Let me begin by thanking you Monsignor Anselmo Guido Pecorari, for your kind words on our country’s modest achievements during the past year.
I will also add that these accomplishments are the result of significant contribution by countries and organisations represented by you, the heads of diplomatic and consular corps and representatives of international organisations.
On behalf of Rwandans and on my own behalf, I wish you, your families, your organisations, and your countries a productive 2008.
As we gather here today to celebrate the beginning of a new year of joint endeavours, let us also briefly take stock of the previous year, particularly with regards to our efforts to improve the lives of our people.
In 2007 we realized Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 6.3 percent.
While this is a macroeconomic aggregate, it nonetheless indicates that, overall, our country performed well – which translated into higher income for Rwandans.
This performance was driven by significant growth in a number of areas including mining, construction, and services sectors.
Rwanda also recorded an increase in exports from one hundred and seventy five million US dollars in 2006 to two hundred and twelve million in 2007.
We had our own challenges however including drastic increases in oil prices and further, agriculture in general and coffee in particular underperformed.
Overall, the improved economic context provided an enabling environment for Rwandans to better their own lives.
The private sector continued to grow.
Evidence of business development from within this sector is illustrated by the rise of collaborative efforts by members of Rwandan business community in different parts of the country.
For example, small enterprises and individuals pooled their financial resources for investing in identified opportunities in their respective home provinces.
Six billion Rwandan francs have been raised in this manner.
This followed in the establishment of Rwanda Investment Group (RIG) which in the past year invested in such fields as cement production, tea, and energy.
In the case of cement, RIG purchased a factory from government and that is now well on its way to tripling production of this vital commodity.
With regards to Foreign Direct Investment, there were twenty-seven new operations in Rwanda valued at two hundred and two million US dollars, versus ninety-two million US dollars the previous year.
These economic activities were not limited to the formal private sector but also applied to joint efforts by our people in the cooperative movement.
In 2005 we had nine hundred and nineteen registered cooperatives in Rwanda.
By 2007, the number had increased to almost two thousand.
These are still modest accomplishments in light of what we need to do to fundamentally transform our country.
I am most certain, however, that as we keep improving our healthcare system, investing in education, and generally increasing skills of our people, more and more Rwandans will enter into such productive activities – which is the real pathway to defeating poverty.
As we all know, consistent socioeconomic transformation is underpinned by strong institutions.
We have continued to strengthen Rwandan institutions – on the basis of home-grown context, solutions and ownership.
In this respect, it is increasingly evident that power-sharing and consensus-building as the foundation for political dispensation in our country continue to bear dividends in building a united, prosperous and democratic nation.
This philosophy and practice also strongly inform our reconciliation processes alongside the delivery of justice.
Further, these practices also shape our decentralisation efforts with the goal of bringing government closer to Rwandans.
I must repeat that your understanding and support of these efforts have been very valuable indeed.
It is important to bear in mind that Rwanda can only achieve its objectives for socioeconomic transformation if our region and continent are on a similar path.
We remain committed to playing our role in the realisation of peace and security in Africa – which remain fragile in parts of our continent.
Hence the imperative of strengthening our regional frameworks in partnership with the international community to bring our sister countries firmly into the stability column!
Looking to the future, we have our developmental roadmap in the form of Rwanda’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS).
Anchored in this roadmap, we intend to become more focussed in addressing our priorities including infrastructure, agricultural modernisation, skills, and in general building our institutional capabilities to lead the development process.
Let me once again thank you for your support over the last year.
I look forward to continued collaboration among our peoples and cooperation for transforming our country.