IMF lends Rwanda R2bn to tackle coronavirus

There are fewer customers at the Kaveza modern market as only essential shops are open during the lockdown in Kigali, Rwanda.
There are fewer customers at the Kaveza modern market as only essential shops are open during the lockdown in Kigali, Rwanda.
Image: AFP/ SIMON WOHLFAHRT

Rwanda has secured $109.4m (R2.05bn) in emergency coronavirus funding from the International Monetary Fund, the first African country to do so, the fund said late on Thursday.

The East African country has registered 84 coronavirus cases, data from the World Health Organisation shows, and Rwandans are grappling with high food prices as the government on Thursday extended a national lockdown by 15 days.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has ground Rwanda’s economy to a halt, creating an urgent balance of payments need,” IMF deputy MD Tao Zhang said.

The loan, which comes under the Rapid Credit Facility, will help alleviate pressure on trade, tourism and foreign exchange reserves, while enabling greater health spending, the funding announcement said.

While Rwanda was the first African country to secure this kind of coronavirus funding, the global lender said on Twitter it was “working hard on other requests”.

Rwanda, which is heavily reliant on tourism to boost its foreign exchange reserves, last month closed its borders to travellers as a part of a broader lockdown designed to curb the spread of the disease.

“This pandemic has already started showing effects on tourism, air transportation, conferences that have been stopped affecting hotels, restaurants and other services,” Rwanda's finance minister Uzziel Ndagijimana told Rwanda’s state radio on Thursday. Both import and export markets had also been affected, he said.

The IMF is projecting Rwandan GDP growth this year to tumble to 5.1%. Last year, growth hit 9.4% according to government data.

Separately, the World Bank approved $1.9bn (R2.05-trillion) in global coronavirus funding on Thursday, including $82.6m (R1.55bn) to Ethiopia, $50m (R935m) to Kenya, and $47m (R879m) to the Democratic Republic of Congo. —  Reuters

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.