Kaniusis Mugabo and his wife are two of many Rwandans who have got a better life and job opportunities through the social security programme VUP.
Photo: Heather Kindness, Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme
Successful development policy reduces poverty in Rwanda
In the last five years, the poverty rate in Rwanda has been reducing by an average of 2.4 per cent per year. The results are impressive and imply that the poverty reduction in Rwanda has been going twice as rapid as in Kenya and Ghana, the two countries that have previously been at the forefront of development in Africa.
The results come from a national household study carried out in Rwanda. The positive figures can be seen as evidence that Rwanda is pursuing an effective development policy, where aid – constituting 50 per cent of the national budget – is a contributing factor. Sida supports several projects in the country, one of them being the large social security programme VUP that plays an important role in reducing extreme poverty.
The national health has also improved in Rwanda and the maternal mortality has reduced by half over the last ten years. More than 90 per cent of the citizens have a basic health insurance today, which is confirmed by another major household study.
The British development economist Paul Collier commented on the unique results as the report was published, and he highlighted three success factors: the country’s leadership managing to establish a legal framework that stimulates growth, the creation of institutions that could implement the rules and the population supporting them. The Rwandan government has consistently strived to create a good environment for economic growth and development, which has contributed to people’s support for the regime.
At the same time, the country lacks any real political opposition – this fact became very evident in the run-up to the 2008 parliamentary elections, when most opposition parties were in exile. In the run up to the 2010 presidential elections, which was overwhelmingly won by the current president Kagame, tensions increased in the country. One leading opposition politician was killed and others were subjected to threats and harassments. Moreover, independent media was closed down. The situation has possibly improved slightly since, but the continuing lack of real democracy and freedom of speech in Rwanda is worrying.
Rwanda’s decision makers often stress that the effective work of the authorities is a result of the so-called result-contracts that permeate the entire administration, from the highest to the lowest level. The population also seems to support the reform agenda, which partly has to do with the country’s traditional hierarchic structure in which decision makers are rarely questioned openly.
Results from the household study on economic and social development in brief:• The number of poor people in Rwanda has decreased from 56.7 per cent in 2005/6 to 44.9 per cent in 2010/11. Extreme income poverty has decreased from 37 to 24 per cent during the same period.
• This implies that the number of poor people in Rwanda has been reduced by an average of 2.4 per cent per year in the last five years, which is exceptional for Africa and comparable to China, Thailand and Vietnam.
• There are other positive development trends as well. Maternal mortality and child mortality rate (up to the age of five) was reduced by half in five years, and more children graduate from school.
• The success is partly due to Rwanda running an effective development policy that is largely supported by the general public. Foreign aid, which constitutes 50 per cent of the national budget, has also contributed to the positive results.
Read more about Sida’s work in Rwanda