How to register a foreign business in Rwanda

Here is how to register a foreign business in Rwanda, which is one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

How to register a foreign business in Rwanda
The flag of Rwanda

If you are a football fan who has watched any match involving Arsenal or Paris Saint-Germain, the message on the advertising boards surrounding the pitch is impossible to miss—VISIT RWANDA. It's also pasted on shirtsleeves and on training equipment.

Rwanda is an East African country that ranks as one of the least corrupt in Africa, and one of the safest countries in the world. With a 60% population of young people, the country continues to be an attractive location for foreign investment.

It is one of the world's fastest-growing economies and has an enabling business environment, a growing private sector and large-scale infrastructure projects. Rwanda was ranked as the second best place to do business in Africa by Atlas magazine in 2020.

Registering a startup in Rwanda is incredibly simple, as the government prides itself on its openness to commerce. The process of establishing a foreign-owned limited liability company (LLC) in Rwanda (Kigali) takes three procedures and four days.

A foreign company requires no extra procedure other than obtaining a trade licence if it wishes to engage in international trade.

What is a foreign company in Rwanda?

A foreign company is one that is registered in another nation and conducts business in Rwanda by the following:

  • Establishing a share transfer or share registration office in Rwanda
  • Managing, administering, or dealing with property in Rwanda as an agent, personal representative, or trustee, whether directly or indirectly through its employees or agents.
  • The incorporation certificate’s company code also functions as the firm’s tax identification number (TIN) and social security number.

Companies are exempt from VAT registration if their annual revenue does not exceed Rwf 20 million in any 12-month period or Rwf 5 million in three consecutive months in the preceding quarter. Once one of these two thresholds is reached, registration must occur within seven days of the year or quarter's end.

Small and medium-sized firms, defined as those with a net capital investment of up to Rwf 70 million, annual revenue of up to Rwf 50 million, and fewer than 100 employees, are exempt from trading licence tax for the first two years following their establishment.

They will only be required to register at the District level following the expiration of the exemption period and to begin paying trade licence tax by January 31st of the third year following incorporation. Some Nigerian startups who registered as foreign businesses in Rwanda are Talent QL, Payday and CcHub.

Related article: Five things to know before relocating to Rwanda

Requirements and important documents needed for registration

  1. Power of attorney to present the company in Rwanda. (Notarised)
  2. A duly authenticated copy of the memorandum Articles of Association. (Notarised)
  3. Certificate of Registration/Incorporation issued by the registration authority in the country of incorporation. (Notarised)
  4. Notarised resolution from the authorized agency authorizing to open a branch.
  5. Passport copies of the shareholders/directors.
  6. List of directors residing in Rwanda (at least One)

How to register a business in Rwanda

There are three categories of businesses which can be registered at the Rwanda Development Board: individual enterprises, domestic companies and foreign companies. The cost of registering a branch of a foreign company in Rwanda is free.

You can register your foreign business online or at the Office of the Registrar General, which is a department within the Rwanda Development Board located in Kigali, the capital city. As a foreigner, you can register a business on arrival for free and be up and running within 72 hours.

Final thoughts

The government of Rwanda is also putting in place policies, incentives and campaigns to invite people to invest in Rwanda and help smoothen the process. The country offers a hub for rapidly integrating East Africa and a market with over 10 million people.

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