Rwanda - Country Commercial Guide
Market Overview
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Rwanda is a small but growing market, with a population of 13.7 million people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP, Current) of $13.3 billion, according to the World Bank.  Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Rwanda enjoyed strong economic growth, averaging over seven percent GDP growth annually over the last two decades.  The Rwandan economy grew 8.2 percent in 2022 thanks to strong growth in industry, construction, services, and agriculture.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Rwandan economy experienced its first recession since 1994, with a 3.4 percent GDP contraction in 2020.  In February 2020, the World Bank reported that Rwanda was among the most affected economies in Africa since the difference between pre-and post-growth projections reached eight percent.  In May 2021, the IMF projected Rwandan GDP growth to rebound to 5.1 percent by the end of 2021.  In addition to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rwanda’s economic recovery was slowed down by the effects of the war in Ukraine, a rise in international commodity prices in food and energy combined with low local agricultural output, global inflation pressures, and climate change.     

The World Bank reported in June 2023 that Rwanda’s public debt decreased from 73.3 percent of GDP in 2021 to 67.1 percent in 2022.  Public debt decreased due to strong growth and a reduction in the fiscal deficit.  According to Rwanda’s 2023/2024 fiscal year national budget, external grants and external loans will contribute 13 percent and 24 percent respectively.    

Leading sectors include energy, mining, agriculture, trade and hospitality, and financial services.  Rwanda’s economy is overwhelmingly rural and heavily dependent on agriculture.  Strong growth in the services sector over the past decade, particularly in construction and tourism, contributed to overall economic growth.  GNI per capita was $930 in 2022, according to the World Bank. 

The Rwandan government seeks to transform Rwanda into a regional trade, logistics, ICT, financial, and conference hub.  Pillars of this strategy include the construction of several new international business class hotels, a convention center in downtown Kigali, a new inland container terminal, and a bonded warehouse in Kigali.  The government also invested in expanding the fleet for the national carrier RwandAir and is working through how to start a direct commercial flight between Rwanda and the United States, with Rwanda’s Civil Aviation Administration having obtained the U.S. FAA’s top aviation safety rating in 2022.  Construction of the new Bugesera International Airport is ongoing.  The country aims to become a technology leader in the region with ICT ecosystem developments such as Kigali Innovation City (KIC) as a technology cluster and the Rwanda Innovation Fund to support innovation and entrepreneurship.  Rwanda’s efforts to establish itself as a financial hub include the creation of the Kigali International Finance Center (KIFC) and Ireme Invest (a green investment facility).

Rwandan exports in 2022 were $2.99 billion compared to $2.16 billion in 2021, which represents an increase of 38.5 percent owing to higher commodity prices. Principal exports included gold, coffee, tea, sanitary towels and baby diapers, and items made from flat-rolled or non-alloy steel.  Rwanda’s top exports markets are United Arab Emirates, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China, and Pakistan.  The tourism sector remains the country’s leading foreign exchange earner.  The country recorded a 171.3 percent increase in tourism revenues from 2021 to 2022 (from $164 million in 2021 to $445 million) according to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).  Revenues from Rwandan strategic investments in meetings, incentives, conferences/conventions, and events/exhibitions have recovered, reaching $62.4 million in 2022, up from $12.5 million in 2021.

Rwanda’s industrial sector (including mining, construction, manufacturing, and water and electricity sectors) contributes around 21 percent to GDP and employed 19 percent of the population in 2021.  The services sector – including tourism – generates almost half of GDP (47 percent) and has grown at an average annual rate of around 11 percent in recent years.  Rwanda is highly import-dependent, and the Rwandan government faces chronic and large current account deficits.  In 2022, imports totaled $4.98 billion compared to $3.86 billion in 2021, an increase of 29 percent due to increased imports of consumer goods.  In 2022, principal imports included electrical machinery and parts; electronic equipment and parts; machinery appliances and parts; vehicles and accessories; cereals and other food stuffs; plastics and articles thereof; pharmaceutical products; construction equipment including iron and steel; energy and petroleum products; and fertilizers.  China, Tanzania, Kenya, India, and the United Arab Emirates are among Rwanda’s major suppliers. 

U.S.-Rwanda bilateral trade in 2022 totaled $122.4 million ($65 million in exports to Rwanda, $57.4 in imports from Rwanda) compared to $81.8 million ($49.8 million exports to Rwanda and $32 million imports from Rwanda) in 2021.  Rwandan exports to the United States have grown steadily over the last 10 years.  However, after Rwanda implemented higher tariffs on imports of secondhand clothing and footwear in 2016, the U.S. government partially suspended African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) benefits for apparel products from Rwanda, effective May 2018.  Many other Rwandan exports to the United States are still eligible for trade preferences under the Generalized System of Preferences and AGOA.  

U.S exports to Rwanda are historically dominated by civilian aircraft, engines, equipment, and parts.  Other exported products include mechanical and electrical machinery and related parts; medical, pharmaceutical, and scientific equipment; digital automatic data processing machines; and vaccines.  Rwandan exports to the U.S are dominated by coffee; tantalum ores and concentrates; tungsten concentrates; basketware; and macadamia nuts (shelled, fresh, or dried).

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 has signed and ratified agreements on the movement of goods and services within the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).  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.  The most recent meeting on the TIFA was in October 2019.  In 2009, Rwanda became a member of the Commonwealth and hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in June 2022, after postponements in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19, Rwanda joined the OECD Development Center in 2019.

While Rwanda benefited from low violent crime rates for many years, overall crime rose to its highest levels in fiscal year 2022-2023 over the past five years.  The police and military still generally provide a security umbrella.

Leading reasons to consider the Rwandan market for U.S. export expansion include:

  • History of sustained high economic growth:  Strong average year-on-year GDP growth, albeit from a low base.
  • Low corruption:  One of Africa’s four least corrupt nations and 54th in the world in the Transparency International 2022 Corruption Perception Index.
  • Easy to start a business:  Top global consistent reformer since 2008.  Investors can register a business online or in person in as little as six hours through the RDB’s One Stop Centre.

Access to markets:  Rwanda has a small but growing middle class plus a market and customs union with a market potential of 150 million consumers in the EAC and 460 million in COMESA.  Rwanda’s previously easy access to the eastern DRC market of 3.5 million people is currently threatened by border tensions between the two countries, though most trade continues to flow.  Rwanda is a founding member and an active negotiator to gradually implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a 1.4 billion person market.  

Untapped investment opportunities:  Opportunities for investment are particularly attractive in the following sectors:  infrastructure (especially related to the construction of the new, greenfield Bugesera international airport project about 30 minutes outside of Kigali), energy, healthcare, agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, ICT, space and satellite technology, mining, financial services, real estate, and construction.

Summary of Basic Economic Statistics

Table: Summary of Basic Economic Statistics
Population:13,776,698 (2022, World Bank)
Real GDP growth:8.2 percent (2022, National Institute of Statistics Rwanda (NISR))

GDP at current prices:


$13.31 billion (2022, World Bank)

RWF 13,716 billion (2022, National Institute of Statistics Rwanda (NISR))

GDP per capita:$966 (2022, NISR)
Consumer price inflation:Headline inflation increased to 17.7 percent in 2022 from -0.4 percent in 2021 (World Bank)
Total Exports:$2.99 billion (2022, World Bank)
Total Imports:$4.98 billion (2022, World Bank)
Exports to the USA:$57.4 million (2022, USTC)
Imports from the USA:$65 million (2022, USTC)
Exchange rate:1200 RWF to 1 USD on September 6, 2023


Political Environment

Visit the Department of State’s website for background on Rwanda’s political and economic environment.