Jointly organized by : EPRN, GIZ, UNCTAD, IFPRI, UNECA, UNDP, OXFAM, Scottish government and MINECOFIN
27th May 2021 @Serena Hotel

I. Introduction

The Economic Policy Research Network (EPRN Rwanda) is a Research and Training Institution registered with Rwanda Governance Board as a local Non-Government Organization with a mission to contribute to the evidence-based economic policymaking by providing high-quality research, building capacities and creating networking opportunities for local experts. One of the flagship activities of EPRN is to organize research conferences. So far, six conferences have been organized with more than 40 papers presented, and several policy dialogues on research findings have been organized.

On an annual basis, the EPRN Research Committee selects a research theme and sub-topics approved by the Board of Directors. EPRN calls for abstracts/proposals. Selected proposals are assigned mentors and reviewers who work with researchers until the date of the conference whereby the best papers are presented and, after that published as EPRN Paper Working Series. During paper selection, subscribed members of EPRN are given a priority. Presented papers are sent to international reviewers with the possibility of being published in recognized international journals. Apart from papers by EPRN members, partners also have the opportunity to disseminate/present study reports and papers.

The objective of the conference ;

The Research conference created a discussion forum on relevant research findings and revealed the status of the economic sectors post COVID-19 ; and suggested specific short-term, medium-term, and long-term recommendations to uplift the country’s socio-economic development.

II. About the 7th research conference

The Economic Policy Research Network organized the 7th Annual Economic Research Conference that brought together researchers and policymakers to disseminate research findings from its scholars and those from other research and academic institutions. The conference took place on May 27, 2021, at Kigali Serena Hotel. It targeted national and international researchers, academics, professionals and decision-makers working in government, private sector enterprises and institutions, civil society organizations and development partners.

This year’s main theme for the 7th annual research conference was “Economic policy measures to enhance productive capacities post COVID-19 Crisis” . which was broken down into five sub-themes :

1. Understanding the Socio-Economic impact of Covid-19 :
2. The role of leadership at national and international levels in containing effects of Covid-19
3. The role of digital solutions in economic resilience and growth (E-commerce, E-payment, E-learning etc...) :
4. Reducing vulnerability Post-Covid-19 – New Strategies for Insertion into the Regional and Global Economy :
5. Investment strategies in the post-COVID-19 for economic growth and job creation :

The 7th Annual Research Conference was held between May 27, 2021, at the Serena Hotel Kigali Rwanda , https://www.eprnrwanda.org/conference/decision-makers. There was considerable support and cooperation from EPRN partners, such as GIZ, IFPRI and much other public and private institutions.

1. GIZ Rwanda
7. Scottish government

III.1. Opening Remarks

The opening session was addressed by Dr Charles Ruranga, President of the Board of Directors of Economic Policy Research Network (EPRN), who declared the conference officially open at the end of his statement. Mr Paul Akiwumi, Director of Division for Africa, LDCs and Special Programmes (UNCTAD), then delivered a speech and was followed by Mr Ulrich Berdelmannis, Program Manager at GIZ in charge of support of decentralization as a contribution to good governance.

III.2. Research Presentations

This session was structured as a round of Presentations on different research papers. It was moderated by Mr. Seth Kwizera, executive secretary of EPRN Rwanda.

Presentation 1. Regional Overview of the Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis
By : Dr Andrew Mold
Chief, Regional Integration & AfCFTA Cluster
UNECA Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa

Abstract : Dr Andrew Mold spoke about the Impact of the Covid-19 Crisis in the East African region mainly focusing on the economic and social impact. He presented slides demonstrating how the east African countries were affected by the Covid-19 crisis and however he stressed that the result they have now shown that Eastern Africa fared better than Africa & the world. Then he pointed out the reason behind the relative resilience 1) Agriculture being a higher share of GDP 2) Low integration into global value chains 3) Low level of urbanization - urban areas being highly affected than rural areas 4) Demographic – 50% population being under 25 years 5) Mixed level of stringency in lockdowns. He also presented on how the Commodity price shifts in 2020 have generally helped the east African region. He highlighted the need for digitalization in all sectors and the region urgently requires more external concessional finance. Dr Andrew concluded by noting the job of economist, economic policy researchers is to present clear picture of what going on ground and that makes the job much easier for the policy makers.

Presentation 2. Subverting borders, Precarity and Vulnerability : The Socio-Economic impact of Covid-19 on informal cross-border traders between Rwanda and RDC

By : Sidore Murhi
Université Catholique de Bukavu

Abstract : Mr. Isidore Murhi shared that Most of cross border traders between DRC and Rwanda work in informal and face to poverty and vulnerability and Covid-19 has sunk the precarious situation of these small cross-border traders with large proposition of them being women. The study covered 4 borders sites : Bukavu (DRC) & Kamembe (Rwanda), as well as Goma (DRC) & Gisenyi (Rwanda) and administering Mixed data collection Methods (Quantitative and Qualitative). During the presentation, he explained the Demography of the informal cross-border traders, Monthly income level and total spending by small cross-border merchants in US$, Transition matrix of small cross-border traders and Structural constraints and the Impact of Covid-19. He concluded by suggesting some way forwards ; 1) A critical view to stringent taxation of all cross-border trade goods and group purchasing policies. 2) A critique of top-down economic policies. 3) Advocate for an intergovernmental agreement to promote smooth cross-border trade and harmonized customs policies.

Presentation 3. Rwanda Covid-impact and economic policy-response scenarios CED May 19 2021
By : TABARO NT. Didier
Economist in charge of Research and Modeling.
Macroeconomic policy Directorate General.
Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning

Abstract : The presentation focused on describing MINECOFIN-CED’s approach to assessing Covid shocks (external/domestic, supply/demand), policy responses, and impact of both on economy (sectors and accounts) and MT recovery path. Analysis in comparison with Nov. 2019 Baseline : projected growth path driven by public investment infrastructure, human capital, agricultural. productivity, and developments in key sectors. Didier concluded his presentation with suggestions for future economic crisis-response preparedness ; External financing contingency mechanisms, esp. for private sector, more systematic social support and economic stimulus, Economic impact analysis and tools.

Presentation 4. COVID-19 and Economic Recovery
By : Osten Chulu
Senior Economic Advisor – Inclusive Green Economy

Abstract : Mr. Osten keynote address looked at Rwanda’s vision of a good life, and he explained elements that need to be considered in the vision 2050(Quality of life, smart city, transformation for prosperity, core shared values, international cooperation and positioning) and how they are related to the country ongoing recovery process. Mr. Osten also highlighted the COVID-19 and Economic Recovery (Pre-COVID-19 ; COVID Strikes ; Strategies for Recovery ; Solutions – implementation ; Return to pre-COVID levels of growth and development). During his presentation he mentioned some alternative Scenario for building back better : Gradually reduce overdependence on Natural Capital and move to Knowledge-based, market-oriented agriculture, Aggressive Conservation and Reforestation, Develop Sustainable Built and Human Capital. He concluded that to recover to Pre-COVID-19 Economic Growth Levels – maintain NST1 and NERP Goals.

Presentation 5. Oxfam’s Observations On Enhancing Productive Capacities in Rwanda in the Aftermath of the Covid-19 Crisis
By : Alice U. Anukur
Country Director – Oxfam, Rwanda

Abstract : OXFAM Country director cited the areas of focus for productive capacities
2015 – 2022 ; sustainable livelihoods, gender justice and women’s rights, gender justice and women’s rights -under livelihoods, market systems for income growth and reduce inequalities (the inequality enlarged by COVID-19), special consideration of vulnerable populations including farmers, women, SMEs, aggregators and processors in the national recovery plan and other financings. During her presentation, she shared PRE-COVID-19 existing vulnerabilities, covid-19 impact on SMEs especially those owned by women, covid-19 impact on women’s rights and gender equality, covid-19 impact on farmers’ resilience and vulnerability to external shocks, covid-19 impact on agricultural value chains’ actors and at the end, she shared with the audience a short video on the testimony of women SMEs impacted by covid 19 crisis.

Presentation 6. Assessing the economywide impacts of COVID-19 on Rwanda’s economy, food system, and poverty : A social accounting matrix (SAM) multiplier approach
By : Emerta Aragie
International Food Policy Research Institute
in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning

Abstract : He stated this was assessment conducted in April and September 2020 and presented in August 2020 as a rapid analysis for policymakers of an economic shock that was still unfolding in Rwanda, it offers illustrative insights into the methods used to understand the economic impacts of COVID-19. This assessment used a SAM multiplier model built on a disaggregated 86 sector 2018 SAM for Rwanda, using sector input-output data to measure direct & indirect impacts throughout supply chains. Mr Emerta ended his presentation stating that COVID & response measures have diverse effects on sectors & agents and some key issues to consider are restart key industrial sectors (construction, manufacturing) ; Expand social protection (i.e., Identifying vulnerable households that are unlikely to recover and Support small/medium enterprises and informal economies) and finally to revitalize safe border trade with neighboring countries.

Prep 7. The impact of mobile banking on the wellbeing of Rwandan citizens during the Coronavirus period : a case study of Umwalimu SACCO
By : Mr. Vedate Kamasa Byombi
Senior Researcher of EPRN Rwanda

Abstract : He cited the aim of this research was to see at which extend the use of the application contribute to the wellbeing of Rwandan citizen through the cost reduction. He shared some existing challenges like Rwanda school teachers still maintained the practice of traveling long distances to the Umwalimu SACCO branches, to perform banking services, often waiting in long queues to be served and in the domain of social innovations, there is a lack of studies that measure people’s subjective well-being, focusing particularly on the marginalized. He suggested that further capabilities are developing quickly for example remote payments for services like electricity and batch payments of salaries for firms and this needs to be incorporated in Umwalimu SACCO. Mr Vedatse concluded his presentation with some research recommendations ; The leadership of Umwalimu SACCO to incorporate other long term bank services ; The National Bank of Rwanda to put in place ways allowing more than one telecommunicate companies to be used to accommodate all people ; User of the application to use it when needed to avoid charges.

Presentation 8. The role of digital solutions in economic resilience and growth in Rwanda
By : Dr. Fidele Mutemberezi
Senior Researcher of EPRN Rwanda

Abstract : He stated that the number of subscribers and number of transactions in mobile banking in (2018-2020), and the number of transaction in Mobile Payment (Mobile Money) have persistently increased at a high rate, 53% and 58% respectively in 2nd quarter 2020 while in 2020, quarter two, the number of transactions in Internet Banking has decreased by 2% compared to 2020, quarter one. He noted that digital solutions had a profound impact during the COVID-19 crisis in Rwanda by enabling parts of the economy to continue functioning online and through remote working. Dr Fidele Concluded by stating that focusing on digital technologies, can accelerate the move to a smart economy and in the process to accelerate economic resilience and growth for prolonged prosperity.

Prep 9. Challenges and opportunities of moving to online learning in the higher learning institutions in Rwanda : lessons learnt during COVID -19 pandemics
By : Dr Daniel Twesige
Senior Researcher of EPRN Rwanda

Abstract : As a final presentation of the conference, Dr Daniel noted that the shift from face to face to online learning has both positive and negative but the negatives outweigh the positive impacts. Highlighting that the learning inequality among students due to poor network connections, lack of data, lack of electricity, lack of learning infrastructures. He concluded his presentation by saying that the positive impact of the shift included promotion of independent learning by the students ; maintenance cost of students during the learning process and improved the technological skills of the students.

IV. Key recommendations from the conference

1. GOR should work with CSOs and CBOs to intensify the dissemination of eligibility to access the Economic Recovery fund to benefit SMEs at grassroots levels, especially women based. This could be done through awareness via vernacular and rural-based radios/TV/Bulk SMS messaging.

2. All stakeholders should apply/adopt Gender lens in planning for economic recovery for COVID-19 impacts with tailored solutions and support

3. All economic players should take full advantage of the current shift to digitization opportunities in the country and beyond. GoR and partners to put efforts into infrastructure and community capacity building.

4. GOR should focus on formalizing the informal SMEs (More befitting definition of informal) and work to increase demand/awareness on the ERF to build resilience for the informal sector.

5. EPRN should work towards conducting in-depth research on the informal sector for consideration towards the revision of the definition of the informal sector in the Rwandan context.

6. There is a need to strike a balance between economic policy and health policies

7. Intensify transfer of knowledge & agriculture practices to Build farmers’ resilience to external shocks (organic farming, agroecology).

8. Education institutions should revise their investment model from physical assets to technology.

9. Institutionalize Economic impact analysis and tools that deepen quantitative policy analysis to assess shocks and policy responses and develop tools for analyzing employment/income distribution impact of shocks and policy responses.

10. Enhance coordination mechanisms and consolidate agricultural produce especially given the Cross Border Trade.

11. Gradually reduce overdependence on Natural Capital and move to Knowledge-based, market-oriented agriculture, Aggressive Conservation and Reforestation, Develop Sustainable Built and Human Capital.