Home Special Reports Will 2024 Profit from Last Year’s Effort to Solve Public Transport Inadequacies?

Will 2024 Profit from Last Year’s Effort to Solve Public Transport Inadequacies?

by Jean de la Croix Tabaro
8:48 pm

Some of the new buses that await to hit the road in Kigali

Public transport in Rwanda has so far written a long story with different episodes, but the latest can be traced since the beginning of the just concluded year 2023.

On February 27-28, 2023, President Paul Kagame hosted thousands of Rwandans to speak the truth around several issues and propose solutions during the annual national dialogue-Umushyikirano.

During the first panel discussion, some Ministers were convened to address several matters. The Minister of State for Infrastructure Patricie Uwase featured in this conversation that was moderated by a veteran local journalist Barore Cleophas.

The question that reached the meeting venue via social media wanted this official to explain when the shortage of buses in Kigali would be solved.

He said the shortage obliges a passenger to wait for a bus for more than one hour in Taxi park.

The Minister was compassionate, and she explained that her ministry knows the problem a hundred per cent, and assured the audience that a light can be seen at the end of the tunnel.

Minister Uwase started from the root causes and said that since 2012-2014, the number of buses went declining following expensive maintenance and private sector’s incapacity to reinforce the fleet.

“Within a short time from now, we shall add 300 new buses to the fleet in capital Kigali,” said the Minister who was then asked to tell how soon this would work.

“We have already got the budget in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance. We are just remained with the task to order the buses that will be sold to the transport operators. We hope the buses will be here in not more than three months.”

To justify this time, she said that ordering the buses and shipping them takes a while, but she concluded: “We shall be through very soon.”

If counted by calendar days, the promise of ministry of infrastructure would be fulfilled on May 27, or latest, early June 2023.

Alas! The buses were not there in June, not even in July and August and the impatient public started wondering.

It was at this level that officials told the media: “Look! You may get the logic that ordering a bus takes quiet some time.”

Journalists decided to invite the Ministry of infrastructure to give an update, and on August 27, Minister of State Uwase responded to the request of Isango Star and other radios who broadcast simultaneously a show called Urubuga rw’itangazamakuru.

The two co-hosts of the show referred to the long stories where several mayors of the city of Kigali whom they hosted earlier in the same studio used to give promises of solving public transport issues within months, but failed.

From this background, they reminded the latest promise at the national dialogue which equally did not materialize.

When they gave her the floor, the Minister first explained changes in the law regulating public transport in Kigali, which, among others, increased the number of zones from four to seven, and most importantly, liberalized public transport in Kigali.

Initially, three companies had won the tender to operate public transport in Kigali, but with the new law, everyone who is capable to bring a new bus on road, will acquire a license of public transport.

Also in new changes, the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority(RURA) which had the mandate to sign contract with transport operators and to regulate transport, was left with the regulation role.

Signing contract with transport operators became a responsibility of City of Kigali.

“The city of Kigali is working on contracts of bus operators who wish to tender for transport in Kigali. Once all these will be done, the new buses will start,” she said.

Minister of State Uwase Patricie speaking at National Dialogue 2023

At this level, the Minister revealed the type of buses, which include one hundred buses that uses diesel and 200 electric buses. But she also explained what it takes to ship a bus to Kigali.

“We made an order for 100 buses in July. Remember, before making an important order like this, you first send a group of experts to assess the quality, then issue a tender to a manufacturing company. The first batch will reach us in November and the second one, in December,” she said adding that the Chinese Company Yutong won the tender, but will use gear box from the United States of America.

This answered a question of a listener who suggested that Yutong buses are fake. He was answered that Rwanda gave specifications that makes the bus one of the best.

For the remaining two hundred electric buses, Uwase said they require more infrastructure which the country is putting in place first.

“We shall have them latest March next year,” she said referring to March 2024.

Meanwhile, giving an update of the buses, November 28, 2023, the Minister of Infrastructure Jimmy Gasore indicated that the 40 buses were in Kigali already, and 60 others on their way from Dar-es-Salam.

“Another one hundred buses will be here in January 2024 to complete 200 buses. With that, we shall monitor the change and decide,” Minister Gasore said.

Government subsidies

While the government was working on this order, transport operators continued to get subsidies that would help them maintain the existing fleet.

The government put in place subsidy fund, where the operators get a percentage on every commuter who boards. The money helps them keep the same transport tariffs even when fuel pump prices increase.

Mid last year, transport operators complained that the government owed them some Rwf 11 billion worth of arrears.

The government deputy spokesperson Alain Mukurarinda explained that the money would be paid, but also reminded that the operators are not always loyal in the use of the fund.

He said that some would invest the money into different things rather than reinvesting them in transport, which continued to leave bus fleet wanting over the years.

“When the government pays the money and someone puts it in hotels, then it can’t work,” he said.

Meanwhile, speaking at Rwanda Television November 28,2023, Minister of State in Ministry of Finance Richard Tusabe said that the subsidies will stop once the buses will be available, because the procedure to acquire them in itself is a subsidy.

Tusabe said, that investors who wish to get the buses will go through their banks- they can be eligible for up to 70% guarantee from the government’s Business Development Fund(BDF).

On December 19, 2023, Minister Gasore told KT Press that the hundred buses were still going through inspection before being acquired by private investors to hit the road.

Until press time, the buses were yet to hit the road. A source told KT Press that competent institutions are examining requirements of applicants who wish to acquire the buses.

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