Rwanda is a landlocked republic which lies in central Africa to the east of Zaire and forms part of the Central African Region. The capital city is Kigali. Other major towns are Butare and Gisenyi.

The official languages are Kinyarwanda and French, but Swahili is widely spoken. The local currency is the Rwanda franc. (US$ / R Fr – current exchange rate).

The country’s economy was severely dislocated by the political violence that swept the country during 1994. However, the economy has improved since then, assisted by loans from other countries and organisations. As a result, Rwanda has become a more serious debtor.

The Rwandan government began implementing a programme of privatisation, in association with the World Bank, in the late 1990s. The government aims to change the structure of the economy. Most sectors have been or will be affected by these policies.

The Rwanda oil industry is dependant on the importation of all petroleum products from the Mombasa refinery in Kenya. The country has a fledgling mining industry that has been severely disrupted by the political strife.

Agriculture is the largest sector of the Rwandan economy, having the highest foreign exchange earnings and employing the largest sector of the working population. Coffee and tea are grown for export while cereals, vegetables and rice are grown as food crops.

The international time zone for Rwanda is GMT +3 and the international dialling code for the country is +250. The principal airlines which fly to Rwanda are Air France and Sabena as well as regional airlines. Visas are required by all visitors except nationals of Germany.

Rwanda has a shortage of trained medical staff and facilities. Malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis A, cholera, typhoid fever, schistosomiasis and yellow fever may be contracted while travelling in Rwanda. The risk of contraction is based on a number of factors including location, individual’s state of health, current immunisation status, and the local disease situation. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for all entrants in to Rwanda.

Shaun Bakamoso

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