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The Republic of Rwanda is a landlocked country in eastern Central Africa and, with an area of 26,338 km², is about the size of Albania. The country borders Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south and the Democratic Republic of Congo (until 1997 Zaire) to the west.
Rwanda is situated on average at an altitude of 1 500 m above sea level and is characterised by mountainous areas with partly active volcanoes. In the west of the country, in the Central African Rift Valley, lies Lake Kiwu, which lies at around 1,460 m and forms part of the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. To the east, the rift valley rises steeply as a mountain range, reaching heights of up to 3,000 m and forming the watershed between the Nile and the Congo. In the northern part of the ditch edge lies the chain of partially active virunga volcanoes, this region is considered one of the most earthquake-prone in the world. The Karisimbi here in northwestern Rwanda is the highest elevation in the country, at 4,507 metres.
To the east is the highlands of Rwanda, which descend in stages to altitudes of around 1,500 metres. The plateau is deeply incised by numerous valleys. In the east of Rwanda lies an extensive swamp landscape with several lakes without drainage. Here the river Kagera (about 1 250 m above sea level) forms the eastern border to neighbouring Tanzania. Other lakes are Luhondo, Bulera and Mohazisee. The capital Kigali lies in the heavily populated highlands of Rwanda.
Rwanda has a presidential multiparty system; the constitution dates from 2003. The head of state is Paul Kagame, who has been directly elected by the people for seven years (since April 2000 Paul Kagame). The Prime Minister (since October 2011 Pierre Habumuremyi) heads the government, and his cabinet is appointed by the President.
The legislative power lies with the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies (80 members, for five years; fixed quotas for the representation of women, young people and people with disabilities). The 26 senators are appointed for eight years, partly indirectly by the people, partly by the president and a party assembly. The jurisprudence is based on Belgian law and African tribal rights. Rwanda is divided into five provinces.
Rwanda wants to achieve the status of a “middle-income country” by 2020. The proportion of the population living below the poverty line has been reduced in recent years, but still stands at 45%. This makes Rwanda one of the poorest countries in the world. Challenges include shortages in electricity supply and skilled labour, high population growth, land scarcity and the effects of climate change.
Agriculture accounts for one third of the gross domestic product (GDP). 90 % of the population lives largely from subsistence farming. Despite extensive agricultural land, the population’s own food requirements cannot be met. Coffee and tea are the main crops for export, bananas, beans, corn, millet and sweet potatoes are also cultivated. Dried chrysanthemum flowers provide the raw material for the insecticide pyrethrum. Livestock is kept only to cover the own needs. After the uncontrolled deforestation of large areas, reforestation has been carried out since the mid-1990s.
The service sector (financial services, information technologies, insurance, tourism) has now overtaken agriculture, accounting for more than half of GDP.
Rwanda has an underdeveloped industrial sector. The existing enterprises concentrate on the metropolitan area around the capital Kigali and mainly process agricultural products. Shoes, textiles, soap, cement, furniture and cigarettes are also produced on a small scale. Copper, tinstone, tungsten, beryllium and gold are mined. Methane gas is mined in Lake Kiwu. Part of the country’s energy needs is covered by firewood, oil and methane gas are imported.
Coffee is Rwanda’s most important export, followed by tea and copper. About two thirds of the exports go to the states of the East African Community EAC, about a quarter to other African countries and 14% to Europe. The main imports are food, machinery and accessories, steel and fuel from Kenya, Germany and Belgium.
The main road network in Rwanda is quite well developed. Of a total of about 12 000 km of roads, almost 1 000 km are paved. There is neither a railway network nor navigable rivers. The capital Kigali is approached by international airlines. Currency is the Rwandan franc.