This report is one of three related K4D helpdesk reports on inequality in Rwanda. The other two examine links between poverty, inequality and exclusion (Carter 2018) and provide data on
inequalities (Orrnert 2018). This review summarises key national policies and legislation related to inequality and redistribution in Rwanda. Where available, this review provides insights into
how these policies perpetuate inequality or work to address it, as well as how effective they are. Undertaken in six days, this review draws largely on policy documents from the Government of
Rwanda, and academic studies, as well as some reports by international donors. A comprehensive review of all the relevant policies and legislation is beyond the scope of this study. Thus, the review focuses on key policies and legislation in specific sectors (economic empowerment and agriculture; health; education; housing and infrastructure) as well as policies and legislation targeted at particular groups (the poorest, women and girls, youth and other marginalised groups).
- There is a lack of systematic evaluation of many Rwandan government policies, including those aimed at tackling extreme poverty and inequality. Existing assessments tend to be based either on aggregate quantitative data or small-scale (often qualitative) case studies. The two often draw different conclusions about the effectiveness of policies, legislation and relevant interventions. For example, studies including Van Gevelt et al (2016), Dawson (2018) and Ansoms et al (2016, 2018) indicate that some Rwandan development policies, which have been deemed successful through limited impact evaluations, are revealed by locally grounded, socially-disaggregated research to have exacerbated inequality.
- Evidence suggests that there exists a tension between the government’s competing policy goals of achieving economic growth and decreasing inequality. In some cases (notably agricultural policies), the government prioritises its economic growth objectives, which can have a negative impact on vulnerable segments of the population. For example, agricultural modernisation policies tend to favour large-scale investors, at the detriment of smaller subsistence farmers. There is evidence that policies in certain areas – notably health and education as well as
policies that tackle gender inequalities – have had positive outcomes. For example, policies to increase access to healthcare have been linked to increased life expectancy and significant declines in child and maternal mortality. The implementation of free primary school has successfully widened access to education, notably amongst girls. Rwanda is also often hailed for having more female parliamentarians than any other country in the world. Nevertheless, challenges remain – for example, a rural-urban divide and regional differences have been noted in access to education; girls’ attendance and attainment also decline during the progression to secondary and tertiary education, whilst women are less likely to participate in politics at the local level.
- In some cases, broader policies or legal frameworks have been met with approval but faced challenges in implementation. For example, the various legal frameworks related to gender quality have been praised but there have been difficulties implementing them, particularly with regards to inheritance and land rights.
- In others, the policies have been found to be ill-matched to realities in local communities and even exacerbated inequalities. For example, agricultural modernisation policies (a sector seen as key to alleviating poverty and inequality) were found to significantly increase food insecurity and threaten livelihoods (Ansoms and Rostagno 2012).
- In other cases, implemented policies may have been successful, but had unintended consequences that undermine their effectiveness in reducing inequality. For example, while the Bye Bye Nyakatsi policy improved housing quality, many new houses were found to be lacking in adequate sanitation facilities.
- Despite efforts to combat inequality on the policy-level, several groups remain significantly disadvantaged, including the poorest, women, persons with disabilities and historically marginalised people (HMP). Their experiences can be obscured in policy evaluations that depend on aggregate-level data.
- Finally, it has been suggested that many standard measures used to assess impact of policies on reducing poverty and inequality in Rwanda – such as income, consumption or even broader measures such as the Multidimensional Poverty Index – may not correspond well with perceptions of wellbeing in local communities (Dawson 2018). For example, access to education and educational participation and attainment levels are used to measure inequality in Rwanda; yet, education can be of limited value to households in rural communities where access to non-farm work remains scarce. Dawson suggests that indicators related to food insecurity and land tenure are more useful but notes that there exists a lack of data on these.
- There is a need for a greater number of systematic reviews and evaluations of existing government policies related to inequalities and redistribution in Rwanda.
- There is a lack of policy assessments based on non-standard measures (such as food insecurity and land tenure) that may illuminate relevant insights about experienced inequalities in rural and agricultural communities and the impact of policies on these.
- Evidence of policy impacts on vulnerable communities, including youth, persons with disabilities and HMP remains extremely limited.
- Further research is also needed to understand the implications of the current Mutual Health Insurance benefits package.
- There is a need for data that provides insights into the challenges that interlocking inequalities present to policy-makers working to dismantle inequality.