Rwanda - Country Commercial Guide
Selling Factors & Techniques

Identifies common practices used in selling in this market, including sales material that needs to be in the local language.

Last published date: 2021-11-11

Overview

Introducing new products to the Rwandan market requires extensive market research to identify potential customers’ buying patterns and preferences.  This applies particularly to unknown brand names.  One way of launching a new product in Rwanda is by exhibiting at a trade show.  Promotional “give-aways” are also popular.  An editorial and/or advertisement in local newspapers, specialized trade publications, or on the radio will also enhance awareness of the product.  Although Rwanda has four official languages, promotional material is typically printed in English.

Members of the Rwanda business community typically speak English and/or French as second and third languages, though many Rwandan customers speak only Kinyarwanda, occasionally with some knowledge of Swahili.  Experienced businesspersons recommend providing promotional materials in Kinyarwanda when marketing consumer goods, especially with new or unfamiliar products.  The limited purchasing power of the majority of the population may require businesses to adjust their products, packaging sizes, and pricing structure to fit local tastes and levels of disposable income.  Rwanda has a small but growing number of consumers who can afford premium products, particularly high-end vehicles and consumer electronics.


Trade Promotion & Advertising

Government-owned mass media outlets (radio, television, and newspapers) and privately-owned magazines, newspapers, radio stations are the major means of advertising.  Radio advertising and outdoor campaigns are likely to reach a wider audience than television as televisions remain rare in households outside of major towns.  Local and regional newspapers in Kinyarwanda, English, and French enjoy relatively wide circulation and sell advertising space.  Advertising by e-mail, telephone, and text message has become popular. 

The Rwanda Private Sector Association (PSF) organizes several international trade fairs in Rwanda each year.  These events attract many foreign and local exhibitors. 

U.S. companies can also contact U.S. Embassy Kigali’s Economic and Commercial Office for a single company promotion service.

Please refer to the following list for more information.  Disclaimer:  This list is not comprehensive, and inclusion does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by the U.S. Government.

Private Sector Federation
Gikondo MAGERWA
P.O. Box 319, Kigali
info@psf.org.rw 
+(250)-252-570650

Fax:  +(250)-252-570650
http://www.psf.org.rw

 

Advertising agencies

  • Alliance Media
  • Cube
  • Colours Ltd 
  • Digital Creation
  • llume Creative Studio
  • Irony Media & Communications
  • Nomad
  • Rwanda Broadcasting Agency

 

Newspapers and Online News

  • The New Times Publications
  • The East African-Rwanda Today
  • IGIHE Ltd
  • The Kigali Today Group
  • Taarifa
  • The Chronicles 

 

Radio/TV Stations

  • RBA Radio Rwanda and its community radio (CR) stations
  • Radio Rwanda – Inteko
  • Radio 10
  • Radio1
  • Flash FM
  • Contact FM
  • City Radio
  • Voice of Africa
  • KT Radio
  • Radio Maria Rwanda
  • Isango Star
  • K-FM
  • Radio Huguka
  • Royal FM
  • Hot FM
  • KISS FM
  • Authentic Radio
  • Conseil Protestant
  • Sana Radio
  • Voice of Hope
  • Radio Salus
  • Umucyo Radio
  • CR Isangano
  • CR Ishingiro
  • CR Izuba
  • CR Musanze
  • CR Rusizi
  • CR Nyagatare
  • CR Huye Radio Inkoramutima
  • Rwanda Television
  • TV10
  • TV1
  • Flash TV
  • Contact TV
  • Royal TV
  • Family TV
  • AZAM TV
  • Clouds TV
  • Isango TV
  • Yego TV
  • Goodrich TV           

 

Pricing

Pricing formulas will vary from one product to another based-on supply, demand, landed cost, margin expectations, and competitive alternatives.  Prices in Rwanda are liberalized, aside from petroleum products and certain commodities, which the government sets after limited consultation with industry stakeholders.  The standard-rated value added tax (VAT) is 18 percent, however, there are some services and goods which are either zero-rated or exempt.  The penalty for missing or late payment of VAT is 10 percent per month.  The Rwanda Revenue Authority administers VAT.  The RRA Tax Handbook covers detailed steps to register, declare and pay taxes. The latest version can be found here: https://www.rra.gov.rw/index.php?id=357&L=108.  Prices of imported goods are high due to customs duties, transportation costs, and depreciation of the local currency (Rwandan francs) against the U.S. dollar.

Sales Service/Customer Support

Sales service is available for most products in Rwanda, but customer service levels are poor in comparison to international standards.  Many firms in Rwanda do not give high priority to customer support and suffer from a lack of customer loyalty.  The government and importers of sophisticated industrial equipment generally ask for after-sale service agreements.  There are a growing number of small computer and electronics companies specializing in after-sales support, but most multinational companies in Rwanda service local clients via their offices in Nairobi or Johannesburg.

Foreign firms may increase market share by providing higher levels of service, including professional repairs and maintaining a well-trained staff of service technicians capable of advising customers as well as repairing their equipment.  It is helpful for companies to prepare their sales materials both in English and the local language, Kinyarwanda.

Local Professional Services

Firms should retain a local attorney when doing business in Rwanda, particularly as Rwandan employment law can prove difficult for American firms to uphold correctly.  Attorney lists are available from the U.S. Embassy in Kigali.  Some large accounting and professional service firms including Deloitte and Touche, Ernst and Young, Price Waterhouse Coopers, KPMG and Boston Consulting Group have a physical presence in Rwanda.

Principal Business Associations

The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) was legally recognized by the Government of Rwanda in November 2019 and comprises over 50 members who are U.S. companies or associated with U.S. companies.   See https://www.amchamrwanda.com/ for more information.

The Private Sector Federation (PSF) – Rwanda is a professional organization dedicated to promoting and representing the interests of the private sector in Rwanda, but its chair is selected and appointed by the government and the organization receives funding from some government agencies.  It is an umbrella organization that groups ten professional chambers.  The PSF was established in December 1999, replacing the former Rwanda Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  PSF’s primary roles are to represent and serve the interests of the entire private sector through lobbying and advocacy, while at the same time providing timely and relevant business development services that lead to sustainable private sector-led economic growth and development.  U.S. companies are welcome to join the PSF.  See www.psf.org.rw for more information.

The East African Business Council (EABC) is the umbrella organization of the private sector in East Africa, headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania.  Established in 1997, EABC facilitates private sector participation in the integration process of the EAC to improve the region’s trade and investment climate.  See https://eabc-online.com/ at https://eabc-online.com/for more information.

The Rwanda Bankers’ Association (RBA) represents licensed banks in Rwanda.  Any licensed banks in Rwanda are eligible for membership in the RBA.  See https://rba.rw/ for more information.

Rwanda Tours & Travel Association (RTTA) represents a wide spectrum of travel and vacation operators active in Rwanda.  See https://rtta.rw/ for more information.

European Business Chamber Rwanda (EBAR) followed in the footsteps of the AmCham and now serves to promote European business ties between Rwanda and the EU.  See https://www.facebook.com/ebcrwanda.org/?fref=tag.

Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services

Rwanda has neither statutory limits on foreign ownership or control nor any official economic or industrial strategy that discriminates against foreign investors in selling product and services.  Local and foreign investors have the right to own and establish business enterprises in all forms of remunerative activity.  The Rwandan constitution stipulates that every person has the right to private property, whether personal or in association with others.  The government cannot violate the right to private ownership except in the public interest and only then after following procedures that are determined by law and subject to fair compensation.  In 2015 Rwanda’s expropriation law was ostensibly amended to make it more protective of the rights of property owners in case of expropriation in public interest, but a number of property owners continue to claim that their properties were expropriated below market value and not in accordance with the expropriation law.

The 2021 Company Act establishes licensing regulations for business operations.