Six Years of Transforming Rwanda

The Imihigo Program has grown to become a powerful tool fostering Good Governance and Socio-Economic Development in RwandaOn April 4, 2012, the performance based assessment approach (locally known as Imihigo), one of Rwanda’s home grown initiatives that the government of Rwanda

The Imihigo Program has grown to become a powerful tool fostering Good Governance and Socio-Economic Development in Rwanda

On April 4, 2012, the performance based assessment approach (locally known as Imihigo), one of Rwanda’s home grown initiatives that the government of Rwanda employs to fast-track inclusive development, marked six years of existence after President Paul Kagame signed the inaugural performance contracts with District Mayors on April 4, 2006 to kick-start the program.

Deeply rooted into the rich Rwandan culture, the Imihigo have grown to become a powerful tool through which performance in the local government is measured, thus contributing hugely to socio-economic development of the country.


The Imihigo program helps the government to realize goals set under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the locally driven Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) and the broader Vision 2020, which details key targets the country seeks to attain over the medium to long term development in the pursuit to become a middle-income economy where every citizen should at least have an annual per capita income of USD 1240 by 2020.


The Imihigo performance-based approach aims at; speeding up implementation of local and national development agenda; ensuring stakeholder ownership of the development agenda; promoting accountability and transparency as well as result oriented performance; instilling innovation and encouraging competitiveness; engaging stakeholders such as citizens, civil society, donors, and private sector in policy formulation and evaluation. Imihigo promotes zeal and determination to achieve set goals, and instills the culture of regular performance evaluation.


Since 2006, performance of the districts with respect to voluntarily bottom–up set objectives under imihigo program has greatly improved and a number of benefits have accrued from simple household-led initiatives such as nutritional garden (akarima k’igikoni) to huge-impact projects such as the construction of schools nationwide to provide free and steadfast education to the future leaders of Rwanda.

Notably, the Imihigo was one of the strongest contributors towards poverty reduction among Rwandans in the past five years when Rwanda embarked on poverty reduction and economic development.  According to the third Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV3), released by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), more than one million Rwandans broke poverty shackles and started tasting a decent life between 2005/6 and 2010/11. The survey results indicate that poverty levels dropped to 44.9% in 2010/11 from 56.7% in 2005/6 owing to home-grown solutions such as the Imihigo, Ubudehe and many others coupled with strong leadership that supported pro-poor economic growth.

The Imihigo have also contributed to the upgrading of the population’s social development. For example, Rwanda has made tangible progress in increasing the number of pupils going to school at the right age, provision of safe drinking water, distribution of electricity and access to telecommunication especially the mobile phones.  These indicators help to determine the level of welfare of an individual or a household.

Overall, over 45.2 % (over 4 million) of the Rwandan population has a mobile phone while over 215,000 households have access to electricity.

Through Imihigo, the country has significantly reduced the number of pregnant women that die to 487/100,000 in 2010 from 750 women in 2005 and 1071 in 2000.

Significant improvement was noticed in antenatal care, delivery assisted by skilled provider and delivery in a health facility. The number of married women using any forms of modern contraceptive measures has been increasing, which was drastically reducing fertility rates, an indication that Rwanda’s rapid population growth, which is a threat to development, could finally narrow down. This achievement can be attributed to Imihigo commitments of using and empowering community health facilitators deeply rooted in every remote and urban center of the country.

In 2005, a Rwandan woman could give birth to 6.4 children in her entire life but in 2010, the number had gone down to 4.6 indicating the increased use of family planning techniques committed by almost every district in their Imihigo priorities.
Paul Collier Professor of Economics and Director, Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University in Britain said during the launch of the EICV3 report that the impressive performance Rwanda had achieved had not been spotted in any other African country.

Professor Collier, the author of The Billion Bottom, an award-winning book, which analyses why poor countries fail and what needs to be done to save them, urged Rwandans to continue the good level of leadership and economic development they had attained so as to shape their future.

Imihigo, as a powerful ingredient for the achievement of decentralization objectives, has strongly empowered the communities and currently they play a cardinal role in shaping their future by participating in all decision-making and governance calls with support of the local government authorities.

The Imihigo program

The concept of Imihigo is a performance-based management built on a participatory approach towards development and good governance at the community and national level with the aim to speed up an inclusive national development.  The program is built in such a way that every citizen with an idea brings it on board and the experts who have know-how help to develop it into a practical idea that can be implemented but with strong and realistic targets.

In Rwanda, each district comes up with its own annual action plan, whose main planned activities are translated into performance targets, Imihigo.

Rwanda has 30 districts and four provinces—Southern, Western, Eastern and Northern—and the City of Kigali. Every District Mayor, Governors of Provinces and the Mayor of the City of Kigali sign Performance contracts (Imihigo) with the Head of State at the beginning of every financial year.

By signing the Imihigo document, local government leaders commit both the population within their respective constituencies and themselves to fulfill the pledges therein contained, whereas the President of the Republic commits both full support from the Central Government and himself as the elected representative and leader of the whole nation.

The signed performance contracts clearly indicate the targets each participating entity has set and at the end of the financial year, national evaluators assess, and rank the achievements of the districts based on their targets and the best performers are solemnly awarded.

This process has been going on since 2006. But what is remarkable is that even the least performing districts are not discouraged instead they are encouraged to learn from others and do better in the next round, which is the spirit of Imihigo: Promoting the culture of competition!

Those who have followed the process since its inception are ascertaining that the Imihigo is increasingly becoming like a school because there is tight competition whereby the best performers are working tirelessly to defend their pride while the least performers are active to achieve more and to attain the best positions and this has sweetened the process leading to innovation.

The Imihigo in 2011-2012

Following Rwanda’s accession into the East African Community in 2007, its budget year has changed. What used to be the 12 months budget year starting January to December, has now changed and the budget year now starts with July and ends with June of another year.

Even the Imihigo process follows the same arrangement because it is arraigned with fiscal year plans. It was in that regard that on July 26, 2011, local government authorities signed the 2011-2012 performance contracts with the President of the Republic, His Excellency Paul Kagame.

The evaluation of 2011-2012 Imihigo was carried out throughout all the 30 districts between June 13 and July 13, 2012 comparing districts’ achievements and the targets they had set.  The assessment followed established standards and methodology.
The evaluation also scrutinized weaknesses and challenges local governments faced and advised on possible solutions in order to attain the desired outcomes of the Imihigo process, especially by enhancing planning skills as well as monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

The evaluation exercise brought together a national evaluation team which comprised of experts from different institutions mainly government, private sector and civil society. Contrary to the previous years, media were also invited, facilitated and allowed to cover the whole evaluation exercise.

During the 2011-2012 Imihigo, districts had vowed to carry out activities in cross cutting programs which were grouped under three pillars namely economic, social development and good governance pillars.

Under the economic development pillar, districts had vowed to increase agriculture produce, infrastructure access, greening and beautification around public offices, schools, urban centers and other public places.

Under social development, commitments had been made in areas of 12 Year Basic Education (12YBE); housing for vulnerable and needy persons, prompt and regular payment of teachers’ salaries and arrears as well as universal education and health care rollout commonly known as “mutuelle de santé”.

In the area of good governance and justice, the task was to see cases arising from the population registered and resolved through the community assemblies (Intekoz’abaturage); functioning of Joint Action Development Forum (JADF) at district and sector levels; the functioning of Public Finance Management Committees at district and sector levels; Budget Execution; Regularity and completeness of financial reports; Regularity and completeness of district internal audits; and Implementation of Auditor General’s recommendations on the previous year’s audits.

Evaluators cross checked whether the targets for corresponding activities or programs were realized as reported. District officials were given time to comment and elaborate on some of the issues whenever it was found necessary. This was especially when targets set were partially implemented or not at all. 

Districts’ General Performance

Generally, all districts performed highly scoring above 80% which is a remarkable improvement. Kicukiro district emerged the overall best performer after scoring a whopping 95.5% followed by Kamonyi with 95.1% and Bugesera district of the Eastern province with 94%. The least performer was Rutsiro district with 82.3% while the average score was 89.1%.

The overall performance is obtained by weighting all pillars as follow:

-    60% weight of Economic Development Pillar;
-    30% weight of Social Development Pillar; and
-    10% weight of Governance and Justice Pillar.

Overall districts performance

No    District    Overall Performance of districts
1    KICUKIRO    95.5
2    KAMONYI    95.1
3    BUGESERA    94.0
4    HUYE    93.8
5    NYAMASHEKE    93.1
6    BURERA    92.9
7    NGOMA    92.8
8    GISAGARA    92.2
9    GATSIBO    92.0
10    NYARUGENGE    91.8
11    RULINDO    91.7
12    MUHANGA    91.0
13    NYAGATARE    90.1
14    RUHANGO    90.0
15    NYAMAGABE    88.4
16    KARONGI    88.1
17    GAKENKE    88.0
18    KAYONZA    87.4
19    NGORORERO    87.3
20    KIREHE    87.2
21    NYABIHU    86.4
22    NYANZA    86.1
23    MUSANZE    86.0
24    RUBAVU    85.9
25    GICUMBI    85.7
26    NYARUGURU    85.6
27    RUSIZI    85.4
28    RWAMAGANA    83.8
29    GASABO    83.2
30    RUTSIRO    82.3
    AVERAGE    89.1

All districts scored above 80% which shows that all districts excelled in their performance

 Performance Vis-à-vis the pillars

According to the Imihigo evaluation report for 2011-2012, over the past six years, Imihigo performance has tremendously improved local government planning and performance, leading to national political and socio-economic transformation.

In 2011-2012, it was even better when compared to the previous years. This impressive performance can be attributed to the districts deliberate efforts to mobilize the human, financial and material resources at their disposal in order to attain their development agenda, as well as the well-coordinated Imihigo implementation plan by the Central Government.

Remarkable improvements were seen in socio-economic development projects such as construction of office facilities, health infrastructure particularly hospitals and health centers; food processing plants, roads and bridges, electricity rollout, water distribution, land use consolidation, education and hygiene infrastructure (classrooms and toilets).

In addition, the evaluation identified outstanding achievements in the areas of environmental protection especially tree planting and terracing for fighting against erosion, organized modern rural settlements (Imidugudu), public private partnership in construction of private factories, hotels, markets and estate development.

a.    Economic Development Pillar

Under the economic development pillar, all districts performed better compared to the previous results and they showed strong leadership.

However, there were the top among the best. That is why, Kicukiro district in the City of Kigali emerged the overall top performer with 96.9% followed by Kamonyi District in the Southern Province with 94.3% and then Burera District of the Northern Province with 94%.

Generally, the average performance of all districts was 88.9% in the economic development pillar, which showed strong improvement compared to the 2010-2011 Imihigo where the average performance was 78.9%.

Table showing all Districts’ Performance in Economy

No    District    % in Economic Development

1    KICUKIRO    96.9
2    KAMONYI    94.3
3    BURERA    94.0
4    BUGESERA    93.5
5    HUYE    92.9
6    GATSIBO    92.7
7    NYAMASHEKE    92.6
8    NYARUGENGE    92.3
9    KARONGI    92.0
10    NGOMA    91.4
11    RULINDO    91.2
12    RUSIZI    90.6
13    GISAGARA    90.5
14    NYAGATARE    90.3
15    MUSANZE    90.3
16    RUHANGO    90.1
17    NYAMAGABE    89.3
18    NGORORERO    89.3
19    MUHANGA    87.9
20    KAYONZA    87.8
21    RWAMAGANA    86.7
22    GAKENKE    86.4
23    NYANZA    85.6
24    NYABIHU    85.4
25    KIREHE    84.8
26    RUBAVU    84.6
27    GICUMBI    83.4
28    NYARUGURU    83.2
29    RUTSIRO    80.5
30    GASABO    77.2

    AVERAGE    88.9

b.    Social Development Pillar

Under the social development pillar, performance also improved. Kamonyi came first with a score of 96.9% followed by Ngoma District of the Eastern Province and Rulindo of the Northern Province with 96.2% and 96.1% respectively. The average score improved from 82.1% in the 2010-2011 evaluation to 89.6% in the 2011-2012 evaluation.

Table showing performance in Social Development

No    District    %Social

1    KAMONYI    96.9
2    NGOMA    96.2
3    RULINDO    96.1
4    MUHANGA    95.8
5    GASABO    95.7
6    HUYE    95.3
7    GISAGARA    95.0
8    BUGESERA    94.8
9    KICUKIRO    94.5
10    NYAMASHEKE    94.4
11    BURERA    93.4
12    NYARUGENGE    93.0
13    GATSIBO    92.1
14    NYAGATARE    91.7
15    KIREHE    91.1
16    RUHANGO    90.1
17    GAKENKE    89.9
18    NYARUGURU    89.2
19    GICUMBI    89.1
20    RUBAVU    89.1
21    NYABIHU    88.8
22    NYAMAGABE    87.3
23    NYANZA    86.3
24    KAYONZA    85.2
25    RUTSIRO    83.7
26    NGORORERO    82.3
27    RWAMAGANA    81.4
28    MUSANZE    78.8
29    KARONGI    77.4
30    RUSIZI    72.9

    AVERAGE    89.6

c.    Governance and Justice Pillar

Under this pillar, Karongi district of the Western Province came first with a score of 96.2% followed by Muhanga of the Southern Province and Kamonyi scoring 95.3% and 94.9% respectively. The average performance greatly increased from 82.7% in 2010-2011 to 89.3% in 2011-2012.

Table showing Governance and Justice Performance

No    District    %

1    KARONGI    96.2
2    MUHANGA    95.3
3    KAMONYI    94.9
4    HUYE    94.5
5    BUGESERA    94.0
6    GISAGARA    93.9
7    NYAMASHEKE    92.2
8    GAKENKE    91.6
9    RUSIZI    91.4
10    KAYONZA    91.1
11    NGOMA    90.6
12    KIREHE    89.8
13    KICUKIRO    89.6
14    NYARUGURU    89.6
15    NGORORERO    89.6
16    GICUMBI    89.3
17    RUTSIRO    89.2
18    RUHANGO    88.8
19    GATSIBO    87.9
20    NYANZA    87.1
21    NYAMAGABE    86.2
22    NYABIHU    85.4
23    RUBAVU    84.6
24    BURERA    84.5
25    NYARUGENGE    84.4
26    NYAGATARE    84.0
27    GASABO    82.0
28    MUSANZE    81.9
29    RULINDO    81.4
30    RWAMAGANA    73.6

AVERAGE    88.5

Challenges were encountered…

Despite the fact that the Imihigo program is a home-grown solution for socio-economic transformation, it also encounters challenges while districts are implementing their vows.
The encountered challenges could be summarized into two categories; the unpredictable weather conditions which disrupt the agricultural activities slowing production output and disappointments by some district stakeholders.

Concerning the unpredictable weather conditions, in the 2011-2012 Imihigo period, the process experienced heavy rains which caused flooding leading to disruptions or cancellations of implementation of some of the district targets. This was reported by the district authorities as one of the biggest challenges.

The second category of challenges was disappointments by some district stakeholders, whereby some stakeholders had promised to assist the districts and their promise had been written down in the planning books of the districts but the promises were never fulfilled leading to non-implementation of the planned activities thus slowing the district performance.

With districts’ excellent performance, Rwanda is assured of steady development

For those who have been following closely the performance of districts, they will establish an exponential trend in national development, thanks to decentralization policy.

For those analysts who wisely combine ranks with marks, the least performer of 2011-2012 Imihigo has performed better than the best performer of 2009-2010 Imihigo in local governments, only two years back.

The following table shows how the districts performance trend has gone progressively, since 2009-2010 fiscal year up to 2011-2012.

Districts imihigo performance trend in the last three consecutive fiscal Years (2009-2010, 2010-2011 and 2011-20120
No    District    Overall districts Performance        2009 - 2010 (%)    Overall districts Performance      2010 – 2011 (%)    Overall Districts Performance      2011-2012 (%)    Performance range
                    Between 2011-2012 and
2009-2010 (%)    Between 2011-2012 and
2010-2011 (%)

1    KICUKIRO    73.5    86.3    95.5    22.0    9.2
2    KAMONYI    64.3    80.6    95.1    30.8    14.5
3    BUGESERA    74.3    84.6    94.0    19.7    9.3
4    HUYE    64.2    82.2    93.8    29.6    11.6
5    NYAMASHEKE    79.3    89.4    93.1    13.8    3.7
6    BURERA    70.5    86.0    92.9    22.4    6.9
7    NGOMA    58.5    80.7    92.8    34.2    12.0
8    GISAGARA    62.0    77.1    92.2    30.1    15.1
9    GATSIBO    51.2    76.9    92.0    40.8    15.1
10    NYARUGENGE    54.5    79.3    91.8    37.2    12.4
11    RULINDO    69.5    90.6    91.7    22.2    1.1
12    MUHANGA    64.8    84.5    91.0    26.2    6.6
13    NYAGATARE    71.2    81.2    90.1    18.9    8.9
14    RUHANGO    60.5    82.6    90.0    29.5    7.4
15    NYAMAGABE    77.3    84.5    88.4    11.1    3.9
16    KARONGI    69.7    83.3    88.1    18.4    4.8
17    GAKENKE    64.4    71.2    88.0    23.6    16.8
18    KAYONZA    65.8    79.6    87.4    21.6    7.7
19    NGORORERO    68.8    81.8    87.3    18.4    5.4
20    KIREHE    72.4    85.9    87.2    14.8    1.3
21    NYABIHU    63.6    75.4    86.4    22.9    11.1
22    NYANZA    66.6    80.9    86.1    19.4    5.1
23    MUSANZE    66.9    81.2    86.0    19.1    4.8
24    RUBAVU    66.8    80.3    85.9    19.1    5.6
25    GICUMBI    78.0    76.7    85.7    7.8    9.1
26    NYARUGURU    59.2    75.2    85.6    26.4    10.4
27    RUSIZI    66.2    81.2    85.4    19.1    4.1
28    RWAMAGANA    52.6    80.2    83.8    31.2    3.6
29    GASABO    64.2    82.4    83.2    19.0    0.8
30    RUTSIRO    67.8    82.7    82.3    14.5    -0.4

AVERAGE    66.3    81.5    89.1    22.8    7.6

In the year 2009-2010, the average performance was 66.3% and it rose to 81.5% in the year 2010-2011, and it excelled in 2011-2012, rising to 89.3%. The trend shows that, districts have consistently improved in planning and commitment to imihigo performance-based approach.

In 2011-2012, the districts which have registered impressive improvement scoring a percentage increase of 10 and above between this year and the previous one are: GAKENKE (16.8%), GISAGARA (15.1%), GATSIBO (15.1%), KAMONYI (14.5%), NYARUGENGE (12.4%), NGOMA (12.0%), HUYE (11.6%), NYABIHU (11.1%) and NYARUGURU (10.4%).

The following table shows steady performance progression, and great improvement
District    Overall districts Performance        2009 - 2010 (%)    Overall districts Performance      2010 – 2011 (%)    Overall Districts Performance      2011-2012 (%)    Performance range
                Between 2011-2012 and
2009-2010 (%)    Between 2011-2012 and
2010-2011 (%)
Districts with steady performance progression (last 3 years)
1.    KICUKIRO    73.5    86.3    95.5    22.0    9.2
2.    BUGESERA    74.3    84.6    94.0    19.7    9.3
3.    NYAMASHEKE    79.3    89.4    93.1    13.8    3.7
4.    BURERA    70.5    86.0    92.9    22.4    6.9
5.    NYAGATARE    71.2    81.2    90.1    18.9    8.9
6.    NYAMAGABE    77.3    84.5    88.4    11.1    3.9
7.    KIREHE    72.4    85.9    87.2    14.8    1.3
Districts with great improvement (last 2 consecutive years)
1.    GATSIBO    51.2    76.9    92.0    40.8    15.1
2.    KAMONYI    64.3    80.6    95.1    30.8    14.5
3.    GISAGARA    62.0    77.1    92.2    30.1    15.1
4.    NYARUGENGE    54.5    79.3    91.8    37.2    12.4
5.    NGOMA    58.5    80.7    92.8    34.2    12.0
6.    HUYE    64.2    82.2    93.8    29.6    11.6
7.    GAKENKE    64.4    71.2    88.0    23.6    16.8
8.    NYABIHU    63.6    75.4    86.4    22.9    11.1
9.    NYARUGURU    59.2    75.2    85.6    26.4    10.4

KICUKIRO, BUGESERA, NYAMASHEKE, BURERA, NYAGATARE, NYAMAGABE and KIREHE have maintained a steady progression in performance (in terms of marks) in the last 3 years despite fluctuations in ranking/positions.

Districts with great performance in the last 2 consecutive years include; GATSIBO, KAMONYI, GISAGARA, NYARUGENGE, NGOMA, HUYE, GAKENKE, NYABIHU and NYARUGURU.

Imihigo for Rwanda’s dignity: The journey continues
Six years down the road, the Imihigo program, one of different Rwanda’s home grown initiatives and management by objective tools, is a success story that gets better every day as Rwanda becomes more decentralized.

The results from 2011-2012 Imihigo achievements show that Imihigo has been institutionalized and has become a culture in local governments, which is now expanding at household level with “Ikaye y’Imihigo” (The household performance contracts notebook).

The performance trend of all districts is very positive and all districts deserve appreciation for such impressive performance despite challenges encountered in the course of implementation.

Looking at the progress registered over the past six years, the Rwandan community at large is assured of its steady development. Rwanda is a stable and respected country, thanks to the resilience of its people and their commitments towards sustainable socio-economic development.

Imihigo promotes Rwanda’s dignity “Agaciro”. The journey to development continues, and nothing would stop it. Rwandans have a lot to celebrate and to be happy with: They make a “winning team” as Imihigo is institutionalized, and this makes the pride and the dignity of Rwanda as a Nation.

By Ladislas NGENDAHIMANA is the Communications Specialist in the Ministry of Local Government, Republic of Rwanda


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