President Paul Kagame has said that democracy can be achieved when people are empowered and developed for a better life.
The Head of State was speaking yesterday at the 5th Annual Oxford Africa Business Conference at Saïd Business School in London, United Kingdom, where he was invited by the institution’s authorities as the guest speaker.
The university conferred on Kagame the Distinction of Honour for African Growth Award. It is the first such award, which the elite British academic institution plans to make as regular occurrence.
The Saïd Business School is one of Europe’s youngest and most entrepreneurial business schools and is integral part of the University of Oxford.
The President delivered the keynote address at the university ahead of the fourth Rwanda Day event held in London, where he was the guest of honour.
The Oxford Africa Business high level forum is one of the leading global platforms for engaging influential business and community leaders, top academics, industry experts and MBA students, from around the world on significant business issues in Africa.
The conference held under the theme “leading from the frontier’ dwelt on companies, entrepreneurs and leaders who continue to drive the African growth story.
The forum explored the rapidly increasing levels of intra-African trade, and discussed a range of topics from the technology revolution to frontier investing and the role private equity is playing in unlocking value on the continent.
Kagame dismissed criticisms that there is no democracy in Rwanda under his leadership, arguing that what has been done to improve peoples’ lives in the country speaks volumes against the critics.
“How can you provide health coverage and education to over 90 percent of the Rwandan population and be authoritarian? Democracy is about people,” the president said.
He pointed out that providing education, healthcare, and empowering people to feed themselves cannot be undemocratic.
“If you’re providing food security for your people, if you are feeding them, how is that against human rights?” he wondered.
“Our people are mobilized, motivated and ready to embrace meaningful partnerships and meet their full potential.”
The president said that “if Rwanda can go from where it has been to where it is today, other African countries can grow and move forward too”.
On Africa’s growth
The Head of State also talked about African ties where nations are charting the way forward to work together and establish strong partnerships.
He noted that much more can be done because Africa still has a lot of untapped potential.
“Growth begets more growth and confidence...Intra-African investments rose by about 33 percent in the last five years,” he said. “Africans living on $1.25 per day fell from 52 percent to 48 percent.”
In Rwanda poverty reduced by 12 percent between 2008 and 2012 and one million Rwandans were lifted out of poverty under the president’s leadership.
He noted that Africa’s growth is driven by structural changes within African countries such as political stability and better governance.
“Many are convinced by evidence that it will last, among them are the Africans who are driving it and committed to maintain the momentum,” he said.
However, the President said challenges that impede growth still exist and some solutions to reverse the situation includes investing more in the youth, technology and innovation.
“Our countries have taken deliberate steps to invest in areas that are most sustainable and its people,” he said.
The event was characterised by question and answer sessions that ranged from local to regional issues such as insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the 2017 presidential succession talks in Rwanda.
The issue the President tackled at length was the period after his current seven year term ends in 2017 where he said that he had “not even given thought to a third term.”
“Some say I should stay, others that I shouldn’t, yet others that I shouldn’t have been there in the first place,” he said.
The President also talked about Rwanda’s strategies to ease doing business where he said that it only takes six hours to register a business in the country. The 2013 Baseline Profitability Index (BPI) by U.S.-based Foreign Policy Magazine ranked Rwanda fifth-best destination for investment in the world.