The Euros 41m road, with construction having begun in July 2007 will spur a bevy of activities in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, otherwise known as the ‘Country’s Food Basket’.
The European Union (EU) funded project to rehabilitate the 65Km stretch along the Ruhengeri-Gisenyi road is almost coming to an end as residents anticipate growth in business opportunities.
During a project tour organised by the EU, people living along the smooth asphalt highway leading to the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said they were confident that a major access route to the DRC, will bring life back to the towns, trading centres and villages along the road.
“I expect to earn much more from my produce especially now that peace will return in Congo. This road will help us get market and better prices for our agriculture products now that the Congo market will become open again” said Valerie Habimana, a resident of Nyundo, along the Gisenyi road.
The maize and potato commercial farmer added that the new road constructed by STRABAG comes as a relief because the old road linking Gisenyi and Ruhengeri was not user friendly despite being one of the busiest roads in the country.
“The number of traders coming from Kigali, Gisenyi and Goma to buy our produce has increased reasonably ever since the bigger section of the road was completed” revealed another farmer who earns between Rfw2m to Rfw3m annually from agricultural produce.
Addressing journalists, Project Control Head, Jean Pierre Souillart of ‘TR Engineering’, the firm hired by the Ministry of Infrastructure to oversee the project, defined the road as a ‘community road’, planned to benefit not only long haul traders but also the surrounding communities.
He said that a new survey was conducted to ensure that locals are fully considered, which meant that the road had to be redirected and diverted at certain points, parallel to the old road.
“We expected to finish this project by September 2009 but we experienced major increase in quantities, prompting us to ask for a 4 month extension to finish all the fine touches,” said Souillart who was flanked by STRABAG’s Project head Guiseppe Ballestra.
The two officials said that a 5Km extension to Rwanda’s leading brewery BRALIRWA is part of the project as well as a 2Km extension from Gisenyi to the Rwanda-DRC Frontier.
Ballestra said that road is constructed to withstand heavy tonnage and is extensively wide to handle the heavy traffic from a major highway that links the DRC from Mombasa Port.
“The road is strong enough to withstand the impact of heavy traffic for about 15 years without any repairs done,” said Ballestra, who referred to it the road as a standard highway, meeting international standards.
Apart from being a link to the DRC, the road which is part of EU’s Infrastructure development programme in the country connects the country’s leading tourist towns.
Apart from eying business opportunities, residents benefited from a plan by STRABAG to use local labour during the construction and in the quarries. Over 600 people were employed on daily basis at every section of the road.
Ruhengeri also known as Musanze District is where Virunga National Park, the home of the gorillas is inhabited. Gisenyi or Rubavu boasts of Lake Kivu with its exotic resorts and beaches which are a major tourist attraction in the area.