“What the rest of the world is waking up to is a reality we have lived all the time”: Richard Sezibera

For Rwanda, it’s not about only creating wealth — safeguarding the environment is important.

Favourable Global Environment,Globalisation,Kigali Global Dialogue,Richard Sezibera

Rwanda’s foreign minister Richard Sezibera says the quality of his country’s growth is “striking” because it is “non-commodity dependent” and is the result of sound policy choices over at least a decade. Sezibera spoke with Samir Saran, President, Observer Research Foundation, on the sidelines of the Kigali Global Dialogue in Rwanda’s capital city.

“What the rest of the world is waking up to is a reality we have lived ourselves all the time and therefore we have chosen to invest in doing what we think is right for our people and building partnerships with people who understand us. We build those partnerships because we think what benefits us should also benefit others. It is not fair that we be asked to choose between partners and partnerships,” he told Samir Saran.

We bring you excerpts from this special interview that covers the wide arc of development partnerships that Rwanda and other African nations are building with the global community.


Samir Saran: Six of the 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa. Is this optimism well placed? Are there some fundamental challenges that could derail that growth story? Are we beginning to see a holistic approach?

Richard Sezibera: First of all, the growth that we are seeing in our continent is important. Quality of that growth is striking. Many of the fastest growing economies, including mine, are non-commodity dependent. Therefore, these are economies that are growing because of policy choices over many years. Certainly for my country over a decade and these choices have put in place the fundamental building blocks of growth. Investments in innovation, health, education and in critical infrastructure to sustain growth. So the optimism that you see is real. There are still major challenges. Africa is a continent of promise and prosperity potential but we still have to create wealth for the majority of our people and that is still ahead of us. There are challenges of peace, security and governance that is still an unfinished agenda. But all in all, countries have understood that we can grow and grow fast. No country is condemned to live in perpetual poverty. If my country under the leadership of President Kagame can lift itself out of the deep hole left by genocide, then any country on any continent can do well for its people. This dynamic young force that is growing up on our continent is hopeful for the future.

No country is condemned to live in perpetual poverty. If my country under the leadership of President Kagame can lift itself out of the deep hole left by genocide, then any country on any continent can do well for its people.

Saran: In President Kagame’s vision, what are the key sectors that you believe will allow Rwanda to become the service and ideas capital and innovation? What are the relationships you are investing in to help get there?

Sezibera: Thank you for your kind words. Twenty five years down the road, when you look back at 1994 and the devastation there was at that time, I can only say that President Kagame looked at what was and simply refused to see it. He chose to see what this country could be. That vision is captured in our vision 2020 and currently in our vision 2050 is a collective vision that has emanated from all Rwandans — from civil society, from local leaders, religious organisations and therefore they own it although it is executed by government. The pillars of our vision are critical. One of course is peace and security which is also an undertaking by the Rwandan people. We have made investments in health and education because we want an educated workforce that is able to create wealth. We have made investments in critical infrastructure — roads, rail, airlines and energy. We are making major investments in energy and electricity supply, agro-processing and agriculture. A number of manufacturing companies are setting up here — from textiles to automobiles. All this is being done in a manner that safeguards our environment. For us, it’s not about only creating wealth. Safeguarding our environment is important for us. Finally, ours is a vision that is based on regional and continental integration to create the value chains that our industries need.

Twenty five years down the road, when you look back at 1994 and the devastation there was at that time, I can only say that President Kagame looked at what was and simply refused to see it. He chose to see what this country could be.

Saran: Many believe we are facing a tough external environment. We are seeing reluctance around trade, fatigue around globalisation. Many of the big finance firms are working in their own geographies while consumer goods and tech move across borders. Stakeholders are becoming more partisan. How do India and Rwanda grow in such moments. How do we navigate?

Sezibera: or my country and certainly for other African countries, we have never had a favourable global environment. We have never known it. We did not have it in the 80s, we did not have it in the 90s, we don’t have it now. What the rest of the world is waking up to is a reality we have lived ourselves all the time and therefore we have chosen to invest in doing what we think is right for our people and building partnerships with people who understand us. We build those partnerships because we think what benefits us should also benefit others. It is not fair that we be asked to choose between partners and partnerships. We cannot do so. It is not fair that we be asked to be partners on other people’s agendas. No. What is important is that we have our agenda and have partners around it. We negotiate so that the partnership is mutually beneficial. Maybe the idea behind the non-alignment movement is as true today and it is was at another time. It is certainly true for us. We are aligned to our vision and agenda. Multi-alignment has always been true for us. We have to have partnerships with governments, partnerships with the private sector, with universities and research centres. For us, it has always been a world of multiple partnerships. The challenge for us has always been to get our voice heard among these multiple partnerships. 

Saran: Has that changed recently? Do you believe people are more attentive to views coming out of Rwanda and other countries? 

Sezibera: I hope so. We will not shy away from making those views known and to listening. It is a balance. The challenge we have in this world is that there are people who think they have been ordained to speak and the rest must listen. No, we think there must be a dialogue.

The challenge we have in this world is that there are people who think they have been ordained to speak and the rest must listen! No, we think there must be a dialogue.

Saran: Paul Kagame and your people have large support in India. Please share your thoughts on the bilateral.

Sezibera: India is a very important development partner for Rwanda. Not only today but even in the past. Some sectors of our industry developed because of the presence of and actions of Indian entrepreneurs. We have a very vibrant government to government relationship. You are right that President Kagame and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi share a common vision of empowering people to develop and develop fast. More importantly, we are seeing a lot of interest from Indian entrepreneurs now.


 

 

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