Rwanda kicked off its first phase of countrywide vaccinations on March 5. It targets high risk groups including frontline and healthcare workers, elderly people above 65 years of age, those with underlying conditions and disabilities.
A total of 171,480 people will be vaccinated with AstraZeneca and Pfizer doses in the ongoing first round. The country is betting on vaccinating at least four million people by the end of 2021 in order to fully reopen the economy, currently experiencing a recession.
The Ministry of Health said the country is targeting to vaccinate 30 percent of its population (approximately 13 million people) by the end of 2021, and 60 percent by the end 2022.
The vaccination exercise is being seen as the much needed shot in the arm for the country whose economy almost came to a halt due to the global pandemic; with real growth dropping by 4.1 percent in the first three quarters of 2020 compared with a growth of 8.3 percent registered in the corresponding period of 2019.
If the vaccination goes according to plan in the coming weeks, it will allow the government to gradually reopen the economy after imposing restrictions on some activities to minimise the spread of coronavirus.
“The roll out of vaccines in the country and globally will have a positive impact on trade and investment, which will boost the economy,” John Rwangombwa, the Central Bank governor, National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) told The EastAfrican.
BNR figures show that the domestic economy started recovering from the negative impact of the coronavirus in the second half as evidenced by the rising trend of the real Composite Index of Economic Activities (CIEA), which increased by 9.4 percent in the second half of 2020 from a contraction of 2.1 percent recorded in the first half of 2020. On a quarterly basis, the CIEA recorded an increase of 11.7 percent in 2020 Q4 after 7.1 percent in 2020 Q3.
This domestic economic recovery is expected to continue in 2021, supported by policy interventions to revive business activities, despite the uncertainty around Covid-19 and its containment measures.
The IMF representative in Rwanda, Samba Mbaye told The EastAfrican that it is difficult to assess prospects of the Rwandan economy due to the ongoing crisis though growth projections will soon be revised based on new information collected recently by the IMF Mission.
“There is a lot of uncertainty around the prospects for managing the health crisis and reaching herd immunity and to ensure that full recovery of the economy takes place…” he said, adding that vaccine availability and distribution is a significant parameter in predicting what will happen in 2021.
A gradual recovery of the economy is expected in the second half of 2021, though the IMF maintains that this largely depends on the government adopting “a credible and growth-friendly fiscal consolidation strategy” after the crisis abates to preserve debt sustainability while supporting the nascent recovery.
“The strategy should be centred on measures to re-ignite domestic revenue mobilisation, streamline nonpriority spending, and re-prioritise public investment,” the IMF said.