Remarks by President Paul Kagame at White House Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Conference on Public-Private Partnerships and Economic Development

•  Head of Rwandan National Institutions; •  Mr Jay Hein, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives; •  Ms Cheryl Sim, Chargé d’Affaires, United States Embassy in Rwanda; • Pastor Rick Warren, Founder of Saddleback Church; • Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
President Kagame and Pastor Warren at the launch of  ‘Forty Days of purpose’ at Amahoro National Stadium. (Photo / G. Barya)
President Kagame and Pastor Warren at the launch of ‘Forty Days of purpose’ at Amahoro National Stadium. (Photo / G. Barya)

•  Head of Rwandan National Institutions;

•  Mr Jay Hein, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives;

•  Ms Cheryl Sim, Chargé d’Affaires, United States Embassy in Rwanda;

• Pastor Rick Warren, Founder of Saddleback Church;

• Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

I begin by expressing my appreciation for the role of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in organizing this Conference on public sector, private sector and faith-based partnerships.

The distinguished audience gathered here, especially those of you who traveled long distances to join us this morning, deserves a vote of thanks.

I welcome you all to Kigali, and trust that you will use this platform not only to showcase good practices, but also to explore how best to use partnerships to accelerate African and Rwanda’s social and economic transformation.

It is increasingly evident that developmental success depends on engendering a collaborative culture that incorporates governments, business communities and faith sectors.

Even the old core businesses of the state, including infrastructure development, and provision of education and health, have given way to creative hybrid models that incorporate various forms of partnerships.

The question has become “which of the partners possesses comparative advantages to perform what development task?”, so that government, business and faith-based institutions can work together strategically to transform society.

I wish to suggest that of the three sectors in this partnership, the faith sector has tended to receive less attention, although this has begun to change. Consider the case of the World Bank.

Recognizing the grassroots nature of faith-based institutions and their potential to reach more people, the Bank’s Multi-Sector AIDS Program sought to utilize these networks as the basis for implementation.

I am told that presently, over thirty thousand faith- and community-based programs have been executed in this manner in developing countries, with effective results.

We may also cite increased recognition of this approach by the United States Government, most notably through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief (PEPFAR).

I am informed that more than eighty percent of PEPFAR’s partners are indigenous faith- or community-based organizations. I am pleased to note that Rwanda has done very well under this program.

Historically, in the African context, community and faith-based networks have played critical roles in provision of services especially in education and health sectors.

In the field of health for example, it is estimated that between thirty to seventy percent of health facilities are owned or operated by religious institutions on the African continent.

The Rwandan case is not different from the general African picture. Provision of health is also shared – with government operating fifty seven percent of the facilities, and private efforts constituting forty three percent, of which twenty seven is affiliated to faith-based institutions.

The Rwandan education sector reflects similar collaborative arrangements. In other words, we are a country deeply rooted in partnership practices. The role of faith-based institutions is not without considerable challenges, however.

The first challenge revolves around these organizations themselves. Like any domestic constituency, these services operate in specific historical, social, economic and political realities.

They are, in other words, not immune to partisan interest or rivalry – factors that have often undermined their ability to serve broader public interests.

This sentiment was aptly captured by the then President of the World Bank, Mr. James Wolfensohn when he stated in 2002 that “half the work in education and health in Sub-Saharan Africa is done by the Church, but they don’t talk to each other and they don’t talk to us”.

However, increasingly this is not the case as denominational dialogue bears fruit, in addition to improved national environment that supports constructive engagement among the three noted stakeholders.

The second challenge revolves around support from our development partners. There is a school of thought among our partners that tends to consider support through state systems as undesirable or even illegitimate – and therefore prefers dispensing assistance exclusively through non-governmental channels.

Instead of contributing to national cohesion among the domestic players, this kind of external support creates tensions by pitting governmental and non-governmental actors against one another – as if indeed these two somehow serve different interests.

It is with this backdrop that I highlight and commend a mix of positive external contributions that seek to strengthen bonds between Rwandan public, private and community partnerships, including the following:

“Peace baskets” produced by hundreds of Rwandan women for the United States’ markets; specialty coffee in which corporate America is increasing its interest and stake; individual American business people that have joined us in examining the feasibility of building a rail line to link our country to the global market place; and America’s faith-based initiatives promoting collaboration between government, business and the faith sector.

These activities demonstrate what is possible if and when industry, faith sector, government and external actors combine their energies and resources for greater public good. And this is a road that we in Rwanda are determined to travel.

Let me conclude by once again thanking the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for sponsoring this important meeting on productive partnerships.

As we all agree, while the individual roles of governments, the business community, and faith-based institutions are critical for future development success – the more these constituencies act in unison, the more effective the results.

I wish you fruitful discussions – and look forward to the advice and wisdom from this important meeting.

Ends

 

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