Rwanda Economy

Rwanda’s economy suffered heavily during the 1994 Genocide, with widespread loss of life, failure to maintain the infrastructure, looting, and neglect of important cash crops. This caused a large drop in GDP and destroyed the country’s ability to attract private and external investment. The economy has since strengthened, with per-capita GDP (PPP) estimated at $1,592 in 2013, compared with $416 in 1994. Major export markets include China, Germany, and the United States. The economy is managed by the central National Bank of Rwanda and the currency is the Rwandan franc; in June 2010, the exchange rate was 588 francs to the United States dollar. Rwanda joined the East African Community in 2007 and there are plans for a common East African shilling, which could be in place by 2015.

Rwanda is a country of few natural resources, and the economy is based mostly on subsistence agriculture by local farmers using simple tools. An estimated 90% of the working population farms, and agriculture comprised an estimated 42.1% of GDP in 2010. Since the mid-1980s, farm sizes and food production have been decreasing, due in part to the resettlement of displaced people. Despite Rwanda’s fertile ecosystem, food production often does not keep pace with population growth, and food imports are required.

Crops grown in the country include coffee, tea, pyrethrum, bananas, beans, sorghum and potatoes. Coffee and tea are the major cash crops for export, with the high altitudes, steep slopes and volcanic soils providing favorable conditions. Reliance on agricultural exports makes Rwanda vulnerable to shifts in their prices.  Animals raised in Rwanda include cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chicken, and rabbits, with geographical variation in the numbers of each. Production systems are mostly traditional, although there are a few intensive dairy farms around Kigali. Shortages of land and water, insufficient and poor-quality feed and regular disease epidemics with insufficient veterinary services are major constraints that restrict output. Fishing takes place on the country’s lakes, but stocks are much depleted, and live fish are being imported in an attempt to revive the industry.

The industrial sector is small, contributing 14.3% of GDP in 2010. Products manufactured include cement, agricultural products, small-scale beverages, soap, furniture, shoes, plastic goods, textiles and cigarettes. Rwanda’s mining industry is an important contributor, generating US$93 million in 2008. Minerals mined include cassiterite, wolframite, gold, and coltan, which is used in the manufacture of electronic and communication devices such as mobile phones.

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