Local governance in Rwanda

Murengerantwari Syldio with his cattle, which were provided in-part by UNDP. Photo: Shravan Vidyarthi/UNDP

Urengerantwari Syldio is a farmer in Rwanda’s Rulindo district. Until recently, had no way of selling his crops because poor roads restricted his access to neighbouring districts. 

Fortunately, however, a United Nations (UN) initiative, supported in part by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UNDP-affiliated United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), is strengthening local government institutions in Rulindo in an effort to improve community infrastructure. Thanks to this government decentralization programme, local leaders are now working together to bring about sustainable, community-led development and improve the lives of their citizens.


  • A government decentralization programme in Rwanda is strengthening the capacity of local governments to service individual communities.
  • Rwanda's economy is largely agricultural (40 percent of GDP in 2006), relying on coffee, tea, tin cassiterite, wolframite and pyrethum exports.
  • UNDP's Human Development Report of 2009 classified Rwanda as one of the 24 least developed countries.

As a result of these efforts, a bridge now connects Syldio's village to nearby communities. The bridge has improved the quality of life for Syldio and his fellow village farmers, ensuring easy access to the neighbouring districts where they sell their crops.

Between 1994 and 2001, the bulk of UNDP’s work in Rwanda supported the Government’s Emergency Reintegration and Reconstruction Programme, which primarily focused on long-term crisis recovery. Over the last decade, however, Rwanda's political and domestic situation has improved and UNDP has shifted its focus in the country accordingly.

UNDP now supports the Rwandan Government’s Vision 2020, a national strategy designed to transform Rwanda from one of the world's least developed countries to a middle-income country by 2020. As a means of attaining this goal, the strategy calls for the reduction of poverty and the promotion of political, social and economic progress in Rwanda. 

UNDP has provided guidance and financial support for development programmes in Rwanda, such as the aforementioned decentralization programme in Rulindo. UNCDF has also supported local development efforts, providing capital investment and governance training for local leaders.

UNDP has also collaborated with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to support the National Institute of Statistics in collecting and analyzing data that local government officials can use for evidence-based planning.

Each of these important efforts helps the Rwandan population to address its most pressing needs. For example, it was evidence-based planning that helped local leaders in Rulindo to identify the need for a bridge, which not only gives Syldio and other farmers access to larger markets for their crops, but also connects children to schools and enables the police force to better access the community.

So far, more than 700,000 people in the rural districts of Gicumbi and Rulindo have benefited from this programme of institutional reform, which has promoted government decentralization and local development through supporting participative, transparent and equitable local administration.

According to an independent, UNDP-commissioned evaluation, family incomes have increased, district tax income has risen and local administrative systems are stronger.

Related Publication
Recent and Current Interventions in Public Administration and Local Governance in Africa

This is one of five regional stock-taking papers capturing the volume and nature of UNDP’s recent and current work in public administration, civil service reform, decentralization and local government.

View more publications