Rwandans from all parts of the hilly country converged at the 2,600 capacity Kigali Convention Centre to participate at the 17th National dialogue, otherwise known simply as “Umushyikirano”.
The Kigali convention centre located some 6 kilometres from the Kigali International airport, is a product of private sector-led participation in the country’s economy. In 2007, three Rwandan corporate investors pooled resources to build the real estate complex which houses Radisson Blu Hotel, Kigali Information Technology Park, and a museum.
Since completion in 2016, the convention centre has hosted the country’s national and international events such as the World Economic Forum on Africa in 2016, ACCA Africa Members Convention in 2019 among others.
Interestingly, the once-war torn capital has earned a reputation in recent years as one of the cleanest and safest cities in Africa.
In attendance, during the two-day national dialogue session, was President Paul Kagame who not only addressed some socio-economic issues the country currently faces, but also answered questions from the different regions of the country.
The national dialogue program provided an avenue for Rwandans to collectively reflect on the nation’s Vision 2020, issues related to the state of the nation, the functioning of the decentralized structures, and issues of national unity and development.
For the first time, Rwanda diaspora community also joined other participants including members of the Cabinet and Parliament, local government, Civil Society Organizations, media and the diplomatic community.
Read also: Inside Rwanda’s economic miracle
Speaking at the event, President Kagame highlighted major achievements of his administration and efforts build on the success recorded so far.
In the Ease of Doing Business on the continent, Rwanda occupies the second spot, however, Kagame expressed the desire of his government to be the first on the annual ranking.
Rwanda is ranked 9th in the 2020 Global Gender Gap Index, Kagame said the desire of his administration is to occupy the top five in gender equality global ranking, currently, the cabinet line-up has in total 14 women out of 27. He also hinted that the country was ripe for a female president, a statement that elicited wide applause from the crowd.
According to Kagame, the economy has continued to grow at an average of 8 percent amid security challenges in neighbouring countries.
The economy probably expanded 8.5 percent in 2019, and Kagame said the target for 2020 will be 10 percent, enough to bring Rwanda within the top two fastest-growing economies in the world.
On health, it was said that 90 percent of Rwandans now have health care insurance thanks to a universal health care model, which provides health insurance through a system called Mutuelles de Santé. The system is a community-based health insurance scheme in which residents of a particular area pay premiums into a local health fund, and can draw from it when in need of medical care.
On education, the progress made in increasing school enrollment to 90 percent was duly recognized even though Kagame yet again wanted more.
For the country to compete at global markets, the president said the country would need to continue to work with other countries to improve the quality of education. The Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Rwanda established in 2011, was born out of a partnership between CMU and the Government of Rwanda is the only U.S. research university offering its master’s degrees with a full-time faculty, staff and operations in Africa. The country will target more of such partnerships, Kagame said.
In his words “We need to put in more efforts, we are advancing but slowly, we are not running, we need to run”.
The Rwanda economy is based mostly on subsistence agriculture by local farmers using simple tools, assuring that the Girinka program aimed at reducing extreme poverty in rural areas of Rwanda by providing each poor family with a cow would continue.
So far, the program has increased household income through the sale of milk and because fertilization of soils with manure has also raised crop yields.
As part of the Rwanda’s tourism promotion drive, Rwanda’s Development Board agreed a three-year sponsorship deal with the French club to promote its tourism industry on the kit of its women’s team as well through stadium branding. This follows from signing a 3-year contract “Visit Rwanda” sleeve sponsorship with English Premier League side Arsenal in a deal worth 30 million British pounds.
The campaign, which was controversial at its launch, has lifted overall tourism numbers by 8 percent, officials told BusinessDay during an Interview in Kigali.
According to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the number of tourists from England alone has climbed by 5percent compared to the previous period. The surge in the number of visitors into the country has caused authorities to increase its Visa on arrival fee from $30 to $50.
Recently the country suffered heavy causalities from heavy downpour, but during the event, President Kagame urged resident of areas prone to natural disasters to relocate to the new structures provided by the government, urging local leaders to desist allocating lands to people in such vulnerable areas.
The President also urged the youths in the country to develop a problem-solving mindset at their various places of work.
One of the highlights of the event was the comment from an undergraduate who is the son of a rebel warlord still hiding in the Congo Forest and who has been under government scholarship. He publicly urged his father to embrace peace and come out of the forest.