Rwandan Demographics

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Recently World on Safari worked on:

A comprehensive report on the Republic of Rwanda’s social, political, and demographic trends in the past quarter century; including entries on the country profile, demographics, population pyramids, diseases, urbanization, economy, debt and development, millennium development goals, geopolitics, and human rights and conflict.

Here’s one of the first entries on demographics:

Entry 2, Demographic Overview

As shown in Figure 2.1, the total fertility rate in Rwanda is on a steady decline. The graph below shows that the fertility rate has been slowly decreasing for the past 25 years, the primary reason being that Rwanda has had all of the proper ingredients for a demographic transition, including a lower death rate and rising GDP.[1] Every country in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the exclusion of South Africa, has a higher fertility rate than 4.0 children born per woman.[2] Rwanda is thus just above the cusp at a rate of 4.6 children born per woman, which is high for the worldwide average of 2.4, but low for the Sub-Saharan Africa regional average of 5.6.[3],[4]

Figure 2.1, Rwanda’s Total Fertility Rates, 1987-2010

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Source: Data from World Bank World Development Indicators, Chart by Author

K. Bruce Newbold states in his book Six Billion Plus that, “where death rates are high, high fertility ensures the survival of children to an economically active age, and there is no incentive to control fertility.”[5] There is thus a strong correlation between a country’s mortality rate and fertility rate. Rwanda’s crude death rate was at 12 per 1,000 people in 2010, brought down from a high point of 38 in 1993 due to the massive genocide that took place in Rwanda.[6] While mortality rates continue to decline, parents will stop feeling the pressure to have many children and ensure some reach adulthood.

Infant mortality rates, which also impact fertility rates, are on the decline as well as depicted in Figure 2.2. This suggests that hospital technology and healthcare are improving in the nation, resulting in more children surviving through infancy and marking a positive trend for Rwanda.[7]

Figure 2.2, Rwanda’s Infant Mortality Rates, 1987- 2010

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Source:  World Bank World Development Indicators, Chart by Author

From the most recent estimates in 2012, Rwanda’s birth rate of 36.14 per 1,000 people and death rate of 9.64 per 1,000 combine with the estimated net migration numbers of 1 per 1,000 to give Rwanda a population growth rate of 2.751 percent, the 18th highest in the world.[8]

Overall, the trends for Rwanda’s high population growth rate, fertility rate, and infant mortality rate are constant with most Sub-Saharan African LDCs. Because of a relatively high death rate and infant mortality rate, many Rwandans have felt the need to have many children for security purposes, and have thus raised the fertility rate. These rates are therefore all significantly higher than the average MDC rates. On the positive side, however, Rwanda relative to most LCDs is showing remarkably positive trends, and the long-term future looks bright in terms of stabilizing the population of Rwanda.


[1] John C. Caldwell and Pat Caldwell, “Regional Paths to Fertility Transition,” Journal of Population Research 18.2 (2001): 99.

[2] K. Bruce Newbold, Six Billion Plus: World Population in The Twenty-First Century (Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007), 18.

[3] “Population Reference Bureau: Rwanda.”

[4] Newbold, Six Billion Plus, 42.

[5] Newbold, Six Billion Plus, 22.

[6] “World Bank World Development Indicators,” The World Bank Group, http://data.worldbank.org/data-catalog/world-development-indicators.

[7] John C. Caldwell and Pat Caldwell, “Regional Paths to Fertility Transition,” Journal of Population Research 18.2 (2001): 105.

[8] “CIA- The World Factbook, Rwanda.”

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