NYARUGENGE - President Paul Kagame yesterday morning opened the Africa Climate Change Forum, a high-level event held at Kigali Serena Hotel and organized by the London School of Economics (LSE) in partnership with the Government.
In his opening remarks, the President expressed his delight in addressing the high-level assembly – policy makers, business leaders, academia and environment experts, among others.
“We appreciate the fact that many of you have traveled from overseas and from the region to join us,” Kagame said, saying it confirmed the event’s importance.
“Forging relationships and bringing together relevant stakeholders to share insights and wisdom on how to deal with climate change is vital,” he further underscored, while emphasizing the need to “pool efforts” in order to allay the effects of climate change.
He pointed out that Africa and Rwanda’s ecological integrity are threatened by a vicious cycle of poverty, exploding population growth and weak or non-existent environmental policies and regulation.
“There is hardly any region on our continent that is not in some way affected by grave environmental degradation of one kind or another,” he underscored.
However, Kagame also urged participants to stop lamenting and instead pre-occupy themselves with implementing corrective measures.
He pointed out some of the “modest steps” being undertaken in the country such as her efforts in addressing the population growth problem which incorporates, among other things, education for women and girls, a national health insurance scheme for all Rwandans, and a family planning sensitization campaign promoting a three-children family, among others.
“More work needs to be done in this regard but we are nonetheless convinced that there is increasingly greater awareness on the imperative of having smaller families and we are determined to press ahead,” he said.
Explaining the current growth in the agriculture sector, he said that efforts for implementing better strategies should be doubled.
“We are beginning to reap the benefits of our irrigation policy,” he said.
Howard Davies, Director of the LSE, commended the President’s interest in development issues and disclosed that the idea of the conference only emerged after Kagame’s outstanding and rousing speech at the school last year.
Davies said, “We have very many visits by politicians and Heads of State. We are not short of dignitaries coming to speak, but this visit stood out because it was not just a speech about Rwanda.
The President not only gave a very encouraging and upbeat presentation on prospects of the country, but he also held a long discussion with our faculty on a wide range of issues.”.said Davis.
He added that it is “highly unusual” for leaders to take such a keen interest in the ideas being considered and developed in universities.
“That is why we are here,” he said.
Davies thanked Government, and especially the President for his personal enthusiasm, emphasizing the growing relations between the UK and Rwanda.
“I think the conference also seats well within the developing relationship between our two countries,” he attested, adding, “I am sure that many other links between Rwanda and the UK will develop within the Commonwealth. As we know, you are on route towards membership of the Commonwealth.”
Davies also said that from the forum, he hoped to see more students from Rwanda.
The two-day event will cover three main topics: climate change and development, governance and human rights and, climate change adaptation strategies.