limit.
Lerato Mbele: Although Rwanda is celebrated for introducing very progressive reforms and having a good environment for doing business, the country is still struggling to attract Foreign Direct Investment. Why is this?
President Kagame: In fact in the recent years we have seen an increase in Foreign Direct investment. This last year alone – 2010 running into 2011 – we have realized over 350million US Dollars and this is not a small thing considering the size of our economy. But there are other areas competing for this kind of foreign direct investment and, in fact, we have had more than what we would have expected, considering the size of our economy and country. We have done a number of things to make the country attractive, not only for people to invest in Rwanda but also through Rwanda. We are making good progress in ICT, energy sector, banking, mining, agro-processing……..
Lerato Mbele: How is the East African Community helping your case in getting the Rwanda Stock Exchange get more prolific, single currency…
President Kagame: Recently we had the first IPO of one of our companies, Bralirwa, which is under Heineken. The IPO was over-subscribed by about 8 times of what was expected and we are having other companies on the way. Regionally, we have realized customs union, we have made headway with the common market and now people are discussing the monetary union, with the eventual possibility of forming a political federation. But these first two that I have mentioned are already on track and are certainly bringing together many millions in terms of business transactions, maximizing on this size of population.
Lerato Mbele: The final question, Mr. President. People are frustrated that there is perception of risks in Africa and there is reality – infrastructure, poverty, governance issues. One criticism leveled against you is that as Rwanda’s economy grows exponentially, it happens in an environment where politically the situation seems a lot more repressive. How do you respond to that?
President Kagame: I respond by saying that this is sincerely not true. If you look at the history of Rwanda, starting with the tragic recent past where there was nothing to speak of socially, politically or economically, you will see that we had to build the whole country from scratch. There is no way you could be making this economic progress and development, which evidently have the backing of the population, and yet at the same time you are a government that is repressive. These two would not co-exist like this. You would not make this progress when people are not involved. If you look at the processes we have been involved in, where in the area of decentralization – be it in electing leaders at different levels in our country and how people are responsive – you can’t say that this is a repressive environment. This does not make sense. It is a hearsay that started during our tragic history and it’s being repeated by the same people over and over again. It’s a story-line that has been created for Rwanda by some people and it doesn’t matter what Rwandans achieve, those who tell it will stick to that story line. It’s not fact-based and this is what we are struggling to explain. But the people of Rwanda are happy; they are making progress. You need to ask them what they feel, to know the reality.