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: 6/26/2017

Current Market Trends

Of Rwanda’s 11.8 million estimated population, only about 1.2 million have regular access to the internet.  Internet access and speed are slowly improving.  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 is providing services to both citizens and businesses through e-government portals which include paying taxes and fees.  Many citizens and businesses still use traditional ways of physical interactions.

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 two years.  Examples include Kaymu, Lamudi, Jovago, and Hellofood, an online food ordering platforms.  The four services are now all part of Jumia, a Nigerian e-Commerce company.

Cross-Border eCommerce

China and United Arab Emirates are the main eCommerce commercial partners and online ordering typically goes through Aribaba 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

2B 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), (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 and Rubavu.  In 2011, Visa Inc. opened an office in Kigali and the company is working to broaden electronic payment services.  The number of credit cards in use rose from 418 in 2012 to 3,668 in 2016, while the number of debit cards increased from 390,000 in 2012 to 746,485 in 2016.  The national air carrier, RwandAir, began online booking and payment in 2012, although payments are still processed by way of third party companies in Kenya and South Africa. 

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.  Rwandans commonly pay for electricity, water and other services through mobile platforms, and routinely transfer money to family, friends, and relatives using these services.
Digital Marketing
Marketing is conducted primarily through word-of-mouth, radio, mobile phone ads, and outdoor campaigns.  The internet, social media, and mobile phones, in particular, are emerging as important marketing media.

Major Buying Holidays

Major consumer “buying holidays” are Christmas and New Year’s eve, Eid al-Fitr, and Saint Valentine’s Day.

Social Media

Social media is widely used in Rwanda including WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Many startups and small and medium-sized companies use Facebook for advertising.

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Rwanda eCommerce Industry Trade Development and Promotion eCommerce