Economy & Industry

Smallholders and small traders

Rwanda’s economy is still largely based on agriculture, with more than four-fifths of the population involved in small-scale farming.

Basket weavers

Basket weaversIn this video…women use maize plants to weave baskets, which they can then sell for income.

Coffee and tea are the main exports, earning over 180 million dollars each year. This makes the country very dependent on world prices for coffee and tea.

Outside of farming, many Rwandans are also self-employed or working in small cottage industries. These mainly produce goods for local people, such as farming tools or household items.


ShopkeeperIn this video…meet a shopkeeper who was given help to start up by SOS Children’s Villages and says organisation is now her secret to success.

Since the genocide, there is a shortage of skilled tradesmen, particularly in the growing construction industry. Brick-layers, masonry workers and carpenters are in high demand.

If you build it, they will come

With stability and reforms, Rwanda’s economy has been growing at an average annual rate of seven-eight percent over the last eight years. Rwanda has also benefited from significant debt relief.

Offering an open business climate, tax incentives and low crime/corruption rates, the country hopes to attract more foreign businesses. With its current trade deficit (Rwanda spends more on buying what it needs than from selling its own goods), investment is needed from foreign sources.

An ultra-modern complex of office buildings – in the Kigali Central Business District – has been designed with large international companies in mind.

According to a 2010 rating from the World Bank, Rwanda ranks no.11 in the world for starting a business; it takes just two procedures and three days to found a new venture.

Aspiring to be 'middle-income'

Under its ‘Vision 2020’, the Rwandan government hopes to transform the country into a middle-income nation. To do this, there is a focus on gender equality, anti-corruption measures, technological progress, private-led industry and regional economic integration.

Modern sectors

The government is particularly keen to encourage expansion of the IT and communications sector. See Education & Jobs to learn how even the youngest children are becoming involved with IT.

Internet cafes can be found in most urban centres of Rwanda. And a high-capacity fibre-optic cable network (a 50 million dollars investment) will give greater internet capacity. Mobile phones are already used by a quarter of the population and often replace landlines.

Foreign arrivals

Rwanda’s spectacular scenery and wildlife are a huge attraction for visitors. The tourist sector brings in over 200 million dollars annually and provides employment or earnings to hundreds of thousands of people.

Tourism is now the country’s largest source of foreign earnings.

Potential of mining

Currently, most mining is done by local artisan miners. But large international companies are being encouraged to develop commercial mining activities.

Mining is also potentially an important source of revenue. Rwanda has deposits of tin (cassiterite) and tungsten (wolframite), as well as tantalite, columbite, beryl and gold.

Minerals have brought increasing wealth over the past few years. However significant mineral quantities may have come from the Congo. Rwanda has recently signed up to a new certification scheme to stop “conflict minerals” being traded illegally.