The New Times (Kigali)

30 November 2012

Rwanda: Census Results Critical to Modern Rwanda

Preliminary results of the fourth Population and Housing Census, which was conducted in August this year, provide a reliable platform for our policymakers to ring the essential legislative, structural and institutional changes to ensure the viability and competitiveness of the nation.

This is particularly so in light of the confirmation of recent trends especially the annual population growth rate stood at 2.6 per cent, down from 2.9 per cent ten years ago, which has significant implications for the country's economic and social fabric.

Furthermore, the census findings put the average household size at 4.37, reflecting a drop in the fertility rate, from 5.5 to 4.6 children per woman by 2010. As the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning John Rwangombwa clearly put it during the release of the results, this implies that the population control mechanisms are paying off, which bodes well for the future.

That brings us to the less encouraging facet of the results, which in any case was not unforeseen; population density. This grew from 321 people per square kilometre in 2002 to 416 in 2012, the highest in Africa and the second highest globally. All the same, this is a challenge we shall have to live with, though we have to ensure that the bubble does not burst.

Another evident trend is increased migration of people to the Eastern Province from other provinces due to its impressive economic progress over the past few years. While the Finance and Economic Planning argued that this augurs well with the country's poverty alleviation and economic development strategies, migration to selected areas on the basis of economic endowment may add pressure to government's interventions in the other provinces that may be less-endowed.

This could also have implications especially for rural and underdeveloped areas which face depopulation; hence the need for government to ensure balanced development in all provinces in the medium and long term.

Generally though, the upshot is that the statistics are critical for our policymakers to lay the foundation for a modern Rwanda.

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