Over 4 million Rwandans live below line of poverty

On 12 August 2023 at 08:04

Despite the efforts of the Rwandan Government to alleviate poverty through various programs, a significant portion of the population remains trapped in conditions of either poverty or extreme poverty.

These initiatives include the Vision 2020 and the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) on a national scale, along with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The nation is also considering additional programs such as the Vision 2050, the National Strategy for Transformation (NST1), and Agenda 2063 to align with its long-term aspirations.

Over the years, Rwanda has undergone reforms aimed at transforming the livelihoods of its citizens, yielding noticeable improvements, as evidenced by the rise in life expectancy from 51.2 in 2002 to 64.5 in 2021 and further to 69.6 in 2022. Notably, poverty rates have also seen a decline, with the percentage dropping from 60.4% in 2000 to 38.2% in 2017, and extreme poverty plummeting from 40% to 16% within the same timeframe.

The pursuit of poverty reduction remains a central pillar of Rwanda’s Vision 2050, and the country is committed to eradicating extreme poverty by 2024 under the NST1. The results of the 2022 Housing and Population Census reveal that Rwanda’s population has now exceeded 13 million.

An analysis of the census data concerning poverty reveals that 887,508 individuals live in conditions of extreme poverty, while 3,139,395 are struggling with poverty. This aggregates to a total of 4,026,903 individuals living below the poverty line, which corresponds to 30.4% of the registered population.

A stark disparity between rural and urban areas is evident, with rural regions harboring the larger proportion of individuals in poverty at 3,502,686, equivalent to 37.3%, compared to 13.4% in urban areas. At the provincial level, both the Western and Southern provinces exhibit a similar 35% poverty rate, while the percentage drops to 34.6% in the Eastern Province and significantly lowers to 9.5% in Kigali City.

Notably, the 2012 census had previously identified the Western and Eastern provinces as having the highest poverty rates at 42% each. At the district level, Gisagara, Nyanza, Rutsiro, Nyamagabe, Ngororero, Nyaruguru, Gatsibo, Nyagatare, and Ngoma have poverty rates ranging between 37% and 45%. In districts such as Nyamasheke, Rubavu, Rusizi, Burera, Karongi, Kirehe, Nyabihu, Kayonza, and Ruhango, the poverty rate falls within the range of 32% to 36%.

Conversely, districts like Rulindo, Muhanga, Rwamagana, Musanze, and Gakenke boast poverty rates below 30%.

Within Kigali City, Kicukiro showcases the lowest rate of poverty at 6.7%, followed by Nyarugenge at 9% and Gasabo at 11.1%. The census data also sheds light on the characteristics of these poverty-stricken populations, often characterized by factors such as residing in homes with light roofing structures and having limited educational attainment, often stopping at the primary school level or not attending school at all.

The report further identifies a majority of them as widows, divorcees, or members of households prone to disputes. Internet access is scarce in these households, and they tend to have larger families.

The report suggests that many rely on subsistence agriculture with limited yields, possess average knowledge, and frequently relocate in search of means of sustenance. Notably, individuals aged 30 to 44 constitute the majority of the population living in poverty. The National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) posits that this age group’s vulnerability to poverty could be associated with establishment of independent households.

The recent Labor Force Survey of February 2023 reveals that the working-age population (16 years and above) reached 7.9 million, of which 3,803,942 individuals were employed, 792,115 were unemployed, and 3,380,192 individuals were not part of the labor force.

Despite the efforts of the Rwandan Government to alleviate poverty through various programs, a significant portion of the population remains trapped in conditions of either poverty or extreme poverty.