Rwanda secures $109 million IMF loan to tackle coronavirus


By Clement Uwiringiyimana

KIGALI, April 3 (Reuters) - Rwanda has secured a $109.4 million in emergency coronavirus funding from the International Monetary Fund, the first African country to do so, the fund said late on Thursday.

The East African country has registered 84 coronavirus cases, data from the World Health Organization shows, and Rwandans are grappling with high food prices as the government on Thursday extended a national lockdown by 15 days.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has ground Rwanda's economy to a halt, creating an urgent balance of payments need," Tao Zhang, IMF deputy managing director, said in a statement.

The loan, which comes under the Rapid Credit Facility, will help alleviate pressure on trade, tourism and foreign exchange reserves, while enabling greater health spending, the funding announcement said.

While Rwanda was the first African country to secure this kind of coronavirus funding, the global lender said on Twitter it was "working hard on other requests".

Rwanda, which is heavily reliant on tourism to boost its foreign exchange reserves, last month closed its borders to travellers as a part of a broader lockdown designed to curb the spread of the disease.

"This pandemic has already started showing effects on tourism, air transportation, conferences that have been stopped affecting hotels, restaurants and other services," Rwanda's finance minister Uzziel Ndagijimana told Rwanda's state radio on Thursday. Both import and export markets have also been affected, he added.

The IMF is projecting Rwandan GDP growth this year to tumble to 5.1%. Last year, growth hit 9.4% according to government data.

Separately, the World Bank approved $1.9 billion in global coronavirus funding on Thursday, including $82.6 million to Ethiopia, $50 million to Kenya, and $47 million to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

(Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by Ayenat Mersie and Alex Richardson)


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