File photo shows Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaking at a gorilla naming ceremony in Musanze District, northern Rwanda, on Sept. 1, 2017. (Xinhua/Gabriel Dusabe)
KIGALI, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on Monday that his country has grown stronger and more united despite many challenges.
"We have had to deal with so many challenges, even impossible ones," Kagame said in his state-of-the-nation address at the 15th edition of the annual National Dialogue Council. "But we rebuilt, stronger and more resilient than ever before."
"Without doubt, our country has grown stronger and more united," Kagame told the gathering, locally known as Umushyikirano, in the Rwandan capital Kigali.
The two-day forum, which runs through Tuesday, has brought together about 2,000 Rwandans, including central and local government officials, business people, civil society representatives, members of the Rwandan community in the diaspora and foreign diplomats to Rwanda. It aims to assess Rwanda's achievements registered in the last few years and plan for the future.
Organizers said the event gives all Rwandans, both in the country and abroad, the opportunity to ask their leaders questions directly and discuss the country's challenges, opportunities and growth agenda.
Kagame said the country can keep doing better, adding that hard work and the commitment to serve all Rwandans is what will lead to Rwanda's transformation.
Rwanda registered 1.5 billion U.S. dollars in new investment and infrastructure deals in 2017, and more than 8,000 new manufacturing jobs were recorded in the same year, he said.
The "Made in Rwanda" strategy has already boosted production in 2017, raising exports by 50 percent, cutting imports by 3 percent, and slashing trade deficit by more than 20 percent from the previous year, Kagame said.
He said the country's mineral exports have exceed the value of all other exports combined, thanks in part to more effort in value addition and new exploration.
Agricultural production in Rwanda grew by 8 percent despite such challenges as army worm and drought in some parts of the country.
The government has decided to invest in domestic seed production, to improve quality and also to reduce dependence on unreliable supplies from abroad, he said, adding that graduates are finding entrepreneurial success in agribusiness.
Rwanda's power supply continues to grow, Kagame said, adding that to stimulate demand for electricity, the government will work with industrial investors to ensure a competitive tariff.
The national strategy for transformation, values for prosperity and youth at the center of transformation are key topics to be discussed during the National Dialogue Council, organizers said.
The central African country, which has risen from a genocide that killed about 1 million people in 1994, seeks to transform the country from a low-income, agriculture-based economy to a knowledge-based, service-oriented economy with middle-income country status by 2020.
Rwanda also seeks to double the current annual growth rate to reach upper-middle income level by 2035 and high-income level by 2050, which will require an average annual growth of above 10 percent, said Rwandan Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Claver Gatete during the 14th Umushyikirano in December 2016.