Provinces of Rwanda

There are five provinces in Rwanda, and these were established in 2006 in response to issues caused by the Rwandan genocide. Before this time, the country was divided into 12 different provinces. The restructuring of the country’s administrative regions was done in part to increase the ethnic diversity in each. Other measures taken since the genocide include the reworking of the national anthem and the design of the national flag.

Each of the Rwanda provinces has an English name for its geographical location as well as the Kinyarwanda translation, one of the three official languages of Rwanda. This is with the exception of Kigali, which is not referred to by an English name. Every province in Rwanda is divided into districts, which are then divided into municipalities.

In this post, we’ll take a look at how many provinces in Rwanda there are as well as some basic information about each, such as population data, total area, and the capital city of each. Population data comes from the last government census, conducted in 2012. Below you’ll find a map of Rwanda showing provinces and their borders.

Provinces of Rwanda Map

A map showing the provinces of Rwanda in different colors with labels for each province and a compass arrow indicating the north direction.
Provinces of Rwanda

Provinces of Rwanda

Kigali (Umujyi wa Kigali)

Aerial view of a cityscape with buildings, roads, and vegetation under a clear sky.
  • Population: 1,132,686
  • Total Land Area: 730 square kilometers (282 square miles)
  • Capital: Kigali

This is the smallest province of Rwanda, and it is home to the city of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. The province is located in the center of Rwanda in an area characterized by hills and valleys. The capital is the country’s most important city in terms of economy, culture, and transport, even though it is not the most populated city.

The city of Kigali was founded in 1907 while the area was under rule by the German Empire, but it didn’t become the nation’s capital until 1962, when Rwanda gained independence from Belgium. Today, the service sector is the main supporter of the city’s economy. There are also cultural attractions like museums, dance groups, and music festivals.

Southern (Amajyepfo)

A serene lake scene with a blue sky, fluffy clouds, a paved path with railing, green trees, and shadows suggesting morning or afternoon.
  • Population: 2,589,975
  • Total Land Area: 5,963 square kilometers (2,302 square miles)
  • Capital: Nyanza

Rwanda’s Southern Province is its second largest, and it borders the country of Burundi. As with the other provinces of Rwanda, it was officially established in 2006. The capital city of the Southern Province is Nyanza, which is also known as Nyabisindu. 

Historically, the capital is known for dairy production, specifically yogurt and kefir. There is a fermented beverage called ikivuguto that is particularly famous for its health benefits and is still consumed in this region today. Nyanza also contains two dairies, making it one of Rwanda’s leading producers of milk and yogurt.

As with much of Rwanda, the city of Nyanza was heavily affected by the Rwandan Civil War. The city was partially destroyed in 1994 due to fighting between the Rwandan Patriotic Front and the Rwandan Armed Forces.

Western (Iburengerazuba)

A scenic view of a lake surrounded by green hills under a partly cloudy sky, with a red-roofed building on the right.
  • Population: 2,471,239
  • Total Land Area: 5,883 square kilometers (2,271 square miles)
  • Capital: Kibuye

The Western Province of Rwanda is the third largest in the country, and its capital city is Kibuye. It borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as Burundi and Lake Kivu. One of the Great Lakes of Africa, Lake Kivu is the eighth largest on the continent and contains one of the world’s largest islands on a lake, Idjwi Island.

Kibuye, the capital city of the Western Province, lies on the eastern shore of Lake Kivu and is known for its lakeside views and various lodgings for tourists. It is approximately 135 km (84 mi) west of Kigali by road. There is also a memorial of the Rwandan Genocide located here, where 90% of the city’s Tutsi poulation was killed in 1994.

Northern (Amajyaruguru)

A terraced landscape with green vegetation and agricultural fields, under a cloudy sky.
  • Population: 1,726,370
  • Total Land Area: 3,276 square kilometers (1,265 square miles)
  • Capital: Byumba

The Northern Province of Rwanda doesn’t actually include the northernmost parts of the country, which can be found in the Eastern Province, but it is located in the central northern region of Rwanda. The province borders the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and four other provinces of Rwanda. 

There are five districts within this province, and the capital is Byumba. Musanze, one of the five districts in the Northern Province, is the most mountainous district in the country. Within its borders is the largest section of the Volcanoes National Park, where five volcanoes are located. This district is also one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country because of the large population of mountain gorillas that live here.

As with the majority of the country, 90% of the residents of the Northern Province are involved in agriculture activities, and much of this is subsistence-level farming. The government has implemented a potato-planting strategy in the districts of Musanze and Burera in the province. One of the aims of this initiative is to turn the production of potatoes into an export industry in order to boost the region’s economy.

Eastern (Iburasirazuba)

A rural landscape with greenery, trees, and a clear sky. There's a building with a brown roof in the foreground.
  • Population: 2,595,703
  • Total Land Area: 9,458 square kilometers (3,652 square miles)
  • Capital: Rwamagana

This is Rwanda’s largest and most populous province. It lies along the eastern side of the country, bordering Uganda, Tanzania, and Burundi, as well as three other Rwanda provinces. There are seven districts in the Eastern Province, and the capital is Rwamagana. The borders of this province were outlined in 2006, but the area is thought to have been inhabited by humans 5,000 – 10,000 years ago.

Rwamagana is the closest provincial capital to Kigali at just 50 km (31 mi) by road. The city lies on the road from Kigali to Tanzania, although there is a bypass that reduces traffic in the city center. There are several commercial centers in Rwamagana as well as a main market, large church, and a new conference center.

Furthermore, inside the borders of the Eastern Province is the Akagera National Park. Lions, eastern black rhinos, elephants, leopards, and giraffes can all be found in the park, and these make it an important conservation area as well as an effective tourist draw. The number of tourist visitors is expected to continue to rise, and this should allow the park to rely less on outside donations.