Nestled a few degrees south of the Equator, and one of the smallest countries on the African mainland, Rwanda is a landlocked country in the Great Rift Valley where the African Great Lakes region and East Africa converge. Bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is about a mile above sea level and often referred to as the ‘land of a thousand hills’ with its geography dominated by mountains in the west and savanna to the east, and numerous lakes throughout the country.
Rwanda has a temperate tropical highland climate, with lower temperatures than are typical for equatorial countries because of its high elevation. Kigali, the capital city sits in the centre of the country and has a typical daily temperature range between 12 and 27 °C (54 and 81 °F), with little variation through the year, making its climate feel like a perpetual, perfect, English summer’s day.
With a population of over 12.6 million people, living on just 26,338 km2 (10,169 square miles) of land, Rwanda is the most densely populated mainland African country. The population is young and predominantly rural.
A country of few natural resources, the economy is based mostly on subsistence agriculture by local farmers using simple tools. The principal language is Kinyarwanda, spoken by most Rwandans, with English and French serving as additional official languages.
Rwanda is infamously known for the horror of the 1994 genocide in which over a million people were massacred. In over just 100 days in 1994, Rwandan armed forces, extremist militias, and radicalized civilians from the nation’s ethnic Hutu majority massacred an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis, as well as political opponents.
This is one of the world’s most horrific genocides since World War II. The ensuing civil war resulted in the displacement of a third of Rwanda’s population.
Education and Health Care
Providing education for a county whose numbers of young people are rising exponentially, is a challenge. Whilst the government provides six years in primary and three years following a common secondary programme, rates of completion are low and repetition rates high.
While schooling is theoretically fee-free, there is an expectation that parents should contribute to the cost of their children’s education by providing them with materials, supporting teacher development and making a contribution to school construction which many simply cannot afford. Over 30% of Rwandans are still unable to read and write.
Likewise, the quality of healthcare in Rwanda has historically been poor. In recent years there has been improvement on a number of key health indicators but despite these advances, there remains a shortage of medical professionals and a prevalence of diseases such as malaria and HIV/ AIDS.
Economy And Culture
Rwanda’s economy is gathering strength with coffee and tea being the major cash crops for export. Tourism is a fast-growing sector as one of only two countries in which mountain gorillas can be visited safely.
Music and dance are an integral part of Rwandan culture, particularly drums and the highly choreographed ‘intore’ dance.
Nothing substitutes for experiencing this beautiful East African country for oneself, getting to know its gentle yet resilient people, reflecting on its recent, traumatic history and understanding its rich and vibrant culture. There is no substitute for it. It changes perspective, challenges preconceptions and ultimately, touches one’s heart.
Promoting opportunity and excellence in Africa
Registered Charity No: 1184890
Registered Charity No: 1184890