This paper uses administrative data from Value Added Tax (VAT) returns to provide insights on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Rwanda. We show that the lockdown in Rwanda had a severe impact on the domestic economy, despite relatively low case numbers. However, the economy quickly rebounded after restrictions were lifted, with overall sales losses amounting to 5 per cent of GDP.

Although in absolute terms, these losses are concentrated amongst the largest firms, in proportional terms, small firms have been worse affected. We also show that firms providing accommodation, food and transport services, as well as those based in the capital, have been particularly affected by the crisis.

Overall, the decline in economic activity translates to a 5.1 per cent loss in VAT revenue for the government. Our results offer policymakers evidence on the real impact of the crisis, both in aggregate terms and disaggregated by firm size, sector, and location. In a literature that has largely focused on higher-income countries, these results complement projections to inform appropriate policy responses in the specific context of low-income countries.


Giulia Mascagni

Giulia Mascagni is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies and Research Director of the ICTD. Her main area of work is taxation, but she also has research interest in public finance, evaluation of public policy, and aid effectiveness. She is an economist by training, holding a PhD in Economics from the University of Sussex. Her main geographical interest lies in African countries, with a particular focus on Ethiopia and Rwanda.

Adrienne Lees

Adrienne Lees is a Research Officer at ICTD, working primarily on projects relating to tax administration and compliance, and on the DIGITAX programme. She has completed an ODI Fellowship in the Tax Policy Department at the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in Uganda. Adrienne holds an MSc in Economics for Development from the University of Oxford and is completing her PhD in Economics at the University of Sussex.
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