Discusses key economic indicators and trade statistics, which countries are dominant in the market, the U.S. market share, the political situation if relevant, the top reasons why U.S. companies should consider exporting to this country, and other issues that affect trade, e.g., terrorism, currency devaluations, trade agreements.
Last Published: 3/28/2019
Despite the effects of a multidimensional crisis that included a 2012 coup d’etat, a separatist insurrection, and ongoing terrorist threats, Mali’s economy has sustained strong economic growth rates at above 5 percent per year since 2014 and similar performance is expected in 2018.  The country, while facing significant development challenges, is open for business and sees importing high quality American products and partnerships with U.S. firms as an attractive new frontier.

Rwanda is a small but growing market, with a population of 11.9 million people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD 8.37 billion dollars, according to the World Bank.  Rwanda’s economy grew by an average of 8 percent annually from 2002 to 2012, before slowing to 4.6 percent in 2013, in the aftermath of international donor aid cuts and suspensions.  The economy has since rebounded with 6.9 percent growth in 2015, 5.9 percent in 2016, and 6.1 percent in 2017. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects Rwanda’s Real GDP to grow between 7-8 percent in 2018 and 2019.  There are many positive big picture economic signs:  inflation was below 5% in 2017, the country maintains its reputation for low corruption, Rwanda's debt-to-GDP ratio, at 44.6 percent is relatively low (but growing quickly), and the percentage of foreign assistance in the country’s annual budget has dropped from over 80 percent a decade ago to 34 percent in the 2017/2018 National Budget.  Rwanda enjoys relatively high rankings in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index, which ranked Rwanda 41st out of 190 economies in the 2017 report—second-best in sub-Saharan Africa behind Mauritius.
Leading sectors include energy, agriculture, trade and hospitality, and financial services. Rwanda’s economy is overwhelmingly rural and heavily dependent on agriculture.  Strong growth in the services sector, particularly construction and tourism, has contributed to overall economic growth.  GDP per capita was USD 772 in 2017, according to the IMF.  The government’s economic priority is turning Rwanda into a regional trade, logistics, and conference hub.  Pillars of this strategy include the construction of several new international business class hotels, a convention center in downtown Kigali, and expanding and investing in the fleet for the national carrier RwandAir.  Construction of the new Bugesera International Airport is ongoing, with the first phase scheduled to begin operation in 2020.
Rwandan exports increased by 57.6 percent year-on-year in 2017, reaching USD 934.5 million, according to the National Bank of Rwanda. Commodities, particularly gold, tin, tantalum, tungsten, tea, and coffee, generated over 55 percent of Rwanda’s export revenue.  Rwanda earned USD 84 million from tea exports in 2017, a 32 percent increase from 2015.  Over the same period, coffee accounted for USD 64 million worth of exports, up seven percent from the previous year.  Major markets for coffee exports are the United States and Europe, while the Middle East and Pakistan are the main buyers of Rwandan tea.  Tourism is the country’s leading foreign exchange earner, with total revenues estimated at USD 390 million in 2016, according to the National Bank of Rwanda.  This is due to successes in leisure tourism, which is the highest income generating sector, and followed by business tourism – Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE). 
Rwanda’s small industrial sector contributes around 16 percent to GDP and employs less than three percent of the population.  The services sector – including tourism - generates almost half of GDP (46 percent) and has grown at an average annual rate of nine percent in recent years.  Rwanda is highly import-dependent, and the Rwandan government faces chronic and large current account deficits.  In 2017, imports totaled USD 2.215 billion, unchanged from 2016.  Principal imports included electrical machinery and parts; electronic equipment and parts; machinery appliances and parts; vehicles and accessories; cereals and other food stuff; pharmaceutical products; cement and construction equipment including iron and steel; and energy and petroleum products.  China, Europe, Uganda, Kenya, India, the United Arab Emirates, and Tanzania are among Rwanda’s major suppliers.
U.S.-Rwanda bilateral trade has grown rapidly in recent years, but a Rwandan decision to implement a de-facto ban on second hand clothing imports may slightly affect trade going forward.  The United States is considering suspending Rwandan apparel from African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) benefits in response.  Rwandan exports to the United States more than doubled in value between 2010 and 2017.  U.S.-Rwanda bilateral trade in 2017 totaled USD 109.83 million (USD 66.1 million in exports to Rwanda, USD 43.7 in imports from Rwanda).  Top U.S. exports to Rwanda include aircraft and parts; mechanical and electrical machinery and related parts; construction equipment; and medical, pharmaceutical, and scientific equipment and products.
Only four percent of Rwanda’s total goods exports go to the United States.  In 2016, USD 2.16 million in total Rwandan exports to the United States came under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), primarily apparel, travel goods, handbags, and arts and crafts (up from 1.22 million in 2016 and USD 435,000 in 2015).  This represented a 77 percent increase compared to 2016 and 396% increase compared to 2015 exports under AGOA. 
In 2007, Rwanda joined the East African Community (EAC).  Rwanda is also a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).  Rwanda is the only nation in the region to have concluded a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with the United States.  Rwanda has also concluded a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United States.  In 2009, Rwanda became the newest member of The Commonwealth and is scheduled to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2020. 
Rwanda is playing a leading role in the Northern Corridor initiative, which includes Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, and Ethiopia as core members and the DRC, Burundi, and Tanzania as observers.  Rwanda is also at the forefront of the Central Corridor initiative, which also includes Burundi, DRC, Tanzania, and Uganda.  Unlocking some of the larger infrastructure projects, such as rail transportation, envisioned under the Central and Northern Corridor initiatives could help to substantially reduce the cost of conducting business and transporting goods across borders in the region.
Rwanda benefits from low violent crime rates; its strong police and military provide a security umbrella that minimizes potential criminal activity and political conflicts. 
Leading reasons to consider the Rwandan market for U.S. export expansion include:
  • Sustained high economic growth: Strong average year-on-year GDP growth albeit from a low base, relatively low inflation, low (but growing) debt-to-GDP ratio;
  • Low corruption:  One of Africa’s four least corrupt nations and 48th in the world in the Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perception Index;
  • Easy to start a business: Top global consistent reformer since 2008 (World Bank Doing Business Report), 2nd easiest place to do business in sub-Saharan Africa.  Investors can register a business online or in person in as fast as six hours through the Rwanda Development Board.
  • Access to markets:  Rwanda’s market of 11.9 million people has a growing middle class, plus a market and customs union with a market potential of 162 million consumers in the East Africa Community (EAC).  Close access to the Eastern DRC market of approximately 35 million people.
  • Untapped investment opportunities:  Potential opportunities for investment are particularly attractive in the following sectors: infrastructure, energy, agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, information and communication technology, mining, financial services, real estate, and construction.
Summary of Basic Economic Statistics (2016/2017 figures)
Population Total :12,089,721 (2018 projection)
Real GDP growth :6.1 percent (2017)
GDP at current prices :
USD 8.376 billion (2016 World Bank)
RWF 7,597 billion (2017 NISR)
GDP per capita:USD 702.84 (2016 World Bank)
Consumer price inflation:CPI increased by 1.7 percent on average between April 2017 and April 2018.
Total Exports:USD 943.5 million (2017 BNR)
Total Imports:USD 2.2164 billion (2017 BNR)
Exports to the USA:USD 43.73million (2017 USTC)
Imports from the USA :USD 66.1million (2017 USTC)
Exchange rate:860 RWF on May 21, 2018

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.

Rwanda Trade Development and Promotion