In a recent dialogue with IMF Country Focus, Richard Tusabe, Rwanda’s Minister of State in Charge of National Treasury discusses how COVID-19 technologies in Rwanda such as grass-roots networks are being used to fight the spread of the pandemic and ensure financial support and stability for households and businesses. The following questions were proposed.
How did COVID-19 impact Rwanda, and what sectors have suffered the most?
Most of the impact has been on Rwanda’s services sector, which has been adversely affected by limitations on international travel and social distancing measures. The services sector is projected to grow by only 1 percent in 2020 due to lower trade (imports are expected to fall by 7 percent) and travel. Travel to Rwanda has fallen by 70 percent, which has caused a major impact on the tourism industry.
The agricultural sector has also been impacted further by the already expected decline due to the adverse weather. A reduction in demand spiked by COVID-19 and a drop in international prices of export crops has only worsened the situation. The industrial sector is also expected to slow down due to a drop in demand and delays in foreign direct investment.
COVID-19 technologies in Rwanda such as grassroots networks have been recognised as an innovative way to assist households. How do they work?
In 2000, Rwanda applied the National Decentralization Policy – a people-oriented policy that utilizes grassroots networks and local governments to lessen the shocks on households and alleviate poverty. The household assistance is based on the concept of Ubudehe categorization, an esteemed cultural value of mutual assistance that was also adopted by the government as a poverty reduction tactic. Ubudehe is a socio-economic stratification mechanism that provides support for citizens in lower categories with social protection schemes such as public work, cash transfers, shelter, education, health, and agricultural inputs.
Can you highlight how some of the COVID-19 technologies in Rwanda are aiding in digitization of healthcare institutions and tackling the public health crisis directly?
- Contact Tracing: Infections are traced through a paperless Open Data Kit application that can be downloaded on mobile devices.
- COVID-19 Surveillance: A health facility digital reporting surveillance system is being implemented to monitor influenza-like illnesses and serious respiratory infections in real time to provide an early warning
- Data Visualization: A Geographic Information System (GIS) is being utilized to monitor pandemic cases at the household level and assess the need for implementing lockdown measures, and monitors at-risk populations