Kagame was speaking yesterday in the Human Capital Summit hosted by the World Bank Group in Washington DC, USA.
The event aims at highlighting the importance of a healthy, educated and skilled citizenry for the building of a stable and productive economy
Kagame said that human capital is without doubt the driver of high-income growth and the foundation of prosperity.
He said that people are all born equal in rights and dignity, but the trajectory and velocity of progress are determined by how well they use the capabilities acquired in the earliest stages of their lives.
The head of state said that investing in health, education, and creativity, leaders turn people into individuals who have the ability to think and act, not just for themselves but also for the benefit of their communities.
“Unleashing human freedom and ability is a force multiplier that creates limitless potential. For that reason, I would like to challenge us all not to limit our ambitions to “eliminating extreme poverty”. That just doesn’t sound good enough” Kagame said.
“Our aim is prosperity and well-being for everyone. That is the essence of what keeps bringing us together here, time after time” he added.
Speaking about Rwanda’s experience, Kagame said that twenty-three years ago, the country was utterly devastated.
“As we worked to rebuild the nation, we had no choice but to put our people at the centre of our strategy. It was simply a question of security and survival” Kagame said.
Using the example of decades before 1994, Kagame said that access to secondary and higher education was a political favour subject to ethnic quotas. He said that the country produced only about 2,000 university graduates in that period, contrary to today, around 90,000 Rwandans complete tertiary education every year.
He said that Rwanda’s national health insurance programme covers nearly 90 per cent of Rwandans, and tens of thousands of volunteer Community Health Workers are deployed across the country.
“This contributed to an 80% reduction in maternal mortality and a 70% reduction in infant and child mortality since the year 2000” he said
He reiterated that by requiring equality of access and opportunity for girls and women in schools, in the workplace, and in terms of legal rights, the country have made the economy demonstrably stronger and more resilient.
Kagame continued to say that broadband internet is available throughout the country and increasingly affordable.
“We are expanding technical and vocational education with direct relevance for the job market” he added.
Kagame said that Rwanda has decided to bring all key agencies together into a coordinated Early Childhood Development programme focused on nutrition, sanitation, and pre-school education.
“Eliminating malnutrition is a particular priority. The rate of stunting fell from over half of children in 2010 to closer to one-third today. But this is still unacceptably high. Our target is to further reduce stunting to 15% by 2020, with annual 6% reductions thereafter” he said.
Kagame said that Rwanda is pleased to have the partnership and strong support of the World Bank for these efforts with three new projects focused on social protection, nutrition, and agriculture.
However, Kagame said that Rwanda still has a long way to go to reach high-income status.
“Given our starting point, we are accustomed to difficult journeys, so there is no doubt that eventually we will get there. But we cannot derive full benefit from our natural resources or seize the opportunities of globalisation without first making the inherent potential of our people a reality” he told participants.
He said that the government does not provide funds, but also creates public goods through an environment of security, stability, policy predictability, and the rule of law.
He emphasized that optimism about the future that is shared by Rwandans, as well as partners, is based on continuing to deliver tangible improvements in the well-being of citizens.
He said that human capital generates prosperity by enabling mindsets of responsibility, productivity, innovation and self-reliance.