United States and Rwanda: Strategic Partners

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will visit Rwanda on August 11, where he will meet with senior officials and civil society. The United States and Rwanda cooperate 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 support for clean energy, food security and production, building back to more inclusive global economic growth and development, and strengthening democracy, security, and respect for human rights.

U.S. – Rwanda Relations

  • The United States established diplomatic relations with Rwanda in 1962, following its independence from a Belgian-administered trusteeship. From 1990 to 1994, the country experienced civil war and genocide. The United States seeks to help Rwanda meet the needs of its population, including increased social cohesion in a peaceful, democratic, and inclusive country that provides good governance and an enabling environment for private sector-led growth.
  • The United States assists Rwanda in improving the quality and sustainability of its health system; expanding economic opportunities in rural areas, particularly through a strengthened agricultural production and food security program; strengthening engagement between civil society and government; expanding access to electricity; and improving the foundational educational system and skills (literacy, numeracy, and workforce readiness) that prepare Rwandan youth for a modern service-based economy. These goals are carried out through a range of programs, including various presidential initiatives such as Feed the Future; Power Africa; Prosper Africa; the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI); and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
  • U.S. humanitarian assistance supports over 127,000 refugees hosted in Rwanda with lifesaving health, protection, and livelihood programs. U.S assistance also promotes regional economic integration to spur business development, entrepreneurship, and increased employment opportunities.
  • The United States provided over $147 million in bilateral assistance to Rwanda in FY 2021, supporting integrated programming to advance goals in democracy and governance; health and nutrition; basic and higher education; youth, and economic growth including food security; and environment programs. Other assistance includes Power Africa, support for renewable energy projects, and programs to address transnational crime, police accountability, and peacekeeping activities.

Health Assistance and Pandemic Response

  • The U.S. government is the largest contributor to Rwanda’s health sector with annual investment of about $116 million in the last three years, benefitting an estimated 13 million Rwandans. As a result of our investments in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, 93% of Rwandans living with HIV are currently receiving life-saving HIV treatment, the mortality rate of children under age five has decreased by about 77 percent since 2000, and the average Rwanda’s life expectancy has increased by 20 years over the same period.
  • The United States and Rwanda have collaborated closely 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 close to 70% of its total population, making it a leader among Sub-Saharan African countries. The United States has provided nearly $23 million in assistance to Rwanda to fight and respond to COVID-19. Since August 2021, the United States, in partnership with COVAX, has provided 5,550,030 safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine doses for the people of Rwanda – free of cost. This includes 5,214,030 Pfizer doses (including 254,400 pediatric vaccine doses delivered in June 2022) and 336,000 J&J doses.

U.S.-Rwanda Economic Relationship:

  • In 2021, U.S. imports from Rwanda totaled $31.4 million and U.S. exports to Rwanda were worth $49.9 million. Over the last decade, U.S.-Rwanda goods trade has been roughly even, with approximately $74.4 million in annual trade.
  • In November 2019, an American Chamber of Commerce was formed in Rwanda with 50 members. U.S. exports to Rwanda include aircraft, pharmaceutical and scientific products, machinery, optical and medical instruments, construction equipment, and agricultural products. U.S. imports from Rwanda include coffee and other agricultural products, tantalum and tungsten ores, basketwork, handbags, and apparel. 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. business interests in Rwanda are expanding, with private U.S. investment in tea, coffee, energy, mining, water treatment, banking, franchising, services, and manufacturing.

Climate and Energy:

  • The U.S. Government is supporting Rwanda to realize its clean energy goals through financing, grants, technical assistance, advocacy, and promotion of investments in renewable energy.
  • The U.S. government, working with the U.S. private sector through Power Africa, has facilitated about 566,246 off-grid and on-grid connections for homes and businesses across the country, bringing electricity to over 2,831,230 Rwandans over the past six years. In many rural areas, mini-grids and off-grid connections are providing households and businesses with electricity for the first time.
  • In line with our commitments to the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE), USAID is providing climate information to more than 100,000 Rwanda farmers so that they can make more climate informed decisions about when and what to plant. Eighty-one percent of those farmers used that info to make better decisions about when to plant and what to plant, which resulted in 56 percent increase in income even in the face of climate change.

U.S. Security Cooperation with Rwanda

  • In FY 2021, U.S. peace and security bilateral assistance for Rwanda totaled $500,000. The U.S. support to the Rwanda Defense Force (RDF) includes border security, aviation security, training for peacekeepers, 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 works 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; advance gender equality and women’s empowerment; improve the operating space for civil society and the media; and deepen respect for human rights, including in combatting gender-based violence.
  • U.S. government democracy and governance bilateral assistance to Rwanda totaled approximately $2 million for FY 2021. This includes support for governance reform, anti-corruption efforts, and national reconciliation initiatives.

Humanitarian Assistance to Refugees

  • Rwanda hosts over 127,000 refugees and asylum seekers, primarily from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. In addition, Rwanda serves as a transit center for refugees and asylum seekers evacuating from Libya and has supported over 900 evacuees since 2019.
  • U.S. humanitarian assistance provides lifesaving and lifechanging support to refugees and asylum seekers through the UN Refugee Agency, the World Food Program, and other international and non-governmental organizations. Since FY 2021, the United States provided more than $74 million in humanitarian assistance for Rwanda, including more than $36 million in FY 2022 alone.

People-to-People Ties

  • In 2021, approximately 2,000 Americans visited Rwanda and approximately 2,500 Americans were resident in the country. The U.S. Embassy’s consular section issued 387 immigrant visas in FY 2021 and 855 non-immigrant visas (including 490 student visas). Visa issuance for all visa categories experienced an approximately 25 percent drop during the COVID-19 pandemic but should return to exceed historical norms.
  • Over 100 Rwandans participate in U.S. government-sponsored in-person and virtual exchange programs annually, and the exchange program alumni community has more than 2,500 members. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two American Spaces in Rwanda received more than 39,000 visits per year.

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