Rwanda

Rwanda is a small landlocked country in the heart of Africa with a complex history, marked by the civil war/genocide of the 1990’s. The country is developing though it still is poor, with some 40% of the population living below the poverty threshold. Rwanda has remained remarkably stable since the mid 1990’s and has known constant economic growth. The government has made great efforts to develop the economy and it ranks high on the list of countries in Africa with a favorable investment climate. But the small size, the limited internal and external markets, the high transport costs to the harbors of Mombasa and Dar-es-Salaam, the small-scale agriculture and the lack of land for development limit the possibilities for investments. Main developments are in the services sector and Rwanda wants to become a conference hub in Africa. Rwanda is a very safe and very clean country! The main roads in the country are paved (around 1200 km) and in good condition. Many have been upgraded recently. There are no highways, all roads are two-lane and the mountainous terrain make heavy transport difficult.

Public Transport

Public transport is well organized and regulated. RURA is the regulating authority with Kigali Municipality taking responsibility for urban services. Until 2013 public transport in the capital Kigali was in the hands of minibuses (Toyota Hiace) belonging to RFTC (the Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperatives). The many minibuses created more and more chaos and accidents, the route network was not adhered to as buses ran only on profitable routes. To remedy this in 2013 public transport services in the capital Kigali were tendered in four lots and minibuses were banned from the city center. Routes were assigned and services extended until late in the evening. This system is functioning fairly well and is improving. Accident rates have dropped 40% as a result! However, increasing private vehicle use is creating traffic jams in the rush hours and schedules are difficult to adhere to. The city is planning a limited BRT system, but that will take time to develop. Three companies/entities are currently operating in Kigali: KBS (Kigali Bus Services) operates the most important sector 1, using some 50 new Yutong 8- and 10-meter buses and Toyota Coasters, Royal Express operates sector 2, using a dozen new Yutong 10-meter buses, a few secondhand Hyundai Aerotown and Hyundai County and Toyota Coaster as small buses. Sectors 3 and 4 are operated by RFTC which has no large buses but mainly uses Toyota Coaster. Some Toyota Hiace minibuses are still used on suburban routes. The sectors have different colors: 1 is white/light green (basically Yutong’s standard livery…), 2 is orange, 3 is white with green trim and 4 is white with blue trim. Maintenance levels of the buses are mediocre, a fair number is out of service and often Coasters can be seen with no lights or mirrors.

Public transport is well organized and regulated. RURA is the regulating authority with Kigali Municipality taking responsibility for urban services. Until 2013 public transport in the capital Kigali was in the hands of minibuses (Toyota Hiace) belonging to RFTC (the Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperatives). The many minibuses created more and more chaos and accidents, the route network was not adhered to as buses ran only on profitable routes. To remedy this in 2013 public transport services in the capital Kigali were tendered in four lots and minibuses were banned from the city center. Routes were assigned and services extended until late in the evening.

This system is functioning fairly well and is improving. Accident rates have dropped 40% as a result! However, increasing private vehicle use is creating traffic jams in the rush hours and schedules are difficult to adhere to. The city is planning a limited BRT system, but that will take time to develop. Three companies/entities are currently operating in Kigali: KBS (Kigali Bus Services) operates the most important sector 1, using some 50 new Yutong 8- and 10-meter buses and Toyota Coasters, Royal Express operates sector 2, using a dozen new Yutong 10-meter buses, a few secondhand Hyundai Aerotown and Hyundai County and Toyota Coaster as small buses. Sectors 3 and 4 are operated by RFTC which has no large buses but mainly uses Toyota Coaster. Some Toyota Hiace minibuses are still used on suburban routes. The sectors have different colors: 1 is white/light green (basically Yutong’s standard livery…), 2 is orange, 3 is white with green trim and 4 is white with blue trim. Maintenance levels of the buses are mediocre, a fair number is out of service and often Coasters can be seen with no lights or mirrors.

Interurban transport radiates from the capital Kigali. All services depart from the overcrowded Nyabugogo taxi park west of the city center. The various bus companies all have their office there. Virtually all interurban transport is firmly in the hands of white Toyota Coaster midibuses belonging to a range of companies: African Tours Express, Belvedere Lines, Came Express, Capital Express, City Express, East African Car Express, Excel Tours Express, Fidelity Express, Horizon Express, Impala, International Express, Kigali Safaris Express, Mutanda Express, Omega Car Express, RFTC, Ruhire Express, Saga Plage Express, Select Express, Simba Express, Sotra Tours, Stella Coach/Express, Ugusenga Express, Virunga Business Class, Virunga Express, Volcano Express and Yahoo Car Express. Only a few companies have some larger buses: Virunga Business Class has a dozen Mercedes-Benz –MCV 260 midibuses (though most have gone), Ugusenga Express has a few Ashok-Leyland Falcon, Sima Express has a few very old secondhand buses, Impala has a few Ashok Leyland Falcon and Capital Express has two Yutong 8-meter coaches taken over from KBS. The largest companies are Volcano, Horizon and International.

The Toyota Coasters mainly link the larger centers. As buses depart when full intermediate villages are only served when someone descends. RFTC serves the intermediate stops with large numbers of Toyota Hiace minibuses.

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A special position is taken in by the government-owned ONATRACOM (Office National de Transport en Commun), which was created in the 1970’s and received buses as development aid from Japan. Currently ONATRACOM has very limited operations with just a few dozen buses operational out of a fleet of some 150 Isuzu buses with Kenyan Labh Sing Harnam Sing bodies. ONATRACOM operates services on rural roads where no other large buses come and charges low fees. Its buses are sturdy uncomfortable high buses, adapted for unsurfaced roads. But is also runs some international services to Kampala in Uganda where its popularity is determined by the low fees. ONATRACOM recently went through a restructuring process after years of mismanagement. The government wanted to privatize the company but there was no interest. Now it intends to privatize management first (RFTC is interested), renew the fleet and then sell it. In how far this materialize is still open.

Contrary to national services where small buses dominate the market, international services are operated by large coaches. Until 2014 Ugandan companies Jaguar, Horizon, Baby Coach, Gaagaa Coach, Kenyan companies Kampala Express and (recently) Simba and the Tanzanian firm Taqwa were the main operators, but in 2014 a Rwandan firm, Trinity Express, added some variety. ONTRACOM also started operating an international service.

The most important services are from Kigali to Kampala in Uganda (8 hours), some continuing to Nairobi in Kenya (2 days). Dar-es-Salaam is served by Taqwa (up to three days). Some Ugandan companies operate from Gusenyi on the DRC border with Goma to Kisoro in Uganda and further to Kampala, using the recently rehabilitated Kisoro-Kabale road in Uganda. Buses used are built/assembled in Kenya by local bodybuilders such as LSHS, Choda Fabricators and Master Coach Builders on chassis by Scania, Isuzu and Nissan. Chassis are also locally assembled in Kenya and Tanzania (Scania). Trinity has a few large front-engine Yutong buses, probably purchased via a dealer in Tanzania.

There are no cross-border services to the DRC, both Goma and Bukavu are border towns. International services to Burundi (Bujumbura) are by Toyota Coaster though the Ugandan company Horizon and the Burundi national company OTRACO had through services Bujumbura-Kigali-Kampala, which are currently suspended.

For mire pictures of buses in Rwanda visit our Rwanda bus page 

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