Martin Munu Luther

Looking beyond the glamour: the cost of Rwanda’s strict COVID-19 response

This study is part of our research programme Equity in COVID-19 and looks into how the mitigation measures due to COVID-19 have affected the wellbeing of Rwanda’s poor and vulnerable.

Led by Martin Munu Luther.

Keep reading

About the research

Rwanda’s COVID-19 response, driven by President Kagame, has been considered as robust and rapid. It imposed a two months nationwide lockdown and its use of high-tech innovations such robots and drones has received much attention. However behind this glamour the impact of the strict containment approach has been devastating for the poor and has raised human rights concerns. Unemployment has increased by approximately 40% during lockdown and poverty is expected to increase as much as 27%. In response the government, in cooperation with development partners, has rolled out cash transfers, food distribution as well as business stimulus plans targeting the informal economy. We will look into how these mitigation measures have affected the wellbeing of Rwanda’s poor and vulnerable.

Planned activities

The research will adopt the following analytical framework:

We have translated our analytical framework into the following research phases:

  1. Socio-economic and political context analysis (focusing on the state of the economy, inequality and legitimacy of political institutions in Rwanda).
  2. Mapping of Covid-19 mitigation responses (by (national, regional, local) state and non-state actors) paying specifc attention to measures implemented in Kigali and those in the Western Province.
  3. Identifcation of specifc vulnerable groups for in-depth case-studies of social and spacial equity issues in times of COVID-19.
  4. Equity assessment (in formulation and implementation) of identifed policies/programmes: how have they affected the material, relational, subjective and collective wellbeing of the specifc groups selected in phase 3 (in the short and long term)?

The research involves the collection of data using the two methods highlighted below:

  • Key stakeholder interviews
  • Document analysis

Our objective is to analyze the impact of COVID-19 responses of state and non-state actors on the wellbeing of Rwanda’s poor and vulnerable. Wellbeing is multidimensional as well as relational, with individual wellbeing being interrelated with the wellbeing of the collective. Our sub-objective is therefore to shed light on the impact of COVID-19 responses on the following dimensions of wellbeing:

  • Material wellbeing operationalised as work and income as well as access to basic services (notably education, water and electricity).
  • Relational wellbeing operationalised as social relations and social capital.
  • Subjective wellbeing operationalised as the subjective evaluation of ones quality of life (prior and post COVID-19).
  • Collective wellbeing operationalised as political empowerment.
Country focus
  • Rwanda


Motorcyclists in Rwanda share how the COVID-19 pandemic affects them:

Old men and women in Rwanda share how the COVID-19 pandemic affects them:

Female merchants in Rwanda share how the COVID-19 pandemic affects them:


  • Motorcyclists
  • Old men and women
  • Female merchants