The Head of State made the remarks, yesterday, while opening the 42nd session of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) African Chapter, at the Parliament Buildings in Kimihurura.
In line with the theme of the conference “consolidating growth and development,” President Kagame, said that the African continent has registered commendable gains in the past decade and these need to be consolidated.
“This year alone, average GDP growth across the continent is expected to be between 5 and 6 percent and projected to rise in the year 2012,” President Kagame said.
“Over the last 10 years, net foreign direct investments grew from less than US$6bn to more than US$29bn. Within the same period, external debt as a percentage of GDP fell from 65% to 22%—due to significant debt relief,”
He added the continent did not arrive at the growth figure by accident, but was rather a product of conscious policy decisions and implementation strategies African countries adopted.
The President said that African countries decided to invest in carrying out reforms in doing business to encourage further investment and, more investments in education and healthcare have raised life expectancy.
The President added that the continent has been able to increase literacy rates and create a skilled population.
The Head of State called on the parliamentarians to deliberate on important issues such as increasing food security on the continent and how to sustainably improve the lives of the people, as the theme of the conference indicates.
“It concerns us all. To ensure that no African citizen suffers from hunger, we need to invest more in agriculture, forecasting systems and infrastructure, empowering small holder farmers by providing them with finance, seeds and fertilisers and improving post harvest management,” he said.
On democracy and humans rights, the Head of State said that the African definition of democracy does not contradict those of other regions of the world and these include the need for citizen participation and allowing people to define their priorities.
“The issue of human rights concerns us as individuals, communities and nations. We embrace these rights because they give meaning to life, and because they allow people to achieve their aspirations,”
“It is important to note that these rights are realized as an accumulation of all the above mentioned processes,” he said
Similarly, President Kagame said gender equality should be seen as a rights issue, and one that is “simply” common sense because the significant contribution of women to all aspects of governance and public life speaks for itself and their participation should not be a question of “if” but of “how much more”.
The Head of State pointed out that Rwanda’s recent history shows how much can be lost if attention is diverted from real national issues while, at the same time, the progress registered over the last 17 years is an example of how much can be achieved over a short time.
President Kagame said that Rwanda offers lessons of what can be achieved when there is a single focus on nation building, with the involvement of the people in the decision making processes.
The President noted that Rwanda, along its journey to reconstruction and development, has been able to focus on establishing institutions of governance and most importantly creating an environment where they can effectively work.
“Our citizens must be empowered to participate actively in the processes that determine their livelihoods and well being. This includes consultation in drafting of legislation,” President Kagame said.
“Accountability is key and this refers to the responsibilities of our leaders towards citizens, but also, the duty citizens have to fulfil their obligations and abide by the nations laws.”
President Kagame said the other lesson that can be drawn from Rwanda is the zero tolerance for corruption.
“It (corruption) has proven itself to be a malignant cancer on our continent and globally. The baseline of attack is an efficient system of prevention and effective sanctions,” Kagame said, amidst applause.
This orientation, Kagame said, coupled with a general approach that embraces innovation and draws from the country’s heritage to address specific challenges, has formed a useful foundation for the country’s socio-economic transformation.
Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament and chair of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) lauded Rwanda and President Kagame for championing women emancipation.
Kadaga said that Rwanda set a global record with over 56% of parliamentarians as women while at the same time the country’s cabinet goes beyond the 30% threshold of women ministers, a feat, she said, is commendable.
Representatives from 16 CPA African countries are in the country to attend the 1-week conference. Rwanda is the newest member of CPA. The MPs visited various parts of the country over the last week.