The economy of Rwanda is overwhelmingly agricultural, with most of the workers engaged in subsistence farming. Economic development in Rwanda is hindered by the needs of its large population and by its lack of easy access to the sea (and thus to foreign markets). The chief food crops are bananas, pulses, sorghum, and potatoes. The principal cash crops are coffee, tea, and pyrethrum. Large numbers of cattle, goats, and sheep are raised. Food must be imported, as domestic production has fallen below subsistence levels. Food shortages were exacerbated by the civil strife and severe refugee problems of the early 1990s, and exports were devastated. However, by the early 2000s the economy had revived to pre-1994 levels.
Cassiterite and wolframite are mined in significant quantities, and natural gas is produced at Lake Kivu. Rwanda's industries are limited to food processing, brewing, and small factories that manufacture furniture, footwear, plastic goods, textiles, and cigarettes. The country has a good road network but no railroads. Kigali has an international airport.
The annual value of Rwanda's imports is usually considerably higher than its earnings from exports. The main imports are foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, steel, petroleum products, and construction materials; the principal exports are coffee, tea, hides, casseritite, wolframite, and pyrethrum. The chief trading partners are Kenya, Germany, Belgium, Uganda, and China. Rwanda depends on outside aid to balance its national budget, to finance foreign purchases, and to fund development projects.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.