President Paul Kagame addressed close to 4,000 Rwandans and Friends of Rwanda living abroad during the 10th edition of Rwanda Day held on Saturday at the World Conference Centre in Bonn, Germany.
Kagame said Rwanda had made good progress over the past few years, despite the challenges it has faced.
"Rwanda is a country building itself from the very bottom, where our already non-existent country was destroyed.
“We have faced more than enough obstacles. Some we were able to overcome, some of them left us with wounds, but we stayed standing. Even when we fell, we never stayed down, we always got back up. In the last 25 years, the challenges decreased, it is not the same as it was in the last 25 years. This is proof that our transformation is real,” he said.
“When you look at every aspect of our economy and the transformation of the country, you will find that every year, Rwanda makes progress in every sector of our economy,” he added.
Rwandans and friends of Rwanda wave flags as they welcome President Kagame during the 10th edition of Rwanda Day at the World Conference Centre in Bonn, Germany yesterday. / Village Urugwiro
The Head of State compared Rwanda to a moving plane which faces different forces but reaches its final destination in the end. When you are flying a plane, he said, there are two types of winds: winds coming from the front pushing the plane backward and winds that push a plane forward.
“In our case, we are often faced with the winds that push us backward. But like the plane pushing with its own strength, we also push through even when going against the current,” he noted.
He added: “But we also have winds that push us forward. That is each of you. You are the ones pushing Rwanda in the right direction.”
Contribution of the Rwandan community abroad
The Rwandan diaspora has played a significant role in Rwanda’s transformation. For instance, statistics show that Rwandans living abroad sent home $181.9 million in 2016/2017 in remittances and investments – an increase of 17 per cent on the previous year, according to Rwanda's central bank.
There has been a steady increase in remittances since the initiation of Rwanda Day in 2010. Diaspora remittances were $98.2 million in 2010 and a year after the launch of Rwanda Day, the number increased to $166.2 million.
Last year alone, Rwandans living abroad sent home $253.4 million.
Kagame told participants that there was a need to keep increasing efforts to not only reach the goals but to also move faster.
According to the President, the aim of Rwanda Day is to ensure that those outside Rwanda and those in Rwanda work together to speed up Rwanda’s transformation and achieve goals even faster.
“The reason Rwanda is strong is because we are a nation built on unity, where Rwandans work together towards a common goal. There is nothing that can break this kind of strength,” Kagame said.
Speaking about those who constantly want to destablise the country, Kagame said that their repeated attempts will not succeed.
“What they failed to do then, they will not be able to succeed today. I am not saying this to be boastful, or to dissuade those with plans to destroy our country. I am saying it because it is the truth,” he added.
While some critics have accused Rwanda of doing the wrong things, Kagame questioned whether a country can move forward based on doing the wrong things, something he said was a contradiction.
“We are moving forward because we are doing the right things. What can we do, to do even better, to increase the number of people doing the right things? When we talk about progress in Rwanda, it does not mean that there is nothing left to do. There is still a lot to do. There is a lot we have to fix,” he stated.
However, he added that it was wrong to use it as the basis of saying that everything is going wrong. He called on Rwandans living abroad to build on the foundation that the country has achieved.
Rwanda Day has been billed as one of the major factors that have kept Rwandans living outside connected to the country and has similarly enabled the country to attract investors from various sectors.
This year’s edition is the tenth edition after other editions that have taken place in cities like Brussels, Amsterdam, Chicago, San Fransisco, London, Atlanta, and Paris, among others.
The theme of this year’s edition was "Rwanda25: Owning our Future,” and it featured different speakers from the public and private sectors. The earlier discussions revolved around Culture and Heritage, and Innovation and Global Connection.
Sangwa Rwabuhihi, who returned to Rwanda three years ago from Germany and now manages Westerwelle Startup Haus Kigali, encouraged participants to see Rwanda through a different lens.
“We have a particular history, so the solutions that we have for our problems might seem unconventional but guess what; we as Rwandans have decided to set our own norms and to redefine what's conventional and what's not,” he said.