President Paul Kagame has said that despite a number of challenges, Rwanda has remained stronger and resilient which confirms that the future will even be brighter.
In the address which launched the 15th National Dialogue, Umushyikirano on Monday, Kagame said that agriculture, the backbone of the country’s economy where more than 75% Rwandans earn a living was affected last year.
“Agricultural production grew by 8% this year. This came despite challenges, such as army worm and drought in some parts of the country,” Kagame said.
The army worm, a rare parasite first appeared in Nyamagabe District (Southern Rwanda) early February 2017. The worm later on spread across all Districts of the country.
They mainly attacked and seriously damaged maize, but were also heavily eating away anything on the farm. Thousands of hectares were affected making the farmers hopeless.
The Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) came in and by using helicopters, made a quick supply of 5EW, a pesticide that is being used countrywide to control the worm.
The pesticide has been designed and is produced by SOPYRWA, a Ministry of Defence affiliated company.
RDF also contributed hugely to eradicating the pest in the farms, in collaboration with farmers.
To assure food security, the RDF, in its Army week where they contribute to social development activities, grew sweet potatoes at every free space.
More than 2100 hectares of vacant arable land appropriate for sweet potatoes growing were mapped, with the southern province contributing 844 hectares, the biggest share and city of Kigali, 18 hectares, the smallest share.
This was one among many challenges that the community faced together.
“We have had to deal with so many challenges, even impossible ones. But we rebuilt, stronger and more resilient than ever before,” Kagame said at Umushyikirano.
Contributing to this included quick response with government institutions giving farmers what they need on time. This includes subsidized fertilizers and improved seeds.
The president also said he is glad that agriculture entrepreneurship is taking shape among the youth.
Kagame said, the country’s economy remained resilient.
This year, he said, Rwanda had new investment projects worth an estimated $1.5 billion including big projects like the airport in Bugesera.
“Our Bugesera Airport that had totally failed is now under construction. It is one of the main big projects we had this year among many more,” he said.
In August this year, Kagame laid a foundation stone to officially flag off construction of Bugesera International Airport (BIA).
Construction of the airport has been planned in phases. The first Phase will cost $418 million, scheduled for completion by December 2018. After this phase, extension works will be undertaken worth $ 400 million, bringing the total cost of the project to $818 million.
Upon completion, Bugesera International airport will have capacity of handling 4.5 million passengers annually.
The airport is 30-minutes’ drive from the capital Kigali. It is located in Bugesera District, Eastern Province
Besides infrastructure, Kagame said that meetings have earned Rwanda a lot in the program of Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition (MICE) whereby Rwanda hosted 169 meetings.
“This brought hotels and our national carrier RwandAir thousands of customers,” he said.
Kagame however said, there is still much to do to excel in customer care.
The president said the Made in Rwanda campaign is also yielding results whereby the Rwandan products export increased by 50% while the import declined by 3%.
This brought the trade imbalance to a decline by 20%.
The country added 8,000 jobs in the industrial sector while the mining has overtaken all the import, thanks to value addition move.
President Kagame was thankful that electricity is increasing adding that the private sector will be brought on board to increase electricity cost.
On December 6th, the government officially handed over to Rwanda Energy Group (REG) the management of power plants supplying over 42MW to the country’s electricity grid.
The Power plants handed over include; Nyabarongo – currently producing 28MW to the national grid, Mukungwa and Ntaruka jointly producing 14MW, as well as Nshili, Nyabahanga Micro Hydro Plants and Gatsata, Jabana I & Jabana II Thermal Plants.
With the takeover of REG, government wants the energy supplier to efficiently exploit the plants to help the country fast track energy deficits.
The current generation capacity is 208MW compared to 563MW needed before end of next year to connect 70% of Rwanda’s households to electricity.
Kagame promised that the government will subsidize electricity for the poor.
The president said “The state of the nation should not be an annual event, rather, we should always assess ourselves.”
“We should find out whether our development pace is satisfactory.”
The president also indicated some specific areas where Rwanda needs change.
He agitated for change in quality education, an education for all, education which meets the current needs.
“Every other day, we discover more gaps. We shall never spare any efforts, because we need to reach further,” he said.
President Paul Kagame said the country will empower the health sector which has shown resilience in facing several diseases, including malaria, HIV/AIDS and others.
“Government institutions and private institutions will work hand in hand to maintain the sector.”
As President Kagame has always been doing, he reminded that security is foundation of everything.
He also asked the citizen to start preparing the upcoming parliamentary elections.
“We have the will. We have a good opportunity of good leadership. They will all contribute to our aim to give Rwandans the life they wish while also contributing to the wellbeing of the continent,” he said.
Umushyikirano will run from December 18th – 19th at Kigali Convention Centre.