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 39% of the population lives below the poverty line. 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

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