Rwanda economy hit hard as infections rise

Tuesday June 29 2021
Rwanda lockdwon.

A pedestrian crosses a road in downtown Kigali, Rwanda, on March 22, 2020. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG


Rwanda is grappling with a rise in Covid-19 infections, which has forced the government to re-impose containment measures to stem its spread countrywide. The rising infections are complicating efforts to revive the economy, hit severely by the pandemic, which caused a recession last year after over a decade of positive growth.

On June 23, Rwanda recorded 964 new infections — the highest since the pandemic was first reported in the country in March 2020. Throughout the week, the numbers continued to rise with an average of 600 new cases recorded per day as the country ramps up testing. As of June 24, the country had recorded 6,876 active cases, with 18 people in critical condition. Some 402 patients had succumbed to the virus while 391,440 had been vaccinated.

Faced with a risk of a severe third wave, the government last week imposed restrictions that are expected to dampen recovery after the economy recovered to a modest 3.5 percent in the first quarter of this year after slowing to 3.6 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020, from 6.1 percent in the same period in 2019. Strict Covid-19 guidelines have been issued for Kigali city, which remains the hotbed of infections recording over 50 percent of total infections. On Thursday, Kigali city alone recorded 234 new cases.

The pandemic has hit Rwanda's key strategic services sector, particularly retail trade, leisure, hospitality and conference tourism, which collectively account for most jobs in the country.

Despite tourism and hospitality activities resuming in June 2020, growth has been slow with figures from the National Institute of Statistics showing the country’s service sector, which contributed 46 percent of GDP, stagnated at zero percent in quarter one of 2020.

There is concern that a recent directive by Rwanda Development Board making negative Covid tests mandatory for some 40 selected restaurants and hotels (mostly high-end) will discourage clients. A rapid antigen test costs Rwf10,000 ($10).


RDB said the new measures are necessary to create a safe environment to help businesses recover faster.