Developments in Rwanda

Published: 17 June 2009 Updated: 2 September 2014

Rwanda – the Land of a Thousand Hills – is home to deep green rainforests and an enormous abundance of varieties. Nevertheless, the country is sadly enough more associated with the genocide in 1994. Today, the country’s population is looking ahead to a new Rwanda.

Rwanda still carries the trauma of the 1994 genocide, when over 800,000 people were killed, most of them belonging to the minority group Tutsi. A long period of racist hate propaganda in the media had dehumanized the Tutsis and many Hutus actively participated in the genocide. The international community stood silent while the killing quickly spread across the country.

After the genocide in 1994, Rwanda’s infrastructure was ravaged and its economy without future prospects. Many people had severe problems to find themselves food for the day, and two million people were displaced. From these conditions, a remarkable change has taken place.

Although poverty remains widespread, the country has achieved strong economic and social development in recent years and the eagerness to build a new country pervades today's Rwanda. In recent years, economic growth has been 7-8 per cent and the number of people living in poverty was reduced from 57 per cent to 45 per cent of the population, between 2006 and 2011. Extreme poverty has decreased over the same period, down to 24 per cent. This means that the number of poor in Rwanda has fallen by an average of 2.4 per cent per year over the past five years, which is exceptional for Africa and can only be compared with China, Thailand and Vietnam.

Maternal and child mortality has been reduced by half in five years. These very positive results can be linked to successful health care initiatives, which have also contributed to basic health insurance for 90 per cent of the population. More and more children – about 80 per cent – complete their primary education. With the 2008 election, Rwanda was the first country in the world to have a majority of women in parliament.

The private sector has seen constant growth, and the modernisation of farming will revitalize the core of the Rwandan economy. Special efforts are being made in the IT sector in order to reduce dependence on agriculture which today employs about 90 per cent of the population. The proportion of the population owning a mobile phone has literally exploded and amounts to 45 per cent.

Middle-income country by 2020

Rwanda has produced the development programme Vision 2020, which illustrates the country’s ambitious targets for the future. The aim is for Rwanda to become a middle-income country by 2020. One tool to achieve this is the country’s current strategy to combat poverty, which underlines the development of the private sector, the construction of a knowledge-based society and good governance for greater public participation and accountability.

At the same time, the process for democratic development and freedom of speech in Rwanda shows more negative tendencies. There is no real political opposition in the country, freedom of press is limited and censorship is being motivated with unwillingness to open up old wounds from the genocide. Political dissidents are being harassed and threatened.

Sweden’s focus areas in Rwanda

  • Democracy and human rights
  • Environment and management of natural resources
  • Economic development
  • Research

Read more about Sida’s work in Rwanda

Page owner: Department for Africa

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