Opening remarks by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the joint press conference with Rwanda President Paul Kagame at Urugwiro Village on 27 June 2022. PM Lee was on a working visit to Rwanda.
You can watch PM Lee's opening remarks here.
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Thank you President Kagame for hosting me and my delegation.
I am very happy to be here in Rwanda. Last week, I attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). I congratulate President Kagame for hosting a successful CHOGM. Rwanda has also done an excellent job organising this major in-person high-level international event despite the challenges of COVID-19.
Singapore’s Relations with Africa
This is my first official visit to an African country. It has been a very meaningful one. I am very glad that CHOGM has created the opportunity for me to meet my counterparts in Africa face-to-face, to exchange views and perspectives with each other. I am also deeply appreciative that I have had the chance to learn more about Rwanda, and to further our friendship and bilateral cooperation.
Singapore may be geographically far away, but we have many friends in Africa. Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, first visited Africa more than 50 years ago. Even now, some of the African leaders I met at CHOGM still recall his visit to their countries. And I am grateful for this reservoir of goodwill in Africa towards Singapore.
Over the last decade, Singapore’s interactions with Africa have grown. Our Government-to-Government cooperation has increased, with regular visits between our officials and leaders. More Singaporeans are coming to work here in Africa. Yesterday I hosted tea for some Singaporeans living and working here in Rwanda. Many of them were young people, seeking challenges and opportunities. They have seen the promise in this young society, and they are pursuing their projects here with passion. Our companies are also venturing into Africa. It is a new market to them, but the economic opportunities are growing as the continent opens up to digitalisation, regional integration, and global trade.
There are many bright spots in Africa, and Rwanda is one of the brightest. Singapore looks forward to deepening our cooperation, and increasing trade and investment between Singapore and Rwanda.
President Kagame has visited Singapore a few times. I am very glad to reciprocate by visiting this beautiful and impressive country. Rwanda is a rapidly developing, innovative, forward-looking and building a nation. I congratulate President Kagame for his leadership in stewarding Rwanda’s development over the years.
In our meeting, President Kagame and I reaffirmed the excellent state of Singapore-Rwanda relations, and discussed areas for further collaboration. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, our two countries continue to cooperate actively. Our people-to-people ties have remained strong. Leaders and officials have kept up the tempo of engagements. Both the President and I are committed to advancing our bilateral partnership. We have established good collaboration, including making new initiatives on the digital economy, FinTech, and even judicial cooperation.
On the multilateral front, Rwanda and Singapore also have strong collaboration, including at the UN. Both are members of the Forum of Small States (FoSS). We work closely together to advance the interests of small states and strengthen the multilateral system.
Singapore-Africa Partnership Package
Singapore is encouraging our people and businesses to venture into new markets in Africa.
We are also happy to share our experience in economic development, human resource development and capacity building with others. That is why we established the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP) in 1992. SCP programmes have been well received by officials of African countries. Over 12,000 African officials, including many from Rwanda, have attended SCP courses in Singapore to date.
On this 30th anniversary of the SCP, I am happy to announce a three-year Singapore-Africa Partnership Package. We will customise courses in priority areas for Africa. These will cover emerging issues such as on Climate Change and Sustainability, and Digitalisation and Smart Cities. We will provide priority placement for African officials in our SCP courses. And we will also offer postgraduate scholarships for senior African officials in Singapore universities.
I am particularly glad to be able to announce the launch of this technical cooperation package in Rwanda. Rwandan officials have actively participated in SCP courses over the years. And we look forward to Rwanda’s and Africa’s continued participation in the SCP.
Although we are on different continents, our two countries have much in common. Both are small countries, with limited resources. Both place importance on international cooperation to improve our societies and our peoples’ lives. Both seek to work with other small countries to secure peace, progress, and prosperity for our peoples in a dangerous world. I therefore look forward to working closely with President Kagame to ensure that the relationship between our two countries continues to grow from strength to strength.
I would like to offer early congratulations to Rwanda for 28th Liberation Day which is on 4th July and to thank President Kagame for his excellent hospitality to me and my delegation.
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