Rwanda has the highest population density in Africa. During the time of Arab and European slave trading, Rwanda and Burundi were the only countries in central Africa to defend themselves against the slave traders. Not only was Rwanda's population not reduced by the slave trade, but it actually increased as other people sought refuge there. The country has coped with the high population density because the soil and climate have supported intensive cultivation.

Education is officially compulsory for children aged seven to fifteen, but at primary level only about two-thirds of children attend school. Secondary schools have space for only 10 per cent of primary school graduates and less than one per cent go on to university, either in Rwanda or overseas. The National University of Rwanda in Butare opened in 1963.

Rwanda's major health problems include malnutrition, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Nearly half of all households do not produce enough food for their families. About 80 per cent of Rwandans have access to healthcare but these health centres and dispensaries are poorly equipped and people don't have the money to pay for treatment. Rwanda has an adult HIV/AIDS infection rate of over 12.75 per cent. It is one of nine countries in the world, all in Africa, with an adult infection rate of 10 per cent or more.