What Are The Major Natural Resources Of Rwanda?

Panoramic top view of Lake Kivu, Rwanda. Lakes are important natural resources of the country.
Panoramic top view of Lake Kivu, Rwanda. Lakes are important natural resources of the country.

Rwanda is a Central and East African country situated south of the equator and bordered by Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is in the African Great Lakes Region and considered one of the smallest countries in mainland Africa. The population of Rwanda is mainly made up of the young with the majority living in rural areas. It has an estimated population of 11.2 million people and a population density of 1,152.5 persons per square miles; among the highest in Africa. The majority of the population is drawn from just one cultural and linguistic group known as Banyarwanda. Having suffered one of the worst genocides in history, Rwanda has risen to become one of Africa’s most peaceful countries.

Overview Of The Economy And Natural Resources Of Rwanda

The economy of Rwanda was heavily affected by the 1994 genocide that led to widespread loss of life, looting, destruction of infrastructure, and neglect of important economic activities such as farming. The genocide led to a large drop in GDP and destroyed the ability of the country to attract foreign investors. However, the economy has since strengthened and the living standards of many Rwandans have significantly improved. Thanks to government policies, Rwanda has undergone rapid industrialization in the last two decades. President Kagame has a vision of making the country the “Singapore” of Africa. Rwanda has the lowest corruption compared with its neighbors, a factor that has attracted foreign investors. The country has very few natural resources with the economy mainly based on subsistence agriculture. Rwanda has a few deposits of gold, tin ore, tungsten ore, and methane. However, the government has not invested a lot in their exploitation since they require a lot of investments and foreign partnerships for the minerals to be of greater economic value to the country. Here are the major natural resource of Rwanda

Arable Land

Rwanda’s economy is primarily dominated by agriculture. Approximately 90% of the labor force is employed in the farms and agriculture accounts for about 32.5% of the GDP (2014). Rwanda is a small country whose geography is dominated by mountains, especially in the west, and savanna in the east. Because of the nature of its geography, the country’s agricultural sectors have been affected by the lack of sufficient land for agriculture. However, arable land is one of its major natural resources and vital for agricultural development. Land categorized as rural is almost 98% of the total land area with approximately 49% or 1.15 million hectares categorized as arable land. However, the arable land does not include all the potentially cultivated land. According to the World Bank (2015), Rwanda’s agriculturally potential land is approximately 18,117 square kilometers (1.92 million hectares) or 73.4% of the entire land. Of the total arable land, about 484,000 hectares are under cereal production. Maize, beans, cassava, banana, and potatoes are the most popular crops grown in Rwanda.

Mineral Resources

Rwanda has very limited mineral resources and appears almost at the bottom of mineral producers in Africa. Nonetheless, mining is an important contributor to the country’s economy, generating about US$ 90 million in 2008. Minerals extracted in Rwanda include tantalum, tin ore, tungsten, and gold. In 2010, the country earned nearly US$ 67 million from mineral export, constituting about 15% of the export and making mining the largest source of foreign earnings. In 2014, Rwanda was the largest producer of tantalum in the world, accounting for approximately 50% of the total world output. It also accounted for over 1% of each of the world’s tin and tungsten production. However, over the past years, tin ore (cassiterite) has been the largest producer and exported mineral in Rwanda, averaging 3,874 tons and valued at US$ 42.2 million in 2010. Coltan ore (niobium) is the second-largest produced mineral with 749 tons valued at US$ 18.5 million produced in 2010. During the same period, 843 tons of tungsten ore valued at US$ 7 million was produced. Rwanda produces about 9% of the world’s tantalum and about 4% tungsten. Tantalum is mainly used in electronic manufacturing. The minerals are mainly produced by private companies and artisanal miners. Cassiterite, tungsten, and tantalite are mined by at least 283 companies and artisanal miners.


Although Rwanda is a landlocked country, it has numerous lakes, some of which are seasonal lakes. The country is located in the Africa Great Lakes Region. Rwanda has some of the most beautiful lakes in Africa, which have continued to attract tourists from all over the world. Five volcanic lakes lie on the border of DRC and Congo. Lake Kivu, the western branch of the East African Rift Valley, is shared by the two countries, with 42% of the surface area being in Rwanda. The lake is the 18th deepest in the world and is approximately 89 kilometers long and 48 kilometers wide. The other major lake in Rwanda is Lake Muhazi; a lake in the Eastern and Northern Provinces of Rwanda. This lake is thin and shallow averaging 60 km in length and 5 km in width. The Twin Lakes of Burera and Ruhondo are located at the base of Mount Muhabura, near the border with Uganda. Other major lakes in Rwanda include Lake Ihema, Lake Rweru, Lake Mugesera, and Lake Cyohoha. There are also several smaller and shallow lakes, especially in the swampy region between Lake Rweru and Lake Mugasera.


Tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors in Rwanda and is the country’s leading foreign revenue earner. Tourism in the country is centered on Volcanoes National Park and the protected mountain gorillas. Rwanda is one of the only two countries in the world where mountain gorillas can be safely be visited, Uganda being the other one. The gorilla is listed as an endangered species by the IUCN with an estimated population of 1,004. Gorilla tracking is one of the most popular tourism activities in Rwanda's protected areas. Apart from the mountain gorillas, several other wild animals also inhabit Rwanda, including chimpanzees, zebras, golden monkeys, hippos, leopards, and over 600 species of birds.


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