Fragility and Rule of Law in Rwanda The fragility and the rule of law in Rwanda have recently become topics of discussion. This follows a ruling by the U.K. Court of Appeal, which deemed Rwanda unsafe for U.K.-bound refugees. Additionally, there’s been talk about recent violence in the DRC, with some sources suggesting that Rwanda’s current president, Paul Kagame, has supported it. Several factors contribute to Rwanda’s fragility, ranging from a lack of government transparency to the lasting effects of civil war.

A Brief Overview

Rwanda has a significant history of poverty and instability, attributed to various factors, from geography to politics. Approximately 38% of Rwandans currently live below the poverty line, defined by the U.N. as living on less than $2.15 a day. This means many struggle to maintain even a basic standard of living, exacerbating the fragility of Rwanda’s rule of law.

Fragility in Rwanda

Between 1990 and 1994, civil war overcame Rwanda, resulting in fragility and weakly upheld rule of law throughout the nation. A rift between the two major ethnic groups present in Rwanda at the time, the Hutus and the Tutsis was the pretext behind the civil war. The genocide had a lasting effect on Rwanda, decimating families and resulting in more than 800,000 civilian casualties.

Although the presence of fragility and unstable rule of law in Rwanda has diminished, it remains a complex factor affecting the country’s development. Despite efforts to rebuild and foster development, Rwanda still grapples with the legacy of its tragic history. Conflict traps such as these have been shown to have a catastrophic effect on the future development of any nation. The result is slow and unstable development, making it all the more challenging to establish security throughout the nation. 

Democracy and Rule of Law

Government corruption also contributes to fragility in Rwanda. While Rwanda’s government structures have improved over time, its democracy and criminal justice system still face challenges. The current ruling party of Rwanda is the RPF, also known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front. There are basic barriers to fair democracy present, such as high administrative requirements for RPF opposition parties, as well as instances of imprisonment for opposing party members. 

In the past, individuals labeled as ‘opponents of the government,‘ including bloggers and journalists reporting on political issues, have faced arrest and illegitimate trials. This raises questions about the stability of democracy and the preservation of political freedom of speech.

Previous allegations of corruption have also raised concerns about the integrity of Rwanda’s criminal justice system. Reports from Human Rights Watch have highlighted maltreatment of inmates, along with claims of unaccounted disappearances and deaths, indicating weaknesses in Rwanda’s rule of law. Journalists have previously reported on topics such as unlawful detention and torture, suggesting that human rights in Rwanda are not fully protected and that the rule of law remains fragile.

The Good News

Rwanda has introduced several frameworks and policies to address the lasting damage from its history of violence. One example is the ‘Rwanda Vision 2020’ development program, which outlines specific goals for sustainable development. The Rwandan anti-corruption policy, a component of Rwanda Vision 2020, recognizes the need for national development that can enhance the quality of life, promote a competitive economy and deliver effective and efficient public services. Achieving these goals involves good governance, strengthening law enforcement and monitoring and evaluation frameworks to uphold the rule of law.

Government stability can be best preserved by increasing transparency, which reduces the likelihood of corruption and illegal activity. Transparency International reports that Rwanda recently ranked as the fourth-least corrupt African country. Rwandan officials’ statements support this, noting the acceptance and adoption of a culture of ‘transparency and accountability’ within the Rwandan government. Increased government transparency is likely the primary reason behind these improvements in Rwanda’s government, as strong checks and balances are essential to long-term stability and preventing government failure.

Addressing fragility has had and will continue to have beneficial effects for Rwandans living in absolute poverty. One framework included in Rwanda Vision 2020, the Vision Umurenge Program (VUP), aims to target absolute poverty and elevate Rwanda to a middle-income country. VUP provides financial assistance to accelerate poverty reduction through economic advancement schemes. This framework includes female beneficiaries, empowering women, who often belong to the poorest socioeconomic groups, by distributing funding more equitably among household members. This effectively targets some of the lowest-income individuals and accelerates poverty reduction.

Following Rwanda Vision 2020, which set targets to be achieved by 2020, Rwanda has introduced the Rwanda Vision 2050 policy. This policy outlines goals for improving health care and education provision, as well as increasing workforce productivity. By enhancing access to public goods and boosting productivity levels, Rwanda aims to reduce absolute poverty rates, ensuring more Rwandans have access to basic necessities, regardless of their household income. Overall, Rwanda is making steady progress toward eradicating absolute poverty.

– Hannah Bugeja
Photo: Flickr

Charities in RwandaAlthough progress is visible concerning poverty in Rwanda, with the poverty rate decreasing from 75.2% to 52% between 2000 and 2013, further action is necessary. The latest World Bank statistics from 2016 indicate that 52% of the country’s population still lives in poverty. 

Three charities, in particular, are combating the effects of poverty in Rwanda.

GiveDirectly’s Cash Transfer Method

GiveDirectly, co-founded by Rohit Wanchoo, Michael Faye, Paul Niehaus and Jeremy Shapiro in 2008, is a charity that provides direct cash transfers to those living in poverty. This organization believes that people suffering from poverty understand how to address their problems better than any organization or government department ever could.

As a result, GiveDirectly avoids intervening with grand infrastructure projects or conditional aid packages. Instead, they place money directly into the pockets of those living below the poverty line in various countries, including Rwanda.

Poverty in Rwanda is a concern that GiveDirectly is committed to addressing, evident by 86,955 Rwandan households receiving cash from the charity.

Nsengiyumva received $412 from the organization, enabling her to buy land in a safer area, free from the risks of flooding. Here, GiveDirectly assisted those living in Rwandan poverty by relocating a family.

Tuyisenge is another success story. After receiving $415, he could repair the family home and save money to pay for his children’s school fees. This cash sum allowed him to secure his family’s future and potentially break the cycle of poverty in Rwanda.

Rwanda Action’s Bottom-up Approach

Rwanda Action, founded by David Chaplin in 2008, is a charity that collaborates with communities to deliver needed aid. Similar to GiveDirectly, Rwanda Action believes that those suffering from poverty know the assistance they require. Consequently, Rwanda Action does not adopt a ‘one size fits all’ aid policy. Instead, the organization employs a ‘bottom-up’ approach, ensuring that communities receive the help they genuinely need.

For example, after the 2008 earthquake, the visible effects of poverty in Rwanda were apparent as the natural disaster destroyed homes, displaced families and devastated farms, necessitating swift intervention.

Rwanda Action aimed to address the shelter need by constructing homes and rehousing over 50 families, preventing homelessness. In response to this crisis, 2000 families received training on improving crop yields through small-scale farming. This training enabled families to produce more food, saving funds that would have otherwise been spent on purchasing food. The increased disposable income empowered families to invest in school fees, housing and health care.

Increased crop yields could also combat chronic malnutrition, a severe issue in Rwanda, where a notable percentage of Rwandan children experience chronic malnutrition as of 2010, according to the World Health Organization.

Finally, Rwanda Action endeavors to tackle the problem of child homelessness, a brutal symptom of poverty in Rwanda, which sees 7,000 children living on the streets, ReliefWeb reported in 2021.

The organization established a center for street children named ‘aho Neza Mwana’, meaning a good life for children. The center provided short-term residential stays for 214 boys and a day program for 85 boys. These interventions play a pivotal role in supporting vulnerable children and removing them from harmful environments.

Children of Rwanda’s Sustainable Approach

Founded by Robbie MacMillan, Children of Rwanda is a charity that dismantles barriers preventing impoverished Rwandan children from accessing education. Enhancing education access is vital, given that Rwanda’s literacy rate stood at 76% as of 2021, according to the World Bank. Improving the literacy rate is only achievable through education, underscoring the significance of this organization’s work.

The most persistent barrier to overcome is cost, encompassing expenses related to uniforms, materials, school meals and exam fees.

To help keep up with the costs of education, Children of Rwanda equips families with the tools to increase their income independently. The sustainability displayed by this approach is essential, as it ensures that families do not become reliant on assistance and instead become independent as a result of this charity’s aid.

For instance, Children of Rwanda collaborates with parents to teach them farming techniques to generate a sustainable income.

The additional income enables parents to send their children to school, aiming to break the cycle of poverty in Rwanda. Completing school offers Rwandan children better job prospects and equips them with the knowledge to make decisions benefiting their well-being.

Children of Rwanda’s work is especially beneficial for gender equality, as women who complete their education gain a 15-20% increase in earnings for every year in education.

While Rwandan people across the country undoubtedly feel the impact of organizational work, work remains on the part of charities, international organizations and governments.

– Tom Eccles
Photo: Flickr

UK-Rwanda DealOn April 14th, 2022, the United Kingdom signed a deal with Rwanda to send illegal asylum seekers to the African country and process their asylum claims there. The U.K. paid Rwanda £120 million (about $144 million) and promised to fund the logistics of the process. Though the Home Office claims the deal will disrupt the business of people smuggling, Rwanda’s past human rights violations led to many critiques that the humanitarian risks of the U.K.-Rwanda deal outweigh its potential benefits.

The Deal Set in Motion

The first flight to Rwanda was scheduled for June 14th. However, charities such as Care4Calais and Detention Action, along with individual asylum seekers’ lawyers, fought the flight on legal grounds, leaving only seven out of the initial 37 destined to board the plane. The Supreme Court, however, upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision to reject a motion to cancel the flight.

Before the flight could take off, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued an interim emergency measure after an Iraqi asylum seeker’s request. As the ECHR is not an EU body, the U.K. is still a member despite Brexit and must abide by the court’s decision.

The ECHR demanded that the U.K. and European courts take more time to decide whether the deportation was lawful. As per the U.K. legal system, the logic behind the measure applied to the rest of the passengers and the flight was canceled

Human Rights Risks of the UK-Rwanda Deal

The Geneva Convention 1951’s principle of non-réfoulement states that countries must accommodate those who flee persecution and cannot displace or return them to dangerous territory. The ECHR issued the interim measure because it considered that the Iraqi asylum seeker could face a “real risk of irreversible harm” in Rwanda, BBC reports.

Countries repeatedly infringe the principle by finding ways to remove migrants from their territory into a neighboring state, imposing additional entry requirements, or refusing access altogether. But transferring asylum-seekers to a country with a severe history of violating human rights 4,000 kilometers away would set a new precedent.

The U.K. has denounced Rwanda’s human rights violations and its refusal to investigate allegations of torture and deaths in custody in the past. Moreover, in February 2021, the British High Commissioner to Rwanda advised the government against choosing Rwanda as a candidate for deporting immigrants. The High Commissioner’s memo reported that Rwanda allegedly “recruited refugees to conduct armed operations in neighboring countries” and reinstated the country’s numerous human rights violations, according to AP News.

Yet, since April, Downing Street denies any human rights risks of the U.K.-Rwanda deal, going as far as to say that the East African country is one of the “safest countries in the world.”

An internal government memo two days before the deal’s signing further explains Downing Street’s claims. The message warned that if the U.K. chose Rwanda, it would have to close a blind eye to Rwanda’s human rights violations and prepare itself to face challenges from Parliament and NGOs.

Situation in Rwanda

Although Rwanda’s GDP has been growing since 2010, the country has made little progress in reducing poverty in its rural areas – yet about 70% of Rwandans are subsistence farmers, according to BBC. Kigali saw its poverty rate decrease due to investments in the tourism industry, but extreme poverty rose in the Southern Province. Moreover, around 57% of Rwandan households face food insecurity and the pandemic exacerbated the effects of the crisis, with even more Rwandans falling into poverty.

About 150,000 refugees from other African countries currently reside in Rwanda. According to a 2019 paper on the influence of Congolese refugees on Rwandan communities, the refugees’ presence brought both direct and indirect benefits. Rwandans living closer to a refugee camp had more chances to have wage employment rather than living as subsistence farmers and females had more chances for self-employment. Hence, Rwanda’s economy can benefit from migration.

However, the deported asylum-seekers to Kigali would likely fail to integrate as the intra-region migrants did. Most refugees already living in Rwanda don’t have a job and rely on welfare, according to BBC. If the system is overwhelmed, the risks of the U.K.-Rwanda deal mean that asylum seekers and Rwandans may fall into poverty. The Rwandan government initially stated it could accommodate 1,000 migrants from the U.K. – a claim the U.N.’s refugee agency questioned – before recently admitting the country only has space for 200. Nonetheless, the government assured that it would expand its capacities, a claim that, if not upheld, jeopardizes Downing Street’s ability to reap the deal’s economic benefits.

Future of the Deal

Despite being fully aware of the humanitarian risks of the U.K.-Rwanda deal, Downing Street chose to pursue the policy. The Supreme Court’s judicial review of the policy is due in September, according to BBC. Until then, it remains to be seen whether the courts deem Rwanda a country where asylum-seekers can find refuge without violating their rights and further worsening the host country’s situation.

Elena Sofia Massacesi
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Rwanda
Rwanda is a small landlocked country in the center of Africa. With a sprawling savanna in the east and mountainous jungle in the west, the country has impressive natural features that have increasingly drawn international intrigue. Beyond Rwanda’s natural wonders, there have been great strides to combat poverty in Rwanda since the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 people died in 100 days. While the country faces substantial obstacles, there are many positive indicators of Rwanda’s future economic stability.

The Good News

Over the last two decades, Rwanda has shown an average annual GDP growth rate of 7%; this is consistently above the average in Sub-Saharan Africa. Another promising factor is that Rwanda has an increasingly diverse economy. Traditional sectors, such as agriculture and services, are contributing alongside emerging sectors, such as electricity, infrastructure and construction. Tourism has also been a key factor and now contributes to 10% of the national GDP.

Due to these economic advances, Rwanda has become the darling of the World Bank. The World Bank consistently invests hundreds of millions of dollars in public improvement projects in areas ranging from education to renewable energy. The results of those projects are promising. From 2009 to 2019 national electricity access jumped from 9% to 47%. Additionally, through the World Bank-supported Rwanda Urban Development Project, six cities have directly benefited from a massive increase in urban roads and stand-alone drainage.

The Obstacles

Poverty in Rwanda is still significant; around 38% of the population was living below the poverty line as of 2016. One contributing factor is that Rwanda suffers from a poor education system where only 68% of first-graders end up completing all six years of primary education. Another component is that domestic private investment in Rwanda has yet to take off, mainly due to low domestic savings. Additionally, many rural Rwandans operate subsistence farms and thus have little disposable time and income.

According to The Washington Post, the authoritarian streaks of Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, are another hindrance to the alleviation of poverty in Rwanda. In recent years, tourists have marveled at the clean streets of Rwanda’s cities. What those tourists cannot see, is the forced removal of “undesirables” into detention centers.

In rural areas, the government has burned farmers’ fields because they did not grow their assigned crops. Rural residents have also had to deal with Kagame’s heavy-handed approach to modernization. In some villages, Rwanda’s regime has stripped villagers of their grass roofs with the promise they would return with metal replacements. When the new roofs do not come residents live in exposure which leads to illness and fatalities.

Some of Kagame’s policies have drawn international outrage. In 2012, Kagame supported Congolese rebels which resulted in the United States and the European Union suspending international aid. Another similar scenario may be on the horizon with recent reports of Kagame’s regime manipulating poverty statistics.

In 2019, a Financial Times analysis of poverty statistics found that the government was misrepresenting data to exaggerate the decrease in poverty. Despite that claim, the World Bank has continued its myriad of investments in the country and so have many other major donors. However, as countries on a global scale focus more resources domestically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, international aid to Rwanda is in danger. Aid is still necessary to prevent catastrophic consequences as Rwanda is experiencing a dire humanitarian situation. The silver lining is that many of Rwanda’s usual donors are still in positions to assist.

The pandemic has also adversely affected tourism and exports, which are huge pillars of the Rwandan economy. Furthermore, as the country directs its healthcare workers and fiscal resources towards emergency response, other health concerns, such as the AIDS epidemic, move to the sidelines.

Hope for Poverty in Rwanda

Though Rwanda has problems that it cannot easily solve, there still is hope. Before the pandemic, Rwanda’s economic growth exceeded 10% in 2019. A two-thirds drop in child mortality and near-universal primary school enrolment accompanied this statistic.

Additionally, two World Bank-funded projects including the Rural Sector Support Program, and the Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation Project have increased the productivity and commercialization of rural agriculture. As a result, maize and rice yields doubled and potato yields tripled between 2010 and 2018. These results are especially promising considering poverty in Rwanda is the most severe in rural areas.

Rwanda has also achieved a strong level of political stability. Women make up 62% of the national legislature and previously marginalized opposition parties have gained parliamentary seats without disrupting the system’s stability. These are indicators that will increase confidence in foreign investors. While Rwanda has a troubled history, the future holds a lot of potential.

Cole Penz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Rwanda
Nicknamed the “Land of a Thousand Hills” for its many green and grassy hills, Rwanda is a landlocked, East African country with a population of 12.5 million people.

Rwanda is well-known for genocide in 1994 that killed as many as 800,000 people in the course of three months. Eventually, this tragic event caused extreme poverty and forced the country to start over from scratch since 70 percent of the population decreased. Although this was and is still a major setback for the country, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Rwanda will give you an idea of the hardships and improvements Rwanda faces daily.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Rwanda

  1. Rwanda is one of the most rural countries in the entire world. According to Land Links, 75 percent of Rwanda’s land is agricultural. This explains why the majority of the people live in houses that are surrounded by banana groves and large areas of land.
  2. Clearly, the agricultural sector is significant in Rwanda; thus, agriculture accounts for 80 percent of employment. Agriculture work is divided between the men and women; men do the heavy field work and care for the livestock while the women take care of the day-to-day farming activities such as planting and weeding. This goes for housework as well; men do the construction and heavy work while the women’s responsibilities are to maintain the household and raise the children.
  3. The food staples in Rwanda include bananas, beans, white and sweet potatoes, cassava and corn, which are all grown in the surrounding fields. Only those who can afford to buy meat will eat it.
  4. Although Rwanda has made a significant improvement in the number of people living below the poverty line, there is still a lot of room for progress. Specifically, The World Economic Forum states that in 2005, 57 percent of people lived below the general poverty line; however, that amount reduced to 45 percent in 2010. Regardless, 63 percent of the population still live in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.25 a day
  5. Living conditions in Rwanda vary tremendously depending on social class and location. Wealthy Rwandans may live in brick houses with full access to living essentials and necessities such as electricity, running water, plumbing and phone service. On the other hand, poorer people living in the rural areas live in small houses with mud walls and little to no access to many living essentials and necessities.
  6. In Rwanda, 25 percent of the population lack access to safe drinking water, and 26 percent of the population lack access to proper sanitation facilities. In order for families to have water, women and girls, the primary water carriers of the family, have to retrieve water from the local streams, which put them at risk for waterborne diseases. UNICEF has been working with the government in Rwanda to improve access to water and sanitation as well as improve hygiene in order to reduce disease and deaths related to water and sanitation.
  7. Unfortunately, 90 percent of Rwandans are at risk for malaria, a potentially fatal disease caused by infected mosquitoes. Malaria is the primary cause of death in Rwanda. In 2006, malaria caused 41 percent of hospital deaths, of which 42 percent of were children under the age of five.
  8. Most Rwandans buy their clothes from used clothing stores; however, some wealthy Rwandans can afford to buy new clothing made in Rwanda. The typical dressing style is typically semi-formal or business wear. Women usually wear long dresses and skirts that go past the knee with a nice fitted shirt and sandals while men wear dress pants with a dress shirt and tie. A lot of clothing in Rwanda consists of bright colors and patterns. Dressing down or casual can be considered disrespectful in Rwanda.
  9. Access to education in Rwanda is better than in most countries in Africa. The government provides everyone in Rwanda with free education for nine years; six years in primary school and three years in secondary school; however, after nine years, schooling comes with fees. Despite free education for nine years, InterNations reported that most children do not finish the required schooling and spend an average of only 3.3 years in school. Part of this is due to the fees for uniforms and supplies that still come with “free” education.
  10. Fortunately, besides free access to education, Rwanda also provides universal healthcare and operates one of the highest-quality health systems in Africa. Addressing the topic of health in Rwanda has resulted in major accomplishments such as reducing the mortality rate for children from 182 per 1,000 children to 52. Furthermore, due to access to vaccinations and improved healthcare, the life expectancy rate has doubled in the last 20 years.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Rwanda highlight that the country has still managed to achieve success through its healthcare and educational system, proving that change requires more humanitarian aid and government contribution. Although there is still a good deal of work to be done to alleviate poverty in Rwanda, the country has come a long way to overcome the shadows of its past. 

– Kristen Uedoi
Photo: Unsplash

chronic malnutrition of children in RwandaRanked at 166 out of 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index, Rwanda remains one of the poorest countries in the world, struggling with household food insecurity and extreme undernutrition.

This undernutrition causes 21.9 percent of deaths in children, with only 20 percent of children in Rwanda having access to food rich in iron. Iron is especially important for children under five for growth and cognitive development.

Stunting is when a child is short for their age and is a result of chronic malnutrition, negatively affecting their brain development and health. This results in children being four times more likely to die before the age of five. Stunting is caused by chronic malnutrition, and in Rwanda, 47 percent of rural children are stunted, along with 27 percent of urban children.

These numbers have caught the world’s attention, resulting in programs working to reduce the chronic malnutrition of children in Rwanda. These programs involve the government of Rwanda and the World Bank, The Power of Nutrition and the Global Financing Facility.

These programs have recently pledged to create an integrated program to combat chronic malnutrition, focusing on high-stunting areas and vulnerable populations through their funds and supportive methods.

Here are some of the ways each program is supporting Rwanda through its chronic malnutrition crisis.

The Government of Rwanda and the World Bank

These two groups signed a $23 million additional financing agreement on April 18, 2018. Working with the Nutrition Sensitive Direct Support, these funds will provide cash transfers to vulnerable families who are at risk of malnutrition.

The World Bank Vice President, Makhtar Diop, voiced his concern about this issue, saying, “We must act with a sense of urgency because our children’s future is at stake.”

The World Bank has also added to its current portfolio of $600 million, and pledged to invest $1 billion over the next five years in order to support Rwanda’s journey to prosperity. With this help, improvements have already been seen in Rwanda, with poverty rates decreasing from 59 percent to 45 percent over the last 10 years.

The decrease in poverty will allow citizens to spend more money on necessary food items to reduce malnutrition. These statistics show the success of programs working to reduce chronic malnutrition of children in Rwanda.

The Power of Nutrition

The Power of Nutrition has also pledged to invest $35 million for the cause of reducing chronic malnutrition of children in Rwanda. Power of Nutrition lives by its motto: “Multiply Money, Maximize Children’s Lives, That’s the Power of Nutrition”. Its belief is that stopping undernutrition is one of the best ways to improve a child’s life and increase their chance of survival.

In Rwanda, 22 percent of all children’s deaths are correlated with undernutrition.

Because of ongoing health problems, children are unable to continue their education, leading to lower adult wages which impact Rwanda to the tune of 11.5 percent of GDP per year. Improving child malnutrition therefore will not only benefit children and their families, but also the government of Rwanda.

The Global Financing Facility

The Global Financing Facility studies the influence of the allocation of resources to different countries in need, finding the shocking results of an estimated $33 billion annual financing gap between countries.

Therefore, it has dedicated its work towards closing the funding gap, and providing struggling countries, such as Rwanda, with a more attainable goal of abolishing chronic malnutrition.

There are many programs working to reduce chronic malnutrition of children in Rwanda, many more than the four mentioned above. However, although chronic malnutrition has decreased in Rwanda, it is important to realize that the country still needs a great deal of assistance.

– Adrienne Tauscheck

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Rwanda
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% 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% economic growth for the past decade under the leadership of its president Paul Kagame, who took control in 1994. If re-elected 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% 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