The economic geography of Rwanda: Trends, challenges and opportunities

  • The economic geography of Rwanda is characterised by relatively low levels of urbanisation (estimated at about 18.5% in 2016 – 2017 according to Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV) 5 data), a high urbanisation growth rate, high population density, and the urban dominance of Kigali City, the capital.
  • This study confirms that Rwanda is urbanising quickly, with high population growth rates in both Kigali and secondary cities.
  • Secondary cities are not equivalent in their size or potential for future growth: Resources need to be prioritised, with Rubavu having the highest potential. Road infrastructure matters and potentially has a large effect on trade.
  • Rwanda’s city branding strategy needs to be managed with care and combined with other non-sector specific policies. Another important lesson from the discussion on smart specialisation is that different types of economic development strategies might be required for different regions.
  • The analysis also reveals that firm branches are playing a very important role in transforming the economic geography and development of Rwanda.