European Union Delegation to Singapore

Rwanda and the EU

12/05/2016 - 17:10
EU relations with Country

The European Union (EU) and Rwanda have a long standing partnership focusing on promoting global governance and cooperation in international institutions and on multilateral issues, promoting sustainable and inclusive development of Rwanda, as well as increasing trade and investment between the parties. Regular political and sector dialogues covering the whole breadth and depth of the relationship provide platforms for discussing respective policy priorities and reforms and underpin EU development assistance in support of these.

Political relations between the European Union and Rwanda have been developing steadily since the independence of Rwanda in 1962, establishment of the presence of the European Union in Rwanda in the mid-1980s and formalisation of the relations in 1991 with the signature of an "accord de siege" with the Rwandan Government.

The EU’s joint foreign and security policy, manifested in the EU's Global Strategy is designed preserve peace, strengthen international security, promote international cooperation as well as to develop and consolidate democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The strategy ensures the credibility, responsiveness and coherence of the Union, in particular, by joining up EU and Member States' external policies, in areas such as trade, development cooperation, humanitarian aid, or migration. 

The EU and Rwanda share interests and policy priorities in keeping peace and security in the region, in particular, the African Great Lakes region, but also more broadly on the continent, and jointly cooperate in a number of missions (e.g. Central Africa) and initiatives (Emergency Transfer mechanism for refugees evacuated from Libyan camps). Through political dialogue, the possibility of cooperation and coordination of approaches on multilateral matters, such as climate diplomacy, international migration or the international trading rules is pursued. 

Political relations between the EU and Rwanda are part of a broader EU – Africa partnership anchored in the Joint Africa-EU Strategy adopted by Heads of State and Government at the second EU-Africa Summit in 2007. During the 5th AU-EU Summit on 29-30 November 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, EU and African leaders adopted a Joint Declaration on 'Investing in Youth for Accelerated Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development' - external link. Following up on this, the former President of the EU Commission J.C. Juncker announced a new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs in his State of the Union Address on 12 September 2018, proposing to 

  • boost strategic investment and strengthening the role of the private sector to create jobs
  • invest in people by investing in education and skills
  • strengthen business environment and investment climate
  • tap the full potential of economic integration and trade.

While initially the focus has been primarily on development cooperation, the signature of the ACP - EU Partnership Cotonou Agreement in 2000, created space for broadening of bilateral relations also to political, economic and trade areas through the establishment of a platform for regular political dialogue as well as other types of formal and informal consultations.

The EU's main objectives in its partnership with Rwanda are:

  •  Supporting Rwanda's sustainable development further political and social democratisation;
  •  To advocate a pro-poor growth agenda and better economic governance and business climate;
  •  To encourage Rwanda's continued involvement in regional economic integration processes as well as political and security initiatives that contribute to the consolidation of peace and democracy in the region.

The EU development cooperation with Rwanda is based on the 2014 - 2020 National Indicative Programme for Rwanda, which outlines main priority areas for allocation of up 460 Million Euro under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) during the 7 year period. The three main areas identified jointly with the Government of Rwanda are:

  • Energy and infrastructure, where the focus of interventions is on power generation through renewable energy, access to electricity, energy efficiency and sustainable management of biomass.
  • Rural development and food security, where the focus of interventions is on the improvement of food and nutrition security and agricultural intensification.
  •  Governance, civil society and human rights, where the focus of interventions is on strengthening of public accountability and democratic governance, development of vibrant civil society and respect for human rights.

About 80% of EU development assistance under the 11th EDF is allocated through sector budget support programmes. The rest is allocated through calls for proposals and tenders. In parallel, Rwanda also benefits from support allocated through development programs of EU member states and has access to EU regional funds as well as thematic and global budget lines for support of research and innovation,  education, training, youth and sport, human rights, and others.

Economic and trade relations between the EU and Rwanda are substantial as the European Union is Rwanda's second largest trade partner (second for Rwandan imports and fourth for exports), accounting for about 12 per cent of its total trade. EU exports to Rwanda are mainly manufactured products such as machinery, transport equipment and chemicals. EU imports from Rwanda are dominated by primary products, especially agricultural goods and vegetable and mineral products. The EU is also Rwanda's biggest foreign investor. EU private capital stock represents around 17% of the total foreign capital stock in Rwanda.

The EU and the EAC have finalized negotiations for a conclusion of the EU – EAC comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which Rwanda and Kenya signed on 1 September 2016, with other EAC members yet to follow. The agreement covers trade in goods and development cooperation. It also contains an extensive chapter on fisheries – aiming mainly to reinforce cooperation on the sustainable use of resources - and foresees further negotiations on services and trade-related rules in future.

The Export Helpdesk provides all information to existing or potential exporters from Rwanda and the East African Community (EAC) for access to the EU single market.

The EU Delegation to Rwanda is in the process of launching a programme targeting private sector development, with a focus on youth employment and expansion of the private sector. The programme will focus on (1) improving market-oriented skills for the tourism and hospitality sector and (2) increasing equal access to employment opportunities through innovation/incubation hubs in 4 secondary cities using ICT as an enabler. We believe the programme will make a meaningful contribution to the Government's objective to create 214,000 new jobs per year up to 2024, whilst also being a first effort by the EU in terms of supporting private sector development as a crucial driver of economic development in Rwanda.

The EU Delegation aims to support tourism and investment promotion in Rwanda through a dedicated project on business intelligence, tourism statistics, investment promotion and financing of feasibility studies to leverage EU investment and prepare for the implementation of the EU External Investment Plan.

In order to achieve greater results in terms of poverty reduction and development, the Government of Rwanda aims to place more emphasis on accountability towards the citizens and that citizen participation in decision-making processes. The 11th EDF Accountable Democratic Governance Programme (ADGP) is contributing to address these gaps by supporting:

 a. The Parliament so that parliamentarians can carry out their oversight, legislation and representation functions more effectively. 

 b. The Office of the Ombudsman in relation to investigation and prosecution of corruption and to make the right to information a reality for all Rwandans. 

 c.  The Ministry of Justice with the aim to improve access to justice, focusing on the decentralized justice actors, including the Abunzi committees (mediation committees dealing mainly with land disputes), and legal education. 

 d.  The National Authorizing Office (NAO) with the aim to contribute to efficient and effective programming and implementation of EU funded projects and programmes through a greater integration of the NAO functions into the national system.

 The EU Delegation also supports economic governance through different projects in coordination with other Member States. These projects aim specifically:

  • To reinforce the capacity of the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) to produce reliable policy-oriented statistics;
  • To reinforce public finance management through specific support to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (Minecofin), the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) and the Office of the Auditor General.

The EU promotes peace, stability and regional integration in Rwanda and its neighbouring countries. In this regard several projects are financed to contribute to better management of shared water resources in Lake Kivu and the Rusizi river and also to increase trade between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo at Rusizi II/Bukavu.

The EU has been a long supporter of Rwanda in the area of rural development, agriculture, social protection, environment and natural resources. In June 2016 EU and Rwanda have signed a new financing agreement for allocation of €200 million as EU budget support to the transformation of the Rwandan agriculture. The funding supports government programmes to improve nutrition among rural communities, expand the number of food-secure households, make farmers more efficient in cropping patterns and land use, and extend the irrigation network to cover more households. It also helps to spread agro-forestry in hilly and terraced areas, target job opportunities among export-oriented agricultural producers and processors, and provide suitable loans to farmers.

This budget support is accompanied by complementary measures and programmes funded under regional and international envelopes. In particular 4 mains work streams have been developed.

  • Strategic support to the Ministry of agriculture and its agencies with: i) the mobilization of a €5 million Technical Assistance to support planning and the management of effective agriculture services; ii) the support with FAO on the design of the fourth Strategic Plan Agriculture Transformation (PSTA 4); iii) the co-funding with World Bank of the design, testing, implementation and dissemination of rigorous agricultural impact evaluation; iv) the support to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda on the development of upgraded Seasonal Agriculture Surveys.
  • Agroforestry, evergreen agriculture and agro-ecology with: i) a Technical Assistance to the Ministry of Environment to support the planning and budgeting of agroforestry activities; ii) projects with IUCN, ICRAF, World Vision and CCOAIB on the development of agroforestry, evergreen agriculture and agroecology techniques with the communities and the integration agroforestry programs into district development plans.
  • Good governance in agriculture through enhanced civil society and farmers’ organizations engagement with the financing of 4 projects with Action Aid, Trocaire, Imbaraga and International Alert.
  • Development of an intensive and high value addition agriculture with: i) the support with FAO to the development of value chain platforms and agriculture innovation (CDAIS); ii) the construction of a new laboratory for export crops and a related technical assistance; iii) the support to horticulture and coffee value chains through grants to Tearfund, ICU and Oxfam.

Nutrition, food security and gender are cross-cutting in all our activities. It is complemented by a technical assistance to support the Rwandan Government's efforts to improve the nutrition of mothers and children through innovative and cost-effective behaviour change approaches towards improved nutrition outcomes.

EU funding is linked to the EU – Rwanda policy dialogue on agriculture, whereby EU co-chairs Agriculture Sector Working Group (ASWG) and Sector Wide Approach Group (SWAP) and participates in cross-sector Food and Nutrition Technical Working Group, and in the Sector Working Group on Environment.


The EU is one of the main development partners of Rwanda in the area of energy. In 2016, as part as the 11th EDF, the EU and Rwanda have signed a 200 Million Euro cooperation programme to support the implementation of the Rwanda’s National Energy Policy and Energy Sector Strategic Plan (link is external). The objectives are to increase generation capacity (in particular through renewable energy), access to electricity and energy efficiency and to achieve sustainable management of biomass. The EU support includes 156 Million Euro for budget support and €21 million for capacity development, technical assistance and studies, as well as €23 million allocated to the "Reduction of Losses on the Kigali Electricity Grid" project.

Previous support includes EU financing through the EU - Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund (link is external) towards the development of regional hydropower projects Ruzizi I, II and III (Rwanda-DRC-Burundi) and Rusumo (Rwanda-Burundi-Tanzania). The EU has also used the ACP-EU Energy Facility to introduce electricity in 300 Rwandan schools, build 2 MW hydropower plant and currently support the “Rent-to-own solar home systems” initiative which aims to deliver 49,000 solar home systems and 1,000 Solar systems for schools through a partnership between EDCL and Mobisol.

Rwanda has been selected as one of the beneficiary countries of the Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) fund equivalent to EUR 5 million. This initiative aims to foster dialogue and cooperation on climate change between the European Union (EU) and developing countries most vulnerable to climate change. In particular, these funds will support the implementation of the Biomass Energy Strategy in reducing the climate impact of cooking in Rwanda through improved cooking systems. EUR 4 million has also been allocated to Rwanda under the DeSIRA (Development -Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture) initiative, supported by the European Union (EU) with some EU member states and other partners such as the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation. The support aims to implement research on forest productivity and cooking habits and methods with a view to narrowing the gap between sustainable national biomass supply and demand.

Rwanda also benefits from financing under the global Sustainable Energy for All (link is external) initiative (SE4All), to which the EU contributes through its Technical Assistance Facility. Other EU funded opportunities for Rwanda in the area of energy include the Africa Investment Facility which provides grants to mobilize loan investments and Electrify (link is external), which offers reimbursable grants for quasi-equity instruments, subordinated debt, working capital facilities, development finance and guarantees, and other type of investment facilities.

European Union supports Rwanda’s objectives of an increased and improved mobility of people and goods, more affordable transport for a better access to essential services, good quality infrastructure and improved safety for goods and passengers. As part of this effort, the EU has financed upgrade and rehabilitation of 700 km of rural feeder roads between 2013 and 2016 with a contribution of €40 million. The EU also supported the rehabilitation of the Kigali-Gatuna road (€34.7 million), which forms a part of the Northern Corridor linking Rwanda with Uganda and Kenya, and co-finances rehabilitation of the 208 km Kagitumba-Kayonza–Rusumo road with a 20 Million Euro contribution from the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund (link is external) via the African Development Bank. The EU financial support is coupled with EU – Rwanda policy dialogue on transport.

Infrastructure is also a major focus in a regional programme 45 Million Euro regional programme implemented by the Communauté Economique des Pays des Grands Lacs (CEPGL) (link is external) in which main activities include construction of the provisional access road to Ruzizi III site as well as construction and supervision of cross-border and urban roads in Gisenyi-Goma, Cyangugu-Bukavu and Bujumbura-Uvira.

Civil society and respect for human rights are integral part of EU – Rwanda relations in all areas of cooperation.  The EU therefore offers its financial support to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations to ensure their meaningful participation in development, implementation and monitoring of national policies. In parallel, the EU's support of civil society organizations through grants allocated under the 'European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (link is external)' and other thematic programs helps to contribute to awareness raising and promotion of human rights issues in the society in line with the 2012 European Commission Communication 'The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe's engagement with civil society in external relations'. This policy proposes an enhanced and more strategic engagement with civil society in partner countries, with a particular focus on local CSOs. It also calls for a more strategic approach at country level for the EU and its countries through the development of EU Roadmaps for engagement with civil society in each specific country.

The EU Roadmap for Rwanda has been compiled through an extensive consultation process led by the EU Delegation, in collaboration with the EU countries and CSOs. The purpose of the Roadmap is to establish a common strategic framework for the EU Delegation and the EU countries with a view to improving the impact, predictability and visibility of EU action.

The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) offers needs based humanitarian assistance to Rwanda in line with the implementation of EU's Humanitarian Implementation Plan for the Great Lakes Region. In this context, the EU is together with EU Member States one of the main financial and technical supporters of UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) (link is external) globally and together with the UNHCR and the Government of Rwanda helps to provide assistance to the refugees from the Great Lakes region residing in the country. In addition, the EU provides a €10.3 million support package to the UNHCR's Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in Rwanda, offering a life-saving avenue out of Libya for people in need of international protection, with a view to their further resettlement.

Furthermore, the EU is also contributing to international response and preparedness activities on the outbreak of Ebola in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Delegation of the EU to Rwanda, in close cooperation with the missions of EU countries, undertakes regular public diplomacy activities to reach out to Rwandans in urban and rural areas in an effort to increase the knowledge and understanding of the EU, create links between European and Rwandans – e.g. through cultural activities and increase the visibility of EU relations with Rwanda.

The EU also engages in economic diplomacy activities to support EU traders and investors in Rwanda with a view to increase economic exchanges between the partners. In the context of EU climate diplomacy, the Delegation of the EU to Rwanda organises or participates in events to spread awareness about the importance of climate change mitigation and adaptation and promoting the role of youth in climate actions.

Some examples of our regular activities are:

Europe Day

Each 9 May Europe Day celebrates peace and unity in Europe as it marks the anniversary of the historic 1950 Schuman Declaration, which set out a vision for a new form of European political cooperation which sought to make war between European nations unthinkable. Europe Day is celebrated in Kigali.

"European Autumn of Culture" including the EU Film Festival

Every year, the European Union Film Festival gives Rwandans a chance to experience Europe's diverse and rich film heritage. Whether highlighting historic events, political subjects or personal dilemmas, European films are intellectually stimulating and culturally engaging. The festival runs for one week and is organised by the Delegation in cooperation with the Diplomatic Missions and cultural institutes of EU countries. Around this, the EU Delegation and MS organise other events and cultural manifestations, bringing together EU and Rwandan artists seeking to attract Rwandan audiences from all ages and spheres of society.

Public Discussion Series

The public discussion series are organised roughly every quarter by the Delegation. The discussions feature different panellists from government, civil society, private sector, EU Delegation and EU member states depending on the theme of the debate. In the past, the discussions stimulated debates around topics such as media, regional integration, or education.

Editorial Sections: