Some numbers

07-11-2010

Some of you may have noticed an item in the 'What's happening in Rwanda' section of our site. The Rwanda News Agency was reporting some figures from the latest UN Human Development Index. According to the UN, some 77% of Rwandans spend less than $1.25 or RWF730 per day. In our money - £0.78.

To put this into context, we have learnt that a day's labouring on a building site will earn RWF1,500 to RWF2,000. Work is not guaranteed, and when the building is finished, so is the job. Skilled labourers might earn RWF3,000 to RWF3,500. At the bottom end of the earnings ladder, a cook or a guard might earn RWF30,000 per month or RWF1,000 per day for a permanent job. So for three quarters of the populaion to be spending less than RWF730 says a lot about the number of people with little or no regular income.

To give a better idea of life at this level it is useful to look at what RWF730 will buy:

A return bus trip into town - RWF300, unless you want to go to Kacyiru, in which case it is RWF360 return. Kacyiru is one of those places like Balingry. It is on the side of the buses but you have never actually been there and are not quite sure where it is anyway.

A fist-full of bananas - RWF400. These are tasty bananas; the small and sweet ones; perhaps a dozen still attached as a bunch.

An amandazi - RWF100. These are doughnut-sized cakes and made using a similar technique. Slightly greasy but very good with morning coffee.

A bottle of water - RWF200. Simple as it comes, not quite in the same league as Highland Spring, but close.

Toilet rolls at RWF300 each are definitely affordable.

1Kg rice - RWF500. This is among the cheapest variety. There are several grades of rice in the markets, most of which cost more than this.

What RWF730 won't buy is a litre of fuel (RWF940), a tin of marmalade (RWF1,500) or a kilo of mince (RWF2,300). There is plenty else besides.

Put simply, someone on RWF730 per day has barely enough to buy the ingredients for a meal, never mind pay for the charcoal to cook it or pay rent on top. The saddest thing is that we don't have to drive far of the road in Kigali to find plenty of people living like this. The UN report is very believable.