The 77.8km road linking the City of Kigali to the Rwanda-Uganda border of Gatuna was inaugurated yesterday.
Rehabilitation works on the road started in January 2012 and were completed in March at a tune of €62.1 million (about Rwf51.1 billion).
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony in Gicumbi, yesterday, James Musoni, the Minister for Infrastructure (MININFRA), said the road will enhance the socio-economic transformation of the country.
He said, “This road is part of the efforts to connect Rwanda to the rest of the region. I think it has already started helping people in this area to improve their business cooperation with their Ugandan counterparts. This will enable our people to develop economically.”
“The completion of this road is a significant achievement in our regional integration process and cross-border trade as over 50 per cent of our imports pass through this road,” Musoni added.
Neven Mimica, the commissioner in charge of cooperation at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, said the refurbished road is an opportunity for Rwanda to boost business with the rest of the continent. The EU jointly funded the refurbishment of the highway with the Government of Rwanda.
“This road is part of the Northern Corridor. It does not stop only at Gatuna; rather it connects Rwanda with Kampala and Mombasa. I hope that it will play a key role in regional integration, in addition to improving business between Rwanda and its neighbours and reducing the cost of doing business in the country,” Mimica said.
“We will also provide another €20m grant to refurbish the Rusumo-Kagitumba road as part of our support for regional integration,” Mimica stated.
The Kigali-Gatuna road is one of the main routes linking Rwanda to the port of Mombasa in Kenya through the Northern Corridor.
Currently, 50 per cent of imports to Rwanda and Eastern DR Congo by road pass through the Northern Corridor (1700km) via the Kigali–Gatuna road.
According to MININFRA, the Kigali-Gatuna highway contributes to the economic development of the country by ensuring commercial exchange at the international level. The road connects to Burundi and the Congo.
The road’s average annual growth in future commercial traffic is estimated at eight per cent for light vehicles and four per cent for heavy goods vehicles, including 2-axle trucks, according to the ministry.
Gicumbi dwellers are optimistic that the revamped road will present enormous business opportunities.
Florent Mutwewingabo, a resident of Manyagiro Sector who used to smuggle banned brew from Uganda, said he would take advantage of the road to uplift his well-being.
“I am now 35; when I was about 20, I bought a bicycle that I used to transport goods from Gatuna to my village, Kabuga in Manyagiro Sector. But, after a few months, my bicycle got wrecked, which pushed me to engage in Kanyanga (illicit brew) smuggling and consumption. Having seen that Kanyanga was leading to recurrent conflicts in my family, I decided to give up the unlawful practice a year ago.”
“Now that the road is smooth, I will use my bicycle to transport goods from Gatuna to my shop, instead of paying someone else for the service.”
Jean de Dieu Kabera, a tea farmer in Manyagiro, said the previously pot-holed road had led to rejection of their produce at Mulindi tea factory.
He said, “sometimes our tea would be rejected due to dust. The buyers were telling us that it was too dirty and could not be processed lest it damage their machines. But since the road was refurbished, our tea is no longer being rejected.”
Of the €62.156 million used in reparing the road, €57 million was provided by the European Union, while the Government raised the rest.