Rwanda Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022


  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public holidays


In business dealings in Rwanda, it is possible to meet representatives of communities that have specific characteristics during business negotiations. These result from the different cultural traditions and mentality of the partners. However, most trading partners often adapt their actions and behavior to the behavior of the former colonial country.


How to reach business partners?

An informal approach is preferred during business negotiations. The exception is state institutions, where it is necessary to make it sufficiently clear with whom and at what level it is being negotiated. Rarely, it may happen that people who expect titling are dealt with. These are graduates of European as well as American technical universities who, contrary to English customs, state the title “Eng.” on their business cards. In these cases, it is recommended to use this title when addressing. If the partner is, for example, a Member of Parliament, the name is preceded by the title “Honorable”. It is also necessary to realize whether your product or service is applicable in the Rwandan market. The market here is 90% purely pro-import and most things are imported from abroad. It is important to remember that the market is very price sensitive. Many goods are imported from China. It is naturally not possible to compete with these manufacturers on price. Unfortunately, even the richer middle class does not prioritize quality over price. The situation is further complicated by foreign development cooperation, in which goods are supplied in the form of donations. Before approaching partners, it is therefore advisable to contact the ZÚ and verify the perspective of the goods on the market. It is possible that you will start business negotiations, the aim of which on the part of the Rwandan partner will only be to take a trip to Europe.

  • Programingplease: Yearbook 2010 of nation Rwanda, including population, politics, and abbreviations.

Business meeting

How to arrange a business meeting and how it takes place (location and time of the meeting /office, restaurant; lunch, dinner/, business cards, gifts, etc.)?

Negotiations with Rwandan partners must be prepared with the same conscientiousness and approached in the same way as negotiations with partners in Western Europe. Therefore, the presentation must be clear, understandable and convincing. Rwandans don’t like to read between the lines, so you need to be specific and to the point. It is also necessary to be aware that the “agreed” provision is perceived by the Rwandan partners as a “preliminary agreement”. On the other hand, European partners are expected to fulfill the agreements precisely. This “asymmetry” makes it very difficult to implement contracts in Rwanda. Likewise, the perception of time in Rwanda is quite original. In particular, meetings at offices and ministries take place in a chaotic manner, making it impossible to plan a timetable.

In the case of a business trip, it is necessary to allow sufficient time reserve, arm yourself with patience and be flexible. The use of business cards is common, Rwandans like to use high-quality paper and very colorful printing. A European must not be surprised by the fact that the e-mail address of even a deputy minister is on a Yahoo or Google server. This is due to the unreliability of the IT network of the state administration, but also of private companies. Rwandans are very fond of ceremonies and ceremonies, at official meetings the Rwandan side is represented by a large congregation. The gift is very appropriate and can help improve communication. Negotiations (at least the initial ones) are conducted in office premises.

What surprises a Czech businessman the most during negotiations?

Don’t succumb to first impressions, especially not those based on time-honored clichés and media images of “poor Africa”. One of the characteristic features of the sub-Saharan region is the considerable gap between social classes. A number of Rwandans who hold higher positions in the state administration or in the management of private entities come from socially successfully established, often influential and financially well-off families. That is why they tend to be graduates or have academic degrees from one or more prestigious world universities. Africans generally value the achievement of high social status, which the successful often demonstrate with a conspicuous emphasis on ostentatiousness and material self-presentation. It is good to address the partner by title, e.g. Mr. Doctor, Mr. Director. What are Rwandan traders like? Rwandan partners are usually prepared for negotiations,

However, they do not have a very clear idea of ​​Czech products. Therefore, it is desirable to highlight the quality of one’s own goods and from the very beginning to eliminate any comparison with the Chinese equivalent by pointing out the fact that Chinese goods cannot be compared with European goods in any parameters. Rwandans know well that China exports goods of inferior quality to Africa and therefore it is not out of place to point out this fact.

During mutual conversations, you need to be receptive, open, be ready for unusual solutions, neither promote nor humiliate yourself, flexibly keep your standard.

Is negotiating with local traders different, made difficult by cultural/religious/ethnic differences?

When dealing with Rwandans, there are no fundamental cultural differences from European customs. Women are respected as business partners, there are a number of female ministers and businesswomen. On the other hand, he is very careful about ceremonies. Respect for old age and a sense of hierarchy are deeply rooted in African partners. Therefore, it can be good for a senior colleague to be part of the business delegation. How do Rwandan businessmen manage time in a business meeting? It is necessary to arrive at the meeting on time, but do not automatically expect the same from the African side. It is necessary to be flexible, to allow for possible downtime and delays in planning. In the event of the other party’s delay, it is best to pass the matter on and concentrate on the content of the meeting. There is a consensual way of negotiating in Africa. This means that the opposing parties talk and talk until they reach an agreement. That is why it is necessary to have time in reserve for several meetings. The Rwandan partner generally has enough time for everything, but the European partners are required to respond immediately to all requests. A special “asymmetry” of relations applies here as well.

Are there any territorial differences in business dealings within a country?

From a territorial point of view, there are no local specifics towards negotiations with European partners. It is suitable or customary to offer alcohol during business meetings? Alcohol is not served during the initial stages of the meeting. Alcohol consumption is only suitable at work dinner or work lunch.

How to dress for a work meeting?

The first impression and external appearance are important. Affluent Rwandans are very well-groomed, for them the outward appearance is a calling card and they will judge you accordingly. Clothes make the man here. Dress formally for a business meeting, preferably a suit (doesn’t necessarily need to be dark due to the climate), a tie is only necessary for high-level government meetings. It would be a shame to leave a bad impression despite an excellent business offer. Don’t underestimate clothes and appearance. What should an ideal negotiation team look like (number of members, age and gender composition of the team, team leader)? Emphasis is placed here on the position of a


Is it important to bring an interpreter with you? The ability to communicate in English is excellent (English is one of the official languages). However, it is necessary to get used to the local dialect. Visit Allunitconverters for more information about Rwanda culture and traditions.

How about language facilities?

The middle class is fluent in English or French.

Are there any communication taboos?

Saving face is extremely important to Rwandans. During negotiations, it is therefore necessary to be careful so that the Rwandan counterpart does not get into an embarrassing situation and to pay attention to a certain tact, sensitivity and restraint. In general, it is advisable to avoid ethnic and national themes.

What is the best way to communicate (in person, email, phone, etc.)?

Definitely a personal meeting. Business is not closed here by e-mail or phone, unless the partners have known each other for a long time. It is necessary to build personal trust first. On the other hand, attention must be paid to how the world will change in the post-Covid era. Covid has also shown Rwanda that many things can be solved more effectively through electronic communication.


What would you recommend to entrepreneurs who are going to Rwanda?

Basic principles when dealing with Rwandan partners, respecting which will help to promote the business plan:

– Contact ZÚ Nairobi, which can provide you with up-to-date information, advise on the business case, verify the reality of the business offer, provide assistance

– Establish a personal relationship with your partner (find out his hobbies, invite him to the Czech Republic, pay attention to him properly here). However, it is necessary to consider whether there is a real interest on the part of the partner. It is not uncommon for a “potential partner” to be interested in visiting Europe rather than business. On the other hand, a visit to the Czech Republic will convince a credible partner of the maturity of the Czech Republic and therefore of the products originating from the Czech Republic.

– Always smile, be polite and pleasant.

– Don’t complain about little things. – Criticize indirectly and avoid confrontation.

– Do not show your anger – there is a risk of losing your partner’s respect.

– Do not obviously try to gain an advantage over your partner

– you need to be cooperative and work together. One battle won can sometimes lose the war.

– Take your time. Gradually moving from general things to specific things will help the partner to better understand the proposals. However, the negotiations must not be long-winded and must have a predetermined goal.

– Expect delays

– factor them into the program and the price.

– Prepare the project well and be specific in your argumentation.

– Always expect that a discount will be required. This must be taken into account in the initial price proposal. However, the discount cannot be exaggerated. The price factor is decisive in the local market and is often fatal for suppliers of quality (and therefore more expensive) goods.

Public Holidays

January 1 New Year’s Day

February 1 National Heroes Day

April 4 Genocide against the Tutsi Memorial Day

May 1 Labor Day August 15 Assumption Day

December 25 Christmas Day

December 26 Boxing Day

Floating holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday, Umuganura Day Eid al-Fitr (end of Ramadan), Eid al-Adha

Rwanda Culture of Business