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Public transport opened up to private investors amid claims of monopoly

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Shortage of public vehicles have persisted in Kigali and continues to subject commuters to long queues and high cost. The issue was heightened after high operation costs pushed some bus companies out of business following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In an attempt to tackle the issue, Rwanda introduced public transport subsidies that saw over Rwf 3 billion paid to bus conductors in the 2021-2022 fiscal year. More buses were also added to Kigali’s public transport network, but to no avail.

Analysts say the long queues are only a symptom of baseline cost and monopoly issues in transport. Since 2015, only three transport companies including Kigali Bus Service and RFTC were licensed to operate in Kigali. 

For eight years, the number of licensed companies and bus fleets has barely increased to meet the demand despite the increase in Kigali’s population of 3 percent population growth per year, according to the National Institute of Statistics. 

Official data by Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Authority (RURA) show that only 1 percent of Kigali residents use private transport and 97 percent of Kigali residents use public transport

New guidelines give space to private investors 

The Ministry of Infrastructure on Tuesday issued a new guideline that will allow “company or individual who owns a bus (one or more) that meets the requirements for public transportation in the City of Kigali will be allowed to transport people after being given a RURA (Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority) license,”

The new guidelines will take effect starting on December 15, 2023. The statement from the Ministry stated that investors who will be authorized to carry passengers under the new guidelines will operate in corridors made up of various roads, with each road having at least two operators.

According to new guidelines, the buses that are allowed to carry passengers in the city should have at least 29 seats. Bigger buses that carry 70 or more passengers will be given priority on bigger roads in the city to ensure adequate passenger service. All operators are required to have cashless payment systems in place.

The licenses issued for the operators will be valid for 5 years and can be extended after that. For private investors to secure the operating license, they are required to approach RURA to make sure that they meet the requirements before purchasing the buses.

Meanwhile, as a way of dealing with the scarcity of public buses in the city, the government ordered 200 new buses from China. 100 of these are expected to reach the country before December, while the rest will arrive in January 2024.

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