Moving to Rwanda

Rwanda is a tiny Central African state that has endured a violent history of civil war. Despite its troubled past, expats moving to Rwanda will find a population that is generally friendly and welcoming.

The population is made up of three main ethnic groups; the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Ethnic tensions and competition have been high between these groups for decades and culminated in the Rwanda genocide in 1994, where thousands of Tutsis were killed by Hutus in an orchestrated campaign. Although peace has been restored since then, the legacy of Rwanda’s violent history remains. The genocide is a sensitive topic and each year in April it's commemorated with memorial walks and other official events.

Often referred to as the Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda’s landscape is dominated by rainforests, mountains, volcanoes and lakes. These attractions ensure steady growth in the country’s tourism industry. Most notably, Rwanda is home to a third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas and is only one of two countries where one can visit them safely.

The cost of living is high, especially in the capital, Kigali, although expats will likely have higher salaries to offset this. Rwanda’s economy is predominantly based on subsistence agriculture, with coffee and tea being the main cash crops for export. Tourism is growing rapidly and is now the country’s leading foreign exchange earner. Expats moving to Rwanda mostly work in these fields.

Safety remains a concern and there have been a number of grenade attacks in Kigali in recent years, although it's still unclear who is behind these attacks. Rwanda has also been affected by insecurity in its neighbours in the wider Great Lakes region, particularly the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Violence between rebels and Congolese troops periodically spills over into Rwanda and the border between the two countries is subject to close at short notice. Accordingly, a number of governments advise their nationals against travelling to Rwanda’s border with the DRC.

The Rwandan government provides free education in state-run schools for primary and middle school. However, school attendance numbers are still low in some regions. There are a number of private schools across Rwanda, mostly run by churches, which follow the national curriculum. Although secondary education used to be provided in French or English, it is now only in English. There are very few international schools, and these are located in the capital.

The quality of healthcare in Rwanda remains poor and expats will most likely need to be evacuated by air to another country, most likely South Africa or somewhere in Europe, in the case of a serious emergency. The country suffers from a shortage of qualified medical professionals and some medicines are not available at all. Expats should ensure that they have a comprehensive medical insurance plan in place in the event of having to be airlifted to another country.