KIGALI - The 7th National Dialogue (Umushyikirano) yesterday kicked off with a key agenda of assessing the country’s progress and plotting new strategies that will guide the country towards a fast-tracked development path.
The high level meeting convened annually was opened by President Paul Kagame and brought together the country’s leadership, civil society, the Rwandan Diaspora, diplomatic corps, development partners and special visitors from 26 countries.
In his opening remarks, President Kagame told his audience that it was important to review goals and targets set for the past year, and design new and more ambitious goals for the coming year.
He urged the dialogue, which for the first time was held interactively with a live call-in telephone line and a direct SMS line, that the achievements registered at the end of each year, call for new and more challenging demands to improve the lives of Rwandans.
Among these, he singled out good governance and democracy, economic growth, food security and doing business reforms as some of the areas in which the country performed well in 2009.
He also noted that a lot was achieved in the health sector in 2009 as well as regional integration efforts with the EAC Common market and Customs Union coming into force.
Kagame also highlighted the country’s accession into the Commonwealth and restoring relations with France as some of the key milestones.
He said the need to consolidate all these achievements is more challenging.
President Kagame urged leaders to shun self-centred practices like corruption and embrace selfless values that benefit all Rwandans, insisting that where leadership is not good, society in general loses out while the country’s development is put on hold.
Prime Minister Bernard Makuza presented an assessment report on what was achieved within the 24 priorities and goals set during the 6th National Dialogue to be implemented between January and June 2009.
The PM said Rwanda embarked on a number of initiatives to support long term economic growth through improving the investment climate and projecting the country as a major investment hub as well as regional integration to support growth.
Infrastructure development, investment in the agricultural sector, land consolidation, crop intensification programmes, value addition to agricultural products and urging Rwandans to form cooperatives, were some of the key achievements over the year.
Other areas include consolidating the fight against corruption and improving service delivery and promoting good customer care values.
The PM noted that all key government institutions merged efforts to address the issue of corruption, noting that 404 cases of corruption were tried and punished by the Supreme Court between January and September 2009 and 226 files are being investigated.
He also noted was the progress of the National Civic Education Taskforce (Itorero) as well as efforts to eliminate the Genocide ideology.
The saving culture among Rwandans also improved through the ‘Umurenge SACCO’ savings cooperatives which to date have about 675,000 members.
Population growth remains a major challenge calling for an urgent need to reduce the annual rate from 2.7 percent to 2.4 percent by 2010 and at least 2 percent in the run-up to Vision 2020.
A large Balance of Payments deficit and low private investment continue to be key constraints within the economy.
Major focus will be directed towards Small and Medium scale Enterprises and increase access to finance.
Access to credit by farmers is also a key constraint, standing at 4 percent despite several initiatives, including putting in place the Agriculture Guarantee. The plan is to increase access to 15 percent by 2010.
Electricity and energy sources remain short of expected figures, low secondary school enrolment levels and high levels of soil erosion are some of the major challenges tabled during the meeting that ends today.