As the UK’s newly appointed Minister for Africa at the Department for International Development, I am honoured to be visiting Rwanda so early in my tenure. I look forward to seeing first-hand the remarkable progress that this country has made over the past twenty years.
Rwanda and the UK have had a close and unique partnership over the past two decades. The UK is proud to be a part of Rwanda’s success and we will continue to be so, helping Rwanda to continue its journey of developmental progress and poverty reduction.
The UK has contributed to Rwanda’s achievement of lifting over 1.5 million people out of poverty in recent years. Between 2011 and 2015 UK aid supported 3.8 million people to obtain land titles and through our support to the Vision Umurenge Programme and helped 390,000 of the poorest Rwandans to benefit from boosts in income. Our support provided 355,000 with access to financial services, and enabled 354,000 children to attend primary school.
Co-operation in international development is a key part of the Rwanda-UK relationship. I am immensely proud of the fact that the UK was the first member of the G7 to meet the United Nations target of spending 0.7% of gross national income on international development and we remain committed to this pledge.
We are also committed to a significant programme of support to Rwanda. We provide nearly £70 million a year through our office in Kigali and around the same amount from programmes managed in London or through our contributions to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank.
Our work over the next few years will support the structural transformation of Rwanda’s economy, creating decent jobs for all – including for youth, women and the poorest - and supporting a vibrant private sector that will contribute to increased growth and exports.
We will also continue to support education and social protection programmes to help create opportunities for all - including the poorest and most vulnerable. We will help Rwanda build resilience to climate change and climate variability and improve access to low carbon energy governance. We also support the further strengthening of Rwandan institutions of tax collection, audit and statistics and support the transition to a more inclusive and open society.
My visit comes at an important time for the UK. The British people have voted to leave the EU and the UK Government is seizing the opportunities this presents.
This includes continuing our international co-operation and engagement with Rwanda and Africa. The UK’s links with Africa are profound and we are more than ever committed to being a key partner of the continent and its people, and to deepening our economic ties in particular. Britain is outward-looking, engaged, and active on the world stage– a truly Global Britain. Together, we will work to help build a safer, healthier, more prosperous world.
Rwanda is one of 19 African countries that is a member of the Commonwealth. The UK is already one of only six European countries to have a permanent diplomatic mission in Kigali. These links will remain and grow as we leave the EU.
I welcome the progress Rwanda has made in creating the conditions for private sector growth and encouraging foreign trade and investment. Rwanda - like the UK – is very much open for business. I am keen to use my visit to support further investment by the UK private sector to further strengthen our economic commitment to Rwanda’s continued development.
These are exciting times for both our countries. Britain is a truly great country that will always thrive and prosper on the world stage. We have the fifth largest economy in the world, and the UK is widely recognised as one of the best countries in which to do business.
As Minister for Africa I am proud to represent the UK in the world and delighted that I have been able to come to Rwanda so soon. By working with close friends and allies such as Rwanda, we can ensure that the future of our countries is very bright.
The writer is the Minister with responsibility for Africa at the UK Department for International Development