Rwanda Lights Highway to DRC to Boost Trade

Rwanda has switched on road lights along the 180KM highway connecting the capital Kigali to the border with DR Congo.

Of the 180KM Kigali-Rubavu highway, about 114KM are currently installed with roadside lights powered by hydroelectricity.

Motorists and citizens living along the highway expressed excitement when the road lights were switched on Christmas.

Jean Marie Munyaneza a bus driver was last week driving from Kigali to Rubavu district bordering DR Congo, when his lights suddenly went off. He suddenly stopped to repair them.

“Most parts of the road are deadly. Drivers cannot see properly, especially at night when clouds meet darkness along the highway that meanders through the hilly countryside,” he told KTPress.

Munyaneza has also on several occasions knocked down wild animals crossing the road at night.

“I can now drive to and from Rubavu safely at night. With these road lights, safety is guaranteed,” he said with delight.

Superintendent Christopher Semuhungu, Northern Province Police Spokesperson, told KTPress, “the project will reduce road accidents; traffic police will now be able to maintain safety throughout the night.”

The Rwf8b ($11.5m) Kigali-Rubavu highway is also aimed at boosting trade and security through the Six Districts along the this route.
They include Nyarugenge, Rulindo, Gakenke,Musanze, Nyabihu and Rubavu.

In 2013, NPD Cotraco, a local engineering company was contracted to install the road lights fitted on concrete poles worth Rwf 600,000 ($857) each.

The bulbs being used are of 250watts worth Rwf250,000 ($357) and 60watt economic bulb worth Rwf 460,000 ($657).

The total cost of installing road lights per kilometer could go up to Rwf70million ($100,000).

Deo Kabagambe, Northern Province Executive Secretary says, “We are already seeing impact.”

He said selling points are being installed along the road by local traders who expect more income as working hours increase.

Laurette Uwamariya, a trader dealing in general merchandise in Gakenke District says “I can’t wait to set up a kiosk along the highway.”

On average, Uwamariya earns Rwf80, 000 ($115) daily, working for 10hours. With new street lights, she says, “I will double my income if I work for 24hours.”

Over 36,000 travelers from both Rwanda and DRC use the Kigali-Rubavu highway daily, in a cross-border trade worth $36m annually.

Thousands of tourists also visit the rare mountain gorillas in Musanze district. In 2013, revenues from gorilla visits hit $294m.

Meanwhile, other major highways, totaling 500KM connecting Kigali City to neighboring countries (Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania) will have similar road lights installed estimated to cost over Rwf35.7b ($51m).

Robert Nyamvumba, Managing Director of Rwanda Energy Group says all highway lights will soon be connected to the national hydroelectricity grid.

Nyamvumba says although electrification is expensive, Rwanda is committed to lighting city roads and other highways linking Kigali to secondary cities when funds are available.

Once all highways are lit, Rwanda would improve 24hour-trade with East African Community member states, becoming the only member state with such a facility.

By: Jean de la Croix Tabaro & Dan Ngabonziza