Describes how widely e-Commerce is used, the primary sectors that sell through e-commerce, and how much product/service in each sector is sold through e-commerce versus brick-and-mortar retail. Includes what a company needs to know to take advantage of e-commerce in the local market and , reputable, prominent B2B websites.
Last Published: 7/12/2019

Current Market Trends

Of Rwanda’s 12.2 million estimated population, approximately 3.8 million have access to the internet, most commonly via mobile phone.  Internet access and speed are improving, driven by the rollout of a national 4G LTE network and fiber optic lines.  The government is committed to developing eCommerce and has put in place measures to protect users of online services by adopting global standards like the proprietary information security standard, which is the payment card industry data security standard.

The Government of Rwanda provides services to both citizens and businesses through e-government portals, such as Irembo, including as the preferred method to taxes and fees.  Many citizens and businesses still use traditional ways of physical interactions, and many transactions are in cash. 

Domestic eCommerce (B2C) 

At present, the use of eCommerce for “Business to Client” remains limited for the most part to the airline, hospitality, banking, food delivery, and courier services sectors.  eCommerce is relatively new in Rwanda, but the sector is growing quickly as local tech start-ups and international payers have entered Rwanda’s market in the past few years, including Jumia, an online food ordering platform.

Cross-Border eCommerce

China and United Arab Emirates are the main eCommerce commercial partners and online ordering typically goes through Alibaba and Ali Express.  Most Rwandan importers use these two long-term suppliers and orders are transmitted by email and phone.  Payments are transmitted through Western Union, MoneyGram, and HubShil. 

B2B eCommerce

“Business to Business” eCommerce is limited in the goods market but more advanced in services, particularly financial services (interbank market).

eCommerce Services

Despite limited skilled labor in general, services in software engineering and web-designing are widely available.  Carnegie Mellon University opened a campus in Kigali in 2012, its first in sub-Saharan Africa, and currently offers masters-level courses in information and communication technologies.

eCommerce Intellectual Property Rights

Detailed information on intellectual property in Rwanda can be accessed here:

Popular eCommerce Sites (grocery, food, travel, real estate and miscellaneous) (classifieds) (crafts) (grocery) (vehicles)

Online Payment

Credit and debit cards are generally limited to the capital of Kigali and selected hotels and restaurants in urban areas such as Musanze, Rubavu and Rusizi.  In 2011, Visa Inc. opened an office in Kigali and the company is working to broaden electronic payment services.  The RRA is also encouraging more electronic payments as they believe it will increase the percentage of transactions that are properly taxed.  The number of credit cards in use rose from 418 in 2012 to 3,638 in 2018, while the number of debit cards increased from 390,000 in 2012 to 883,755 in 2018. 

Mobile eCommerce

M-commerce, where cell phones are used to pay for goods and services, has advanced beyond mobile banking to debit and credit transactions.  M-commerce is particularly attractive in Rwanda due to the rapid increase in the number of cell phones, limited access to the Internet, and poor fixed-line infrastructure.  Mobile banking platforms via cellular telephony is growing and close to becoming a fully viable manner of conducting electronic commerce throughout Rwanda, but there are multiple phone carriers operating separate payment systems.  Rwandans commonly pay for electricity, water and other services through mobile platforms, and routinely transfer money to family, friends, and relatives using these services.

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More Information

Rwanda eCommerce Industry Trade Development and Promotion eCommerce