President Paul Kagame opened the World Export Development Forum (WEDF) held by the International Trade Centre (ITC) this week, where he noted the pre-requisites for the transformation of Rwanda’s economy, where SMEs represent the majority of businesses.

“It is my pleasure to welcome you all to Rwanda for this World Export Development Forum and I am very happy to join you,” stated the President, highlighting the special challenges of trade to countries “landlocked like Rwanda, or as small island states, where most businesses are SMEs.”

While excusing his person from discussing the finer points of trade facilitation mechanisms – a topic that he noted attending expert were better set to discuss – the leader noted that it was a mindset of self-belief was the first and most critical requirement for transformation.

“Our path to prosperity may be harder and slower than it was for others, but there is no country that is so isolated and disadvantaged that it cannot find some competitive edge in the global economy,” he explained.

“However, to find the right trade niche requires not only hard work, but also resilience in the face of setbacks and disappointments; to overcome geographical disadvantages, we must benchmark ourselves against the best in the world, not just against similar economies.”

Heading off the typical scepticism lent to the growth prospects of land-locked countries like Rwanda, President Kagame called on Rwanda to see export development as an opportunity to embrace competition and approaching business with a spirit of entrepreneurship.

Africa is open for business, concludes Rwanda development forum

Summarising the situation in Rwanda, the President noted that the government had removed non-tariff trade barriers, as well as restrictions to travel and work, and was working hard to fast-track regional infrastructure like the Northern Corridor Integration Projects.

He concluded that any rests on the foundation of good governance and human capital, before finally commenting: “We seek to develop the productive capacities of our citizens, and our economies as a whole. After all, real wealth is in the head, not in the ground.”