In 1994, energy access was at 1 per cent, says Minister Gatete

Currently, 51 per cent of the country is connected to electricity.

In the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the post-genocide government inherited a country that was literally in ruins; and this cut across sectors.

When it came to infrastructure, it was not much different, only that the infrastructure itself was almost non-existent so for the post-genocide government, it was a case of starting from near zero or even below that.


As Rwanda celebrates the 25th anniversary of the national liberation (Kwibohora25), The New Times’Julius Bizimungu sat down with the Infrastructure Minister, Claver Gatete to understand the country’s journey to develop its infrastructure which was once completely shuttered.




Twenty-five years ago, road network was very poor and there were no resources at the time be it in terms of financial or even human resources, take us through the journey made thus far…

The Kivu-Watt Methane Gas plant, a project on Lake Kivu, effectively adds 25 megawatts to the national electricity grid. Courtesy

There has been significant progress in terms of road network. Currently, we have 38,800 kilometres of roads of which about 2,000 are marum and the rest is tarmac.

What has been strategically done by the Government since 1994 is to see how Rwanda can be linked to her neighbouring countries, meaning that we needed at least one road linking us to a neighbouring country.

In the case of Uganda, we had Kagitumba and Gatuna and both roads were done properly, on top on that one of Cyanika in Burera.

In the case of Burundi, we had the one that goes to Huye- Akanyaru which was given a complete facelift and the road from Kicukiro- Nemba border which was also built.

And in the case of DR Congo, we had the Rusizi but we also had the road from Kigali – Musanze and Rubavu.

In the case of Tanzania, the road from Kigali to Kayonza and Rusumo was also redone. We are now working on Kagitumba all the way to Rusumo – a brand new and well expanded road.

Some of these roads were not just redone but also widened. Initially, even the few roads that were built they were very narrow and almost all the roads had no sidewalks. Today it is a different story.

At the same time, we had to build new road networks like Muhanga to Karongi, and because of the importance of Lake Kivu, the Government had to redo the road from Rubavu to Rusizi and other roads that divert from it.

Those were the key ones.

Now the phase we have reached is to say what roads have more impact and right now the road Huye – Kitabi is almost complete, and also the road that stretches from Huye to Nyaruguru is currently being constructed.

We now had an idea of diverting traffic not for all of it to go to Kigali. We started a road from Nyagatare – Rukomo – Base to ensure someone coming from the east heading to north and DR Congo does not necessarily go through Kigali.

We are now realising that much of traffic is coming from Tanzania. The road Ngoma - Bugesera – Nyanza is to divert traffic from Tanzania.

That diversion is also helpful because there is a link between districts.This also increases economic activity. You can look at the road Nyagatare – Rukomo – Musanze. This means that trade between the Northern Province and the Eastern Province can happen much easier.

We are in the process of linking not only the South to the West, but also from the South to the North. In other words, it means we are interlinking the whole country.

On the other hand, our roads are targeting specific economic activities. For instance, in Gishwati where we have a big agriculture land, we have identified about 241 kilometres of roads to make sure milk can be transported easily to where it is supposed to be processed.

By the way, in terms of riding quality (which measures road quality) we are now number three in Africa [according to World Economic Forum competitive report: Road quality index 2016 – 2017].

Let us talk about aviation. What has the journey been like?

Rwanda needs an air transport system given the fact that we are a land-locked country. Transport costs have been high for us because most of our goods come from Mombasa or Dar es Salaam.

Looking at this distance, we are always at a disadvantage. And if anything happens in one of those countries, we have no much option, and that is why air transport is very important.

Aviation has been growing significantly. Currently we have slightly more than 1.1 million passengers coming through our international airport (Kigali).

The destinations have also increased and today, we (RwandAir) have 29 destinations, including the Kigali – Guangzhou (China), Kigali – Tel Aviv (Israel) and we are soon going to Ethiopia and Angola.

We are still expanding and the impact of this expansion on trade and tourism is very important. Without the airline we wouldn’t be seeing the numbers we see today.

As you saw Rwanda has been ranked number two in Africa in terms of hosting conference tourism. We see progress and one of the biggest contributors is our airline.

Part of the progress comes with investing in expansion of air transport infrastructure. One of those is the Bugesera International Airport. Talk to us about it…

We have 2,400 hectares of land (where Bugesera International Airport is being built). We want expand this for the future and the works have already started, but we wanted more time to redesign this kind of facility.

What we have at the Kigali International Airport is very much improved but there is a limit to how much we can expand it. That is why we need the new airport.

There is no doubt this is going to be a state-of-the-art infrastructure facility.

When you look at the Kigali Convention Centre and the impact it brought, there is anticipation that Bugesera and other facilities like the Kigali Arena will even bring more impact to our country and the development.

Energy is another critical aspect of development. How has the sub-sector performed?

Twenty-five years ago, it was a different story because energy access was at 1 per cent, meaning that only the privileged ones could afford to have electricity at that time.

In 2010, we reached 10 per cent and now we are at 51 per cent. Next year, we plan to be at 62 per cent and 100 per cent in 2024. We are working very hard to achieve this.

Currently, 51 per cent is the mixture of on-grid which 37 per cent and off-grid 14 per cent. Our target is to make sure by 2024, 52 per cent of the population is connected on grid and 48 by off-grid.

You cannot compare the 1994 as far as electricity is concerned because everything has changed totally, whether it is substations, whether it is transmission lines, whether it is new sources of energy.

The mixture of sources of energy we have is no longer Mukungwa and Ntaruka. We have diversified sources of energy that produce up to 221 megawatts. That is in addition with the role the private sector is playing.

Going forward, we have more projects in pipeline like the Rusumo which will produce 80 megawatts, and then we have Symbion Power which will also produce 80 megawatts from methane gas in different phases.

We also plan the Rusizi III which will generate 200 megawatts that we share with Congo. And last year we signed a loan agreement with China to pursue Nyabarongo II for 43.5 megawatts.

We are basically having a mixture of government and private sector but we want the private sector to come more on board.

How about water and sanitation? How have we delivered on key targets?

We have got significant resources from the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The first phase was $131 million that was mainly focusing on building a centralised sewerage system in Kigali.

We are now expanding countrywide. We got the second phase of $137 million that will be invested in rural areas. Almost every province is going to benefit from this.

In terms of water access, we had Nzove serving Kigali and in 1994 it had less than 20,000 cubic metres of capacity. The capacity today is 140,000 cubic metres.

The rest is now working on distribution networks.

From the numbers we have, about 70 per cent of the urban population can access water within the range of 200 metres, but in the rural areas the number is at about 64 per cent within the range of 500 metres.

Sanitation is within that range.

How are we fairing with urbanisation?

We had a vision 2020 and now developed a vision 2050 – 30 years after 2020 because we wanted to see where we are. It is very important to look in long term.

With that in mind, we asked ourselves what the new drivers of economic growth are to deliver this vision. We worked together with World Bank and we endorsed what we call the “new drivers of growth” – six sectors and one of them is urbanisation.

This is because urbanisation, done properly, can add value to our economic growth. That is why we chose Kigali and six secondary cities – Nyagatare, Gatsibo, Muhanga, Rusizi, Rubavu, Huye and Musanze, which we focus on.

We are working with World Bank to help develop these cities, in terms of infrastructure like proper drainage systems and informal settlement upgrading which can drive these cities to attract resources.

Government embarked on building one stop border posts. How have these been critical in enabling cross border trade?

We have neighbouring countries and we trade with them every day. It is not like other countries where we need long transport systems to go through Mombasa or Dar es Salaam, for instance, which adds other costs.

But with one stop border posts they have made it easier for small scale traders who cross these borders, even those who trade in perishable goods, to conduct their trading activities efficiently.

These border posts have storage systems and allow people to work 24 hours and they also facilitate trucks that move any time of the day or night. That makes movement of goods faster.

Subscribe to The New Times E-Paper

For news tips and story ideas please WhatsApp +250 788 310 999    


Follow The New Times on Google News