KIGALI, 31 December 2020 – Rwandan President Paul Kagame has urged fellow citizens “to avoid congregating during the festive season” to avoid a surge in COVID-19 infections.
“We have… to make sacrifices (to get) back in order,” Kagame said in his televised year-end address to nation.
Despite the shock of COVID-19, and the many adjustments we have had to make, I want to reassure Rwandans that the state of our nation remains strong,” Kagame said in the televised address.
He promised a brighter 2021 compared to 2020 but warned against complacency, adding that the sacrifices and gains made could be lost if all did not work hard to preserve them.
Rwanda’s economic growth shrunk to 0.2 percent in 2020 down dramatically from above 9 percent in 2019, when GDP expansion was driven by large public investments.
“Together, we will recover and return to the path of growth and continue expanding the well-being of all families,” Kagame added.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said, with the resumption of economic activities, Rwanda’s economy is now projected to grow 5.7 percent next year.
Rwanda, in 2020, secured 172 new investment projects valued at $1.2 billion which are expected to create more than 22,000 jobs once operations resume in 2021, according to Kagame.
Despite the shadow cast over a low-performing 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rwandan leader highlighted some of his government’s achievements.
The achievements cited included the connection of some 200,000 new households to electricity, the construction of three new hospitals, the construction of over 22,000 classrooms and setting up of about 500 post-harvest storage facilities.
Rwanda, he said, earned $400 million from agricultural exports in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic and 5,000 tons of food from the country’s food reserves were distributed to impoverished families during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Also, in 2020, the Rwandan government invested $20 million in infrastructure upgrades, notably in order to acquire a new MRI machine and established an emergency heart treatment facility at the national referral hospital, King Faisal Hospital in the capital, Kigali.
Kagame praised bilateral relations with Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo but slammed the slow pace of growth in bilateral trade with neighboring Burundi and Uganda.
The Rwandan leader blamed the state of affairs “to lingering disagreements over espionage and support to rebels”.
Rwanda’s borders with Uganda have been closed to travelers for two years and Ugandan goods have also not been allowed to cross into Rwanda.
Rwanda’s borders with Burundi have also been inactive for over five years, with mushrooming rebel activities affecting border communities in both countries.
“We are still engaged in finding suitable solutions,” Kagame added, speaking of the border issues with neighboring countries he described as “brotherly”.