President Kagame during the launch of the reports yesterday. Next to him is Prof Paul Collier from Oxford University (L). The New Times / Village Urugwiro.
President Paul Kagame, yesterday, said that the Rwandan people rejected the notion of a ‘poverty trap’ and worked closely with the government to plan and implement programmes that have resulted to a steady decline in poverty levels.
The Head of State made the remarks during a joint launch of the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II), the Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV 3) report as well as the fourth Demographic and Health Survey (DHS 4).
The surveys show a remarkable 11.8 percent reduction in poverty as well as improved access to health care, over the last five years.
“These communities inspire many innovative, home-grown initiatives such as Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP), Umuganda and One-Cow-per-Family. There has been a mindset shift.
“Rwandans now know that we should aspire for more and better and that the solutions are there within ourselves,” President Kagame said. He added that, strong institutions within and central and local government, evidence-based policy making, accountable leadership, as well as the will and commitment on the part of the citizens have been the driving force behind the success.
The President observed that Rwanda’s progress is a sign that any country, regardless of its resources, can work its way out of poverty. He pointed out that when the first EDPRS was rolled out, there was a lot of skepticism on the set targets which seemed ambitious.
President Kagame acknowledged the support of development partners who have supported the country’s transformation journey. He, however, noted that for the country to maintain the momentum, extra efforts are needed in areas that boost the economy and the lives of citizens, including infrastructure, energy and markets. “First, we have to improve access to markets. This implies increased investment to infrastructure, especially our rural networks.
“Access to energy is crucial to our transformation efforts. Although this has doubled in the past five years, it remains low. It is also imperative to create off-farm jobs by linking SMEs to larger Foreign Direct Investments,” Kagame said.
The President went on to challenge the private sector to increase investment. “EDPRS 2 will also challenge our private sector to scale up private investment and grasp opportunities created by our improved business environment and higher purchasing power of Rwandans, as well as
regional integration,” Kagame said, adding that the government will continue investing heavily in programmes such as Technical and Vocational Education (TVET) to increase skills and labour capacity building.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, John Rwangombwa, said the findings of the two surveys, the EICV3 and DHS4, are evidence that the country is on the right track to achieve its Vision 2020.
“The surveys form a strong basis for elaborating concrete plans to accelerate delivery of our next EDPRS. The surveys will quantify the tremendous improvements that have occurred in the lives of Rwandans over the past five years,” Rwangombwa said.
“Poverty has reduced by 12 percent, moving from 57 percent in 2006 to 45 percent in 2011. This outpaced our targets of 46 percent at end 2012. Rwanda has experienced fast growth and it is good to note that this growth has benefited the poorest members of our community most,” the minister added.
Rwangombwa noted that inequality has been heavily reduced and household incomes have been buoyed by various government programmes, while improved access to education and healthcare puts the country on track to achieve MDGs by 2015. “MDG targets on poverty reduction, infant mortality and maternal mortality which looked unattainable in the past five years, have now been confirmed to be on track for 2015,” Rwangombwa said, also paying tribute to development partners.
He commended the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) for the data collection, saying that for a country to fully own its development process, it needs a reliable statistics body.
Speaking on behalf of the development partners, Aurelien Agbenonci, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, said: “Today marks a great milestone towards realising the national Vision 2020 of transforming Rwanda into a knowledge-based economy.”
Agbenonci noted that the evidence presented is the outcome of sound policies and concerted efforts to reduce poverty levels.
“We applaud the forward-looking vision the government of Rwanda has set for the country to pursue sustainable path,” he said, noting that significant decline in infant, child and maternal mortality, as well as poverty rates, are strong indictors of improved wellbeing through improved availability and utilisation of services,” he added.
The Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, Prof. Paul Collier, who was the guest speaker at the launch, described the results of Rwanda’s progress over the last five years as “deeply impressive.”
Collier, who has been specialising on Africa for over 40 years pointed out that the country faced very serious impediments, including a very high population density, lacks vast natural resources and is severely landlocked, yet it managed to achieve what no other African country had achieved.
“The combination of this unique outcome when facing impediments that
other societies have not faced, is indeed extraordinary,” observed Collier, author of The Bottom Billion.
The don attributes Rwanda’s progress to the serious “business-like” approach with which the government deals with issues, where coherent implementation and sheer competence characterise the way things are done.
He noted that, most importantly, the country has a critical mass of people driven by a ‘national purpose’ and a conscious government that is not basking in its successes, but rather worried about more that needs to be done.
By Edmund Kagire & Gertrude Majyambere, The New Times