Day one of the 2024 National Umushyirano Council dialogue kicked off with citizens bringing to the attention of leaders some of the social, economic and governance issues of their concern this year.
The Dialogue, which happens once annually has for the last 19 years been acting as a platform to rethink new ways of forging a development path with tangible resolutions and solutions.
President Paul Kagame once again put a cap on several issues of failure to offer public services as sole responsibility for leaders and citizens.
One of these was the issue of business standards certification papers on time, an issue he says shouldn’t be the case in Rwanda.
Concerns of failure to deliver certification services to business owners once again resurfaced at the 19th National Umushyikirano Council dialogue, with other certification institutions accused of delays.
Sandrine Mukasine used social media to raise the issue to the attention of President Kagame, who chaired the dialogue that attracted over 15,000 Rwandans from across the country and the Rwandan community in the diaspora.
“Your excellence the President of the Republic, what measures can be put in place to reduces the procedures required by RICA, RSB and FDA yet in most cases they are almost similar,” Mukasine wrote.
“All these services as of this day are expensive and it takes over six months to get one single certificate and yet you find that certificate is offered by one institution,” she said.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Jean Chrysostome Ngabitsinze said that the issue was brought to their attention four months ago following several queries and it will be resolved with the guidance and consultation of the Prime Minister’s office.
Both Ngabitsinze and the Deputy CEO Rwanda Development Board (RDB) said that they have no excuse as to why the issue was not resolved immediately it was tabled but promised to take action.
A similar issue was also first raised during the 18th dialogue where the private sector raised concerns over lack of a central place for business owners seeking licenses to do business under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The East African Business Council (EABC) Vice Chairman, Dennis Karera said that this required one moving to five or more different institutions to acquire all required certification.
Since then the RDB announced a relaunch of a revamped One Stop Centre with at least 23 licensing services done in one place to ease the previous challenges faced by both local and foreign investors in registering and acquiring certificates for their businesses.
From the Diaspora, Belice Sine, a medical student in Poland who was evacuated from Ukraine due to the crisis in the country said that the government helped six of the students to continue their studies but have challenges with costs of education in their now country of residence.
“We are studying and performing well but the problem is that the fees here are expensive and six times what we paid in Ukraine. We are asking your Excellence the President for support or even a loan or scholarship whatever the amount it can help us to study well,” Sine said.
She also said that many have stopped going to school but with support they can complete their education and contribute to the nation’s growth.
In response, President Kagame said that this is something that will be handled immediately.
“The government will solve that without any delay. So, the Prime Minister and Minister of education and health have to solve that problem. No one should fail to study because of failing to get fees unless if they lose brains but they are said to be doing well, so the rest is ours,” Kagame stated.
On the issue of university laptop loans, Nadia Mukamana wrote on social media complaining that the education minister didn’t loan laptops to University of Rwanda final year students as other students.
“It is in this period that we actually need the laptops because it is the time to do our theses. Help us your excellence so that we get those laptops,” she wrote.
This concern had earlier on been reported on social media creating a big debate, requiring the ministry of education to intervene.
At the dialogue, the Minister of Education, Gaspard Twagirayezu explained that this decision was taken following the fact that close to 70% of the students who previously acquired laptop loans were not responsible and sold the computers which was contrary to the original intended use.
President Kagame said that there is no need to be apologetic on the above measures taken if students are not held accountable or responsible when government is spending funds.
“They (students) must learn how to desist from this completely but we also need to follow both issues including those who didn’t get computers can be considered,” Kagame said.
Prime Minister Dr. Édouard Ngirente also took a stand on the issue of feed roads maintenance saying the citizens have a responsibility in ensuring government infrastructure is maintained especially feeder roads which connect markets.
“We should agree as Rwandans that damaging infrastructure is not acceptable. You cannot ask for a road and after it is constructed from the national budget, one destroys it,” Ngirente said asking citizens to contribute to rehabilitating infrastructure were needed.
Other Solved Issues:
Eugenie Kamagaju, a livestock keeper from Kamonyi district thanked the government for the policy on Nkuganire subsidies offered on fertilizers and farm inputs but asked that the same should be done for livestock since agriculture captures both practices.
The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Ildephonse Musafiri said that all livestock are treated free of charge as of now but the issue of livestock insurance can be considered even when already there is a solution in the insurance program where the government gives a 40% subsidy to all insured livestock.
Pascaline Umutoni Habimana, a banking recruitment officer suggested that there is need to have a Grand Career Fair at Rwanda Day events (which are back this year) where employers and job seekers can meet and a database platform put in place so that diaspora willing to return home can use it.
“This database can help to connect them even if there are no vacancies available, they can be available in future, so that they can be contacted for those opportunities” Habimana said.
“This will help to increase the number of diaspora returning home and resolve the issue of skilled manpower as sighted by the health minister on the need of doctors. Some medical students here will also be connected,” she added.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Vincent Biruta said that the platform is already in place and it will be officially presented and launched during the Rwanda Day in Washington DC, in the next month February, 2024.
This will help us to know the number of Rwandans in the Diaspora, their capabilities, what they studied and services they need so that if we need doctors and engineers, we can easily contact them on that platform,” Biruta said.
Stanislas Habyarimana, a Technical education trainer at IPRC Kigai and former student of IPRC Tumba, asked the dialogue to consider increasing and purchasing equipment need in practical technical education (tools and consumables) in order to improve the quality of skills produced in the sector- which Rwanda has set its focus on in the education transformation agenda 2017-2024.
Education Minister Twagirayezu replied that government spends over Rwf8billion on consumables in technical schools but there is plan to add on more equipment supplies under the new program of empowering technical schools.