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WEDF 2014 - Opening session - Session report

  • EDF 2014 - Opening session

    Speakers:

    • Mr. Francis Gatare, CEO, Rwanda Development Board
    • Ms. Arancha González, Executive Director, ITC
    • Mr. Lamin M. Manneh, Resident Coordinator and UN Development Programme Resident Representative, Rwanda
    • Official Opening: H.E. Mr. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda

    Overview

    This year’s World Export Development Forum (WEDF) opened with over 850 participants from 73 countries. It was officially opened by H.E. Mr. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda. Speakers emphasized the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) for economic growth and broad-based development.

    Highlights

    Mr. Gatare highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship and job creation in unlocking the potential of the private sector to fuel economic growth. “Rwanda shares the same vision as ITC, that a vibrant private sector is the only way trade-led growth and development can be achieved.”

    He also greeted delegates of the Women Vendors Exhibition and Forum, which this year is held as part of WEDF. He pointed to the programmes Rwanda has in place to support women entrepreneurs. “Rwanda has a proven track record of economic, social and political inclusion of women and we are cognizant of women’s immense contribution to the transformation of this country, and championing greater regional market integration.”

    Click here to read Mr. Gatare’s full statement.

    A vibrant private sector is the only way to create the number of jobs required, especially for youth and women, said ITC’s Ms. González.

    “By 2030, 500 million jobs need to be created to keep up with growth in the world's working-age population. More and better jobs will mean the difference between a demographic dividend and a social time bomb,” she said.

    “Africa is the continent with both the most poverty but also the greatest promise…Africa's potential is practically infinite. Sub-Saharan Africa is the world's second fastest-growing continent in economic terms, with GDP rising by an average of 6% per year,” she added.

    Click here to read Ms. González’ full statement.

    The rapid growth of Rwanda has led it to move from an already respectable 54th place to 22nd in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, making it an inspirational setting for the first WEDF in Africa, noted the UNDP’s Lamin Manneh. “It is no mean feat to achieve this jump in a year.” Hosting WEDF is consistent with the country’s Vision 2020, which includes creating 300,000 jobs. “There is no shortage of strategies. What is needed is the will, the commitment and the capacity” to do business in Africa, he said.

    The conference was officially opened by the President of Rwanda, H.E. Paul Kagame. He thanked ITC for bringing a conference to Rwanda on a subject as important as job creation. He told the gathering that the right cultural mindset is critical to transform an economy: “The first obstacle to overcome is the belief that we cannot do it. If we overcome this, the rest is history,” he said, emphasizing the importance of believing in oneself. “To find the right trade niche requires not only hard work, but also resilience in the face of setbacks and disappointments. If the path were easy or obvious, it would have been discovered already,” he said. The third necessary mindset trait he identified was embracing competition. “To overcome geographical and other disadvantages, we must benchmark ourselves against the best in the world, not just against similar economies.” Competition, he said, was an opportunity rather than a problem.

    The role of government, he said, was to act as a facilitator to businesses, enabling them to grow, and to invest in human capital to create a knowledge-based economy, he said. “After all, real wealth is in the head, not in the ground.” Governments need to focus on providing the right business environment, from high-quality skills training and broadband connectivity to nurturing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

    “We need to start with a conversation about the attitudes required to find solutions and get things done. There is enough opportunity in this world for all of us generally, and there is enough opportunity in East Africa and the rest of the continent,“ he concluded, welcoming delegates to the conference.

    Click here to read President Kagame’s full statement.

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