Starting a Company
Registering a business in Rwanda is incredibly simple and the government prides itself on its openness to commerce. As a foreigner you can register a business on arrival for free and be up and running within twenty-four hours. Just go to the Rwanda Development Board with a business concept and name, fill in a few forms (there are people there to help you through the process), and you’ll be issued a Certificate of Domestic Company Registration and tax number (TIN) the same day. You will need to include your TIN on all of your invoices. Rwandans love official stamps so get one made with your business name, TIN and phone number (it’s a cheap and easy process at a stationary shop). Once you have these things, you’re ready to start trading – it’s as simple as that.
To get a business visa, you’ll need your registration certificate and an immigration official will want to visit your place of business, so you’ll need to rent an office, even if it’s only temporary. Additionally, you’re required to have a trading license (also known as patente), which costs between FRw 40,000 (around $43) and FRw 90,000 ($96) depending on the turnover of the business and must be paid annually.
Opening a Bank Account
Opening a personal bank account in Rwanda is simple once you have a residency permit of any kind. Just choose a bank (Access, Ecobank and Bank of Kigali are popular and have good internet banking) and take your passport and a passport-sized photo. For a business account, you will also need a business certificate. Some, but not all, banks offer POS machines, so if this is important to you, make sure to check. Banks here generally offer good customer service, and staff members will often give you their contact details and are responsive when you need help. You can use local and international cards in any ATM across the city and some have an option of dispensing US dollars. The fee for international withdrawals is usually around FRw 2,000 ($2). Kigali is still largely a cash city, but it’s possible to use local and foreign bank and credit cards in a growing number of shops and restaurants.
Taxes are collected quarterly by the Rwandan Revenue Authority (RRA). The online filing system is fairly straightforward, but fines for missing deadlines are harsh. Accountants are affordable and hiring a firm is recommended. Businesses that earn under FRw 20,000,000 ($21,300) annually can choose to file taxes using the lump sum regime, under which they’re taxed 3 percent and have no requirement to file expenses. Businesses that earn more must use the real regime, under which expenses are accounted for and a tax of 30 percent is levied on net earnings. A value-added tax (VAT) of 18 percent is charged on most goods and services. If your business nets over FRw 200,000,000 ($213,000) annually, you’re required to collect VAT and pay this quarterly to RRA (but you can claim VAT on your business-related expenses). There are various other taxes depending on your circumstances, so consult the RRA website at rra.gov.rw.
Phone and Internet
The two main telecom companies in Rwanda are MTN and Airtel. You can pick up a SIM card for around FRw 1,000 ($1) at their branch offices and you’ll need a copy of your passport to register, even for pay-as-you-go. A 30 GB pay-as-you-go data package costs around FRw 10,000 (around $10) per month, and minutes are cheap. Wireless internet in Rwanda can be temperamental and people often choose their phone provider based on which one has the best signal at their home. Internet coverage is patchy in certain parts of the city and consistent 4G is still a rarity. MTN has a mobile money app, MoMo, that is growing in popularity and is incredibly useful, especially for paying bills. Liquid Telecom is recommended for fiber optic but it’s not available everywhere yet. For fast, reliable and free internet many people work from the Marriott Hotel.
Main photo by Simbi Yvan