Kagame and what remains of his Rwandan Patriotic Front should read the latest labour survey before celebrating their 30-year rule.

By David Himbara

No less than 91.3% of the working-age population still earn a living in the informal labour rife with poverty, unemployment, underemployment, gender inequality and wretchedness.

Letter from Rwanda

Murunganwa aka Himbara, we read your satirical article about the 30-year mark of the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s government led by His Excellency President Paul Kagame. The piece was entertaining but we need a statistical analysis you are known for. Looking forward to your analysis of Rwanda’s journey from 1994 to 2024.

Response to the letter from Rwanda:

Only 8.7 % of the working age population in Rwanda work in the formal economy

The Rwandan government’s own Labour Force Survey published in March 2023 describes how the people of Rwanda make a living as follows:

“There were in total 3,2393,56 persons with informal employment at main job constituting almost 91.3 percent of total employment. The results also show that there was 158,772 persons with informal jobs in formal sector.”

So, only 8.7% of working-age Rwandans have formal employment. Let us be clear about what informal and formal employment means. Petero Gatanazi works at MTN Rwanda. His contract explains his job responsibilities. He gets a fixed salary as well as incentives based on his qualifications and experience. He is entitled to sick leave as well as holiday allowance from MTN Rwanda. Gatanazi is also entitled to retirement benefits which he contributes every month.

Johnson Kayitare works as a porter at the Nyabugogo informal market. He is often hired to carry heavy sacks of vegetables from the market to the other parts of Kigali. Kayitare gets verbal assurance from the market sellers that he would be paid. But this may or may not happens. His payment gets delayed by days and weeks and when he is paid. The time he spends on work is never regular. It could be 5 hours a day, 12 hours a day or no work at all. When Kayitare falls sick, he is on his own with has no money to afford treatment. He also loses the wage of that day. And he has no retirement benefits.

In the 30 years since Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front captured power, the formal economy they built in which Petero Gatanazi and fellow formal workers earn a decent living can only absorb 8.7% of the Rwandan workforce. Meanwhile, Johnson Kayitare and his fellow workers in the informal sector constitute 91.3% of the Rwandan working population. The Rwandan informal economy absorbs workers who would otherwise be without work or income.

The Kayitares who constitute 91.3% of the Rwandan working population enter the informal economy not by choice but out of a desperate need to survive and to feed their families. They are the wretched of earth living in conditions of labour rife with poverty, unemployment, underemployment, and gender inequality – the majority being women.

General Kagame is set to begin his fourth term. The 2015 Rwandan constitution allows him to hold power until 2034. And then? What will he do for the Kayitares that he hasn’t done in the past 30 years? Kagame could at least do one thing – contain his delusional grandeur that he has transformed Rwanda into the Singapore of Africa. Stay tuned.