President Paul Kagame says the world will pick vital lessons from the New Coronavirus pandemic which he said will most likely open up new opportunities for investment as a result of weaknesses and gaps it has revealed in societies.
The Head of State made the observation on Tuesday while addressing a Webinar dubbed “Rwanda: Insight for Investors” organized by Invest Africa, bringing together over 400 investors from across the globe and members of the media.
President Kagame spoke extensively about the country’s battle with the COVID1-19 outbreak, pointing out that Rwanda tried like everybody else to overcome the pandemic which he said became an equalizer, affecting every country and every person in equal measure.
Introduced by Paul Hinks, the CEO of Symbion Power and interviewed by renowned Southern African Investor and Entrepreneur Rob Hersov, President Kagame told the investors that Rwanda hopes to emerge out of the pandemic even stronger with more opportunities for investment emerging from the pandemic.
“We are just trying our best like everybody else is. The pandemic has affected every country and every society in this world. I don’t think there is anybody who can claim to be doing everything right,”
“This is a new situation we have had to deal with but like anything else in Rwanda, we give it a try and do our best especially when it is life threatening. If it threatens our people, then we mobilise and do whatever is possible and within our means to deal with the problem,”
President Kagame said that when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Rwanda moved fast to find out what is known about it and looked around the world to see what everybody else was doing and moved to rein in the spread of the virus when it was still early.
By announcing a lockdown and asking people to stay home, then moving quickly to isolate those who were infected and tracing their contacts, President Kagame said Rwanda managed to keep the numbers low, with the total of registered cases currently at 134.
He said that Rwanda has almost done it by the rulebook set by those who registered cases before Rwanda, who proved that doing certain things in a certain way and listening to scientists and medical professionals can yield results.
“This is how we have done it. We have really followed the best practices that we have come to learn about and the good thing our population has trust in the government and respond to advice and do as told as quickly as they can,” he said, adding that the citizens adhere to measures as soon as they are introduced.
“We have 127 [now 134 latest update] cases so far, we are seeing recovery rates which are very high, we have 42[now 49 latest update] cases that have turned negative and gone back to the society and so on and so forth but we are not taking any chances. We are making sure that we rein in this pandemic,” President Kagame told the Investors.
State of the economy, investment
President Kagame said Rwanda will do what it can, within the available resources, to ensure that the country’s economy is up and running again as soon as the New Coronavirus pandemic subsides.
The Head of State addressed the investors on the state of the economy, pointing out that the country’s economy, like many other economies around the world has shut down
He said that at the moment the country is focused on resolving the current crisis and then move to revitalize the economy by restoring things to normal and reinvesting to make things work again, pointing out that the country has picked important lessons from the current situation.
Among other things, he mentioned the experience of working from home, pointing out that people have been doing equal amount of work, if not more, than they have been doing in their places of work.
“We have discovered that. Maybe we knew it but we were not sure of how it would work but we have proved it literally,” adding that technology too has been tested, identifying where the weaknesses are and strength in terms of using it for work or even educating children who are not going to school.
“It has shown us the limits and spaces we have, whether it is in technology and other things,” he said, adding that these are all potential areas of investment –something he said the government is working on with the private sector.
He also mentioned sectors which have been doing well especially in the service sector, including financial services, hospitality, tourism and others which took a hit from COVID-19 but said the government will be working to revitalize them, having seen where the weaknesses are.
“We have seen some of the things were lacking, we are going to increase on that. Within doing business, efficiency, security and all that. We will probably double up on that [investment] because we are coming from an economy that has shut down and we are now trying to speed up to normal again,”
“It will require double effort on our part. It is a really sort of depressing situation where things almost shut down all of sudden, you didn’t expect it, you didn’t plan for it but on the other hand it consists of a lot of good lessons,” he said adding that it is a challenging and tough situation that will require a lot of effort to go back to normal.
Despite the challenges, he said it will be exciting in a sense, when countries begin to get busy to fill the gaps the pandemic has created.
Investing in human capital
President Kagame said that Rwanda has been realistic in its ambitions, bearing in mind that the country is not endowed with abundant resources but rather its people in whom it has invested and position for the future, even in the wake of unpredictable events like the pandemic.
“We really positioned our economy and have prepared our people based on the understanding of who we are, our limitations but also our potential and it all starts with human capital. It is really the people that we focus on,”
“This is what is common to every country. It is that capital that everybody has and depending on how you harness it and how you invest in it and develop it,” he said, adding that the rest will fall in place when you do that.
He highlighted the key areas Rwanda focuses on which are investing in the people, good governance and institutions, and putting in place leaders who work closely with the people.
Among other things, he said Rwanda keeps a realistic mindset that believes in achieving a lot within limited means.
“Really for us it is about being realistic about our own situation. We don’t expect or aim to do what is beyond our means or allow to perform less than we are capable of,”
“We keep being realistic between these ends and we have seen progress made based on that, investment in people technology, governance systems that allow things to happen the way you expect them even within such limitations,” he said, adding that the country concentrated on that and it is working.
President Kagame further spoke about regional integration in the wake of the current situation, saying that there will always be differences between countries due to different backgrounds as expected, even in the face of a common problem.
He however said that the new Coronavirus has in a way equalized things, because it has affected everyone, irrespective of gender, age, race or whatever background, in a sense narrowing the differences and prompting everyone to go back to drawing board and focus on the bigger picture.
On Rwanda’s part, he said that the country wants integration, probably wants integration more than anyone else since it is landlocked, in the middle of the continent and surrounded by neighbours with bigger economies with all kinds of resources.
He however said that much as Rwanda needs regional integration than everyone else, it believes others need it too since it is good for everyone.
“We have found that even for those countries that believe that they are big, standing alone, they actually become very small and especially when they compare themselves individually with other places where countries have come together,”
“That sense of how big you are comes to diminish and provides lessons that alone you are really limited in many ways,” the president said.
He said what Rwanda seeks is to achieve progress for herself while others are also making progress because that way everybody is winning.
He said; “Rwanda never tries to do anything because we want to provide example or teach others but as it is, when anybody does something good, it inevitably becomes an example for someone else.”
President Kagame also spoke about continental efforts to mobilise funds to combat COVID-19, pointing out that though individual countries are working on their own, the continent is coming together to fight the pandemic on a united front.