The United States and Rwanda: strategic partners

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will travel to Rwanda on August 11, where he will meet with senior government officials and civil society. The United States and Rwanda are cooperating on global and regional priorities, including ending the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and investing in health systems, addressing the climate crisis, including the supporting clean energy, food security and production, building a more inclusive world for economic growth and development, and strengthening democracy, security and respect for human rights.

United States-Rwanda relations

  • The United States established diplomatic relations with Rwanda in 1962, after its independence from a trusteeship administered by Belgium. From 1990 to 1994, the country experienced civil war and genocide. The United States seeks to help Rwanda meet the needs of its people, including building social cohesion in a peaceful, democratic, and inclusive country that offers good governance and an environment conducive to private sector-led growth.
  • The United States is helping Rwanda improve the quality and sustainability of its health system; increase economic opportunities in rural areas, including through a strengthened program of agricultural production and food security; strengthen engagement between civil society and government; expanding access to electricity; and improving the education system and basic skills (literacy, numeracy, and workforce readiness) that prepare Rwandan youth for a modern service-based economy. These goals are achieved through a range of programs, including various presidential initiatives such as Feed the Future; Power Africa; Prosper Africa; the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI); and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
  • U.S. humanitarian assistance is supporting more than 127,000 refugees housed in Rwanda with lifesaving health, protection and livelihoods programs. US assistance also promotes regional economic integration to stimulate business development, entrepreneurship, and increased employment opportunities.
  • The United States provided more than $147 million in bilateral assistance to Rwanda in fiscal year 2021, supporting integrated programming to advance democracy and governance goals; health and nutrition; basic and higher education; youth and economic growth, including food security; and environmental programs. Other aid includes Power Africa, support for renewable energy projects and programs to combat transnational crime, police accountability and peacekeeping activities.

Health assistance and response to the pandemic

  • The US government is the largest contributor to Rwanda’s health sector with an annual investment of approximately $116 million over the past three years, benefiting approximately 13 million Rwandans. Thanks to our investments in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, 93% of Rwandans living with HIV are currently receiving life-saving HIV treatment, the under-five mortality rate has decreased by approximately 77% since 2000, and the average Rwandan life expectancy has increased by 20 years over the same period.
  • The United States and Rwanda have worked closely together to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and address the economic challenges of the pandemic. Our support has been a key factor in Rwanda’s success in vaccinating nearly 70% of its total population, making it a leader among countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The United States has provided nearly $23 million in assistance to Rwanda to combat and respond to COVID-19. Since August 2021, the United States, in partnership with COVAX, has provided 5,550,030 doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine free of charge to the people of Rwanda. This includes 5,214,030 doses from Pfizer (including 254,400 doses of pediatric vaccine delivered in June 2022) and 336,000 doses from J&J.

U.S.-Rwandan Economic Relationship:

  • In 2021, US imports from Rwanda totaled $31.4 million and US exports to Rwanda were worth $49.9 million. Over the past decade, merchandise trade between the United States and Rwanda has been roughly equal, with approximately $74.4 million in annual trade.
  • In November 2019, an American Chamber of Commerce was created in Rwanda with 50 members. US exports to Rwanda include aircraft, pharmaceutical and scientific products, machinery, optical and medical instruments, construction equipment and agricultural products. US imports from Rwanda include coffee and other agricultural products, tantalum and tungsten ores, basketry, handbags and clothing. Rwanda is currently eligible for limited preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
  • The United States and Rwanda have a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (entered into force in 2006) and a Bilateral Investment Treaty (entered into force in 2012). The United States has also signed trade and investment framework agreements with the East African Community (EAC) and with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Rwanda is a member of both regional organizations. S.’s business interests in Rwanda are expanding, with private U.S. investments in tea, coffee, energy, mining, water treatment, banking, franchising, services and manufacturing .

Climate and energy:

  • The U.S. government helps Rwanda achieve its clean energy goals through funding, grants, technical assistance, advocacy, and promoting renewable energy investments.
  • The U.S. government, in collaboration with the U.S. private sector through Power Africa, has facilitated approximately 566,246 off-grid and on-grid connections for homes and businesses across the country, bringing electricity to more than 2,831,230 Rwandans over the past six years. In many rural areas, mini-grids and off-grid connections are providing electricity to households and businesses for the first time.
  • In keeping with our commitments to the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE), USAID is providing climate information to more than 100,000 Rwandan farmers so they can make more informed climate decisions. as to the time and nature of planting. Eighty-one percent of these farmers used this information to make better decisions about when to plant and what to plant, resulting in a 56% increase in income even in the face of climate change.

U.S. security cooperation with Rwanda

  • In fiscal year 2021, U.S. bilateral peace and security assistance to Rwanda totaled $500,000. U.S. support for the Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) includes border security, air security, peacekeeper training, and broader professionalization efforts.
  • The United States supports Rwandan law enforcement to promote police accountability and reform and support anti-corruption efforts within Rwandan institutions. Other programs include support to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, initiatives to build the capacity of civil society organizations, and justice sector reform.

Governance and human rights

  • The United States is working with Rwanda to strengthen institutions and processes at the national and local levels to increase public participation in governance and foster greater transparency and accountability; advancing gender equality and empowering women; improving the space for civil society and the media to operate; and strengthen respect for human rights, including in the fight against gender-based violence.
  • The U.S. government’s bilateral democracy and governance assistance to Rwanda totaled approximately $2 million for fiscal year 2021. This includes support for governance reform, anti-corruption efforts and national reconciliation initiatives.

Humanitarian assistance to refugees

  • Rwanda hosts more than 127,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. Additionally, Rwanda serves as a transit center for refugees and asylum seekers evacuated from Libya and has supported over 900 evacuees since 2019.
  • U.S. humanitarian assistance provides vital, life-changing support to refugees and asylum seekers through the United Nations Refugee Agency, the World Food Program, and other international and nongovernmental organizations. Since fiscal year 2021, the United States has provided more than $74 million in humanitarian assistance to Rwanda, including more than $36 million in fiscal year 2022 alone.

Interpersonal links

  • In 2021, approximately 2,000 Americans visited Rwanda and approximately 2,500 Americans resided in the country. The U.S. Embassy Consular Section issued 387 immigrant visas in fiscal year 2021 and 855 nonimmigrant visas (including 490 student visas). Visa issuance for all visa categories has seen a decline of around 25% during the COVID-19 pandemic, but is expected to return to above historical norms.
  • More than 100 Rwandans participate in U.S. government-sponsored in-person and virtual exchange programs each year, and the exchange program alumni community numbers more than 2,500 members. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two American Spaces in Rwanda received over 39,000 visits per year.

About Bradley J. Bridges

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