Rwanda Population and Economy

Located in the heart of equatorial Africa, among high mountains, Rwanda takes on very specific characters in the African context both for its particular geography and for the history of its human occupation, which saw a minority of Tutsi, a pastoral people perhaps originally from the Ethiopia, impose a harsh feudal regime on the large Bantu majority of the Hutus. The country, already constituting the northern part of the territory of Rwanda-Urundi entrusted in trusteeship to Belgium, it acquired independence in 1962. Rwanda has a modest extension but an impressive population density, in absolute terms and even more so for the African continent. In the 1990s, the country’s history was characterized by a bloody civil war; still at the beginning of the 21st century, Rwanda is one of the poorest countries in the world and its economy is particularly affected by the enormous demographic pressure, the lack of direct access to the sea, and the ethnic conflict. Consequently, it depends almost entirely on foreign aid from Europe, the UN and international cooperation organizations between African countries.


The healthiness of the climate, in addition to directly favoring human settlement, has also constituted, to a certain extent, a defense against many epidemic diseases typical of equatorial Africa, a fact that explains the high density of the country (354 residents / km²), among the highest on the continent. The altitude also prevented the spread of trypanosomiasis, the sleeping sickness transmitted by the tsè-tsè fly, also devastating to livestock, especially bovine. The climatic and environmental conditions also played a role of primary importance in determining the historical events of the population of Rwanda. Originally inhabited by pygmoid people, the twa (or batua), nomadic hunters and forest gatherers, now reduced to a few tens of thousands and in the process of progressive assimilation and sedentarization (nomadic groups still live in the Virunga forests), the country subsequently witnessed a massive immigration of Bantu farmers, the Hutus (BaHutu). The climate very suitable also for herding, however, later attracted the Tutsis (BaTutsi), a Niloto-Hamitic people, originally from Ethiopia and arrived in Rwanda, through Uganda, it is believed towards the century. XIII, carrying herds of long-horned cattle. The Tutsis, culturally more developed, settled on the plateau and soon succeeded in establishing themselves on the most numerous Hutus, while the Twa remained confined to the most remote areas of the forest. This situation lasted substantially until independence, when the Hutus, having imposed their numerical majority in the referendum for the proclamation of the republic, began to vent their age-old resentment, killing thousands of Tutsis and forcing others to leave. At the beginning of the 21st century, the Hutus represent 85% of the population, the Tutsi 14%, while the TWA are 1%. The population is gathered above all in the highlands close to the western mountain range where, in certain areas, densities of 350 residents / km² are recorded. The demographic dynamics of Rwanda were profoundly changed by the civil war of 1994, which caused more than one million deaths, reducing the inhabited to 6,600,000. of the state, many of whom, however (about 1,700,000), were forced to find refuge outside the borders, while another 50,000 left their homes while remaining inside the country. Most of the population lives in small villages of circular straw huts; about one fifth of the population lives in urban centers (in 2005 it was 19%). The only city of some significance is the capital Kigali which, due to the conflict, it has more than tripled the population; for the rest there are only large villages with commercial or administrative functions. On the road to Burundi is Butare, formerly Astrida, the main center at the time of the Belgian administration and today the seat of the national university.


The trade balance is heavily in deficit: exports, especially tea, coffee, tungsten and leather manage to cover only minimally the imports of machinery, vehicles, oil, minerals, building materials and food products. International aid, which finances most of the development programs, remains decisive. The main trading partners are Kenya, Uganda and the European Union. § The delay in the country’s economic development still largely derives from the insufficient system of the communications network; there are no railways and the roads are limited to a few arteries (the overall development is about 14,000 km in 2004 of which only 2000 are asphalted), which branch off from Kigali mainly towards Uganda and Burundi, while navigation services on Lake Kivu allow a good connection with the Democratic Republic of Congo. For maritime connections with foreign countries, Rwanda depends almost entirely on the distant port of Mombasa, in Kenya, which implies the crossing of Ugandan territory; the situation of air transport is better, using the two international airports of Kigali and Kamembe.

Rwanda Economy