Rwanda: Doing business & staying in touch

Doing business in Rwanda

Lightweight suits are advised and appointments are necessary. Best time to visit is from April to October or December to January. Knowledge of French is useful as only a few executives speak English. It is also useful to learn one or two greetings in Kinyarwanda, this will be appreciated.

Office hours

Mon-Fri 0800-1230 and 1330-1700.

Economy

Rwanda's economy, which is based on subsistence agriculture, was devastated by the massacres of 1994, the huge refugee populations that resulted, political upheaval and, since then, ongoing fighting in several parts of the country.

Plantains, sweet potatoes, cassava and beans are grown for domestic consumption; tea and coffee are the principal cash crops and there is extensive livestock farming. Some rice and sugar plantations have also been developed.

Rwanda has some mineral deposits - principally tin ores, but also several ores containing rare metals such as tungsten and tantalum, which are in heavy demand in the world market. Extraction of the large natural gas reserves discovered beneath Lake Kivu has begun, although it has been disrupted by local fighting.

The industrial sector produces tobacco, metal goods, chemicals, rubber and plastics. In the service sector, the embryonic tourism industry (geared towards ecotourism) has had to restart from scratch as a result of the 1994 genocide and subsequent events.

Given the political situation, exacerbated by a series of poor harvests during the late 1990s, it is hardly surprising therefore that Rwanda continues to rely heavily on international aid.

A new Structural Adjustment Programme was begun in 1998, followed by an ambitious privatisation programme: both are being conducted under the supervision of the IMF and World Bank. In 2002, telecommunications and government-owned tea plantations were put up for sale. The results so far have been quite good: the economy grew 5.8% in 2005 and inflation was 6.7%. But, like most sub-Saharan African economies, Rwanda is especially vulnerable to commodity price movements; these are presently at a very low level.

Aid donors have also promised further assistance conditional on Rwanda pulling its troops out of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The main regional cooperation mechanism for Rwanda is the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.

GDP

US$5.9 billion (projected 2010).

Main exports

Tea, coffee, pyrethrum, hides, tin ore.

Main imports

Foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, steel, petroleum products, cement and construction material.

Main trading partners

Belgium, France, Germany, Kenya and South Africa.

Keeping in Touch in Rwanda

Telephone

The country code is 250. There are no area codes. As mobile phones become more popular, landlines are becoming disused. If you want to contact home more than a couple of times it is best to get a local SIM - do check that you can use it to make international calls. You sometimes have to activate the message centre in order to send texts, again check when you buy the SIM.

Mobile phone

Handsets are cheap at about £10 and local SIM cards are widely available from street vendors and shops. The two main mobile providers are MTN and Tigo. To make an international call you need to dial 000 before the country code (instead of the usual 00). Both international texts and calls from local mobiles are much cheaper than the roaming charges.

Internet

Wireless internet is now available throughout the country, either by using a dongle, which can be purchased in Kigali and other major towns, or by using hotspots. MTN hotspots are widespread and you can access them using your mobile phone credit if you have bought an MTN SIM card. There are also many internet cafes in Kigali and other large towns.

Post

Airmail to Western Europe takes approximately two weeks.

Post office hours

(Kigali) Mon-Fri 0800-1200 and 1400-1700, Sat 0800-1200.

Media

Most of the media is state-owned and there is limited press freedom. The main newspaper is the New Times and the regional East African is also widely distributed. International newspapers may be found in upmarket hotels and copies of Time and The Economist are sold by street vendors. Many of Rwanda's broadcasters are government-owned. The first private radio station was launched in 2004.

Press

There is a growing number of English-language newspapers such as The New Times, Rwanda Herald and Rwanda Newsline. Umesco is a Kinyarwanda-language publication. Publications in French or Kinyarwanda are fortnightly or quarterly.

Radio

Radio Rwanda is state owned and operates in English, French, Kinyarwanda and Swahili.
Private radio stations include Radio 10, Flash FM, Contact FM, City Radio, Radio Izuba and Radio Maria.

Edited by Jane Duru
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