Rwanda is working its way out of poverty, but what are the causes of poverty in Rwanda? The country was devastated in 1993 by a genocide that took the lives of more than 800,000 people in a population of 7.7 million. The war wreaked havoc on the country and contributed to the causes of poverty in Rwanda.
It is necessary to take a look at Rwanda from a historical perspective to understand the causes of poverty in Rwanda in the twenty-first century. The country was under German colonial rule beginning in the late nineteenth century, which disrupted a potentially prosperous path into the modern era. Rwanda faced partition in 1910. Loss of land to surrounding countries caused Rwanda to lose access to valuable natural resources. Belgium ruled Rwanda after World War I until its independence in 1962.
It was during this era that ethnic conflict developed between the Hutus and the Tutsis, the two largest tribes in Rwanda. The ethnic strife flared up throughout the 20th century. It all culminated in 1993 when the Hutus killed more than 800,000 people in 100 days.
The country was left devastated. Schools closed in 1993, and 75 percent of the teachers in Rwanda died in the conflict, fled the country or landed in jail on charges of genocide. The country’s infrastructure crumbled. A new government took control, but Rwanda was desperately poor, and all the above factors contributed to poverty in Rwanda.
Despite having few natural resources, Rwanda exceeded 8 percent economic growth for the past decade under the leadership of its president Paul Kagame, who took control in 1994. If reelected for a third term, he will serve as president until 2024. Rwanda’s goal is to be a middle-income nation by 2020 by moving from an agricultural economy to a knowledge and service economy. Ninety percent of the country still works in agriculture, but Rwanda is today one of the leading tea producers in the world. The foreign currency derived from tea exports helps to build schools and infrastructure.
By the twentieth anniversary of the genocide, more than a million people were no longer in poverty, the percentage of children dying before they were five years old was half of what it was, and the number of children enrolled in school by seven years old was almost 100 percent. More than 90 percent of the country has health insurance, and tourism is now one of the leading sources of revenue.
There are numerous causes of poverty in Rwanda that date back more than 100 years. But there is cause for optimism in a country that can boast that it is one of the fastest-growing economies in Central Africa.
– Jene Cates