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Public Transportation in Rwanda: Rail and bus expansion supported by national policies [free access]

November 1, 2021

The existing public transportation system in Rwanda is largely based around public buses and shared taxis. There is no rail transportation system in place. However, the Government of Rwanda is working in partnership with many countries in the region to develop a rail network. Further, the existing bus fleet is planned to be modernised and a bus rapid transit (BRT) system will also be implemented in the capital city of Kigali.


Current public transport system

The national and urban transport systems in Rwanda are well governed, with a clear division of roles and responsibilities at various levels. The Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA) is in charge of planning, the Rwanda Transport Development Agency (RTDA) implements policies and plans, and the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) regulates the transport system.


Public transport in the country is primarily centred in Kigali. In the last decade, the city had an inadequate public transport system. In 2013, the Rwandan authorities adopted the Transportation Master Plan to develop public transport services in the city. The plan directs the planning and development of all modes of transportation in Kigali. The RURA signed four concession-based contracts with three companies—Kigali Bus Service, Royal Express, and the Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperatives (RFTC)—to integrate all the private operators in Kigali. The Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperatives is an association of former private minibus owners. Each company was assigned a zone or a number of zones to serve with a total of 78 routes.


Recent technology deployment

Recently, the introduction of the Tap and Go smart card technology by AC Group has improved the efficiency of revenue collection in Kigali. By eliminating the need to pay for transit in cash, has made inter-city bus commuting easier for its passengers. Also, AC Group Ltd., in partnership with MaraPhones, has announced plans to launch the Intelligent Moto metering system. Further, Rwanda-based start-up Binary Earth has launched a system called ‘GERAYO’ that counts the number of passengers at every bus stop and then provides this information to bus operators, thereby improving the management and deployment of buses on various routes.


Policies in Rwanda

Rwanda is transforming its legal framework to strengthen the governance of national transport and urban mobility. The government has adopted many plans and policies to modify the existing public transit services in the country. These measures support Rwanda’s vision of providing a clean and well-planned transport network to its citizens. Details of some of the policies are provided in Table 2.


Table 2: Policies in Rwanda



Passenger Roads Transport Regulations

The regulation was established in 2015 by the RURA. It includes the Passengers Bus Transport Regulation, the Goods Transport Regulation, and the tendering of routes to establish a regulatory framework for the undertaking of passenger road transport activities to achieve the efficient and sustainable development and operation of public transport services.

Fleet Policy of the Government of Rwanda

The policy was issued by the government in 2014. It aims to reduce capital cost, maintenance cost, and running cost, as well as minimise waste and prevent the abuse of public facilities. It also intends to reduce the task of the government to manage, maintain, and oversee the fleet of vehicles and to delegate the responsibility to the private sector for ensuring transparency and efficiency in the allocation and use of government resources.

Public Transport Policy and Strategy for Rwanda

The policy was prepared by the Ministry of Infrastructure in 2012. It aims to assess the existing public transport problems and to submit a report outlining the potential remedial policy measures on a short, medium, and long-term basis. 


National Transport Policy (under Vision 2020)

The policy was published in 2008 by the Ministry of Infrastructure. It aims to strengthen the institutional and legal framework to support the creation of a favourable environment for the development of the transport sector. It also aims to encourage the private sector to play a greater role in the development of infrastructure and the provision of transport services.

Kigali Transport Master Plan

The Kigali Transportation Master Plan (TMP) 2013–2020 was commissioned by the Government of Rwanda and prepared by Surbana International Consultants. It provides a framework for the long-term development and expansion of existing transportation systems to support the city of Kigali. The TMP presents long-term plans and proposals at both the policy and network improvement levels for the design horizon of 2040 while preparing interim designs for implementation in the short term. The vision report identified several areas for improvement in Kigali in terms of transport: to become a Transit-Oriented City; to establish a Complete Transport System; and to create a Sustainable Transport Network.

Source: Africa Transport Policy Program, Final Report for Rwanda, December 2018


In March 2021, the RTDA invited expressions of interest (EoIs) to provide consultancy services to draft the National Transport Master Plan (NTMP). Earlier, in April 2019, EoIs were invited to appoint a consultant to provide support to RTDA in developing a strategy for public transport in the country.


Upcoming systems

Rwanda is planning to develop BRT and rail systems, in addition to replacing its bus fleet with clean-fuel vehicles. Several of these developments are part of Vision 2050, detailed in Box 1.


Box 1: Vision 2050

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning of Rwanda has prepared an elaborate framework to advance the development of public transportation in the country in the coming decades in the “Vision 2050” document.

Ease of mobility and efficient transportation is a priority under Vision 2050. The Vision aims to establish a reliable, efficient, and affordable mass transit network. By integrating future technology and advanced infrastructure, Rwanda intends to ease movement between places, decrease the time taken to commute to work, and encourage the use of public transportation. Rwanda aims to build modern transportation infrastructure where the average time taken to commute to work is 45 minutes by 2035 and 25 minutes by 2050. It also aims to provide access to public transportation within 500 metres or less. An indicator chosen to measure ease of mobility and efficient transportation under Vision 2050 is the percentage of people using public transportation. Rwanda intends to increase the use of public transportation to 24 per cent by 2030 and to 40 per cent by 2040.


Source: Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Republic of Rwanda


Bus upgradation and modernisation

The Government of Rwanda has announced plans to prioritise the transition to e-mobility for all vehicle types. Rwanda aims to convert 20 per cent of the country’s entire bus fleet to electric by 2030. The government has taken several measures to promote the initiative. These steps include a preferential corporate income tax rate of 15 per cent for investors operating in the e-mobility sector, reduced electricity tariff at the industrial level, and the availability of rent-free land for the installation of charging infrastructure. Firms operating in the energy, ITC, and mass transport industries also qualify for these benefits.


The cost of transitioning to e-mobility and the adoption of electric vehicles in Rwanda is estimated at USD900 million. However, transitioning to electric motorcycles alone would save the Rwandan economy USD22 million in fuel imports per year, so the investment in the electrification of public transport will be beneficial for the country.


BRT system

Kigali is also planning a BRT system, the details of which are given in Table 1.


Table 1: BRT details



Length (km)



The BRT will link Nyabugogo, the city centre, and the five main sections in the city.

Expected opening



Italy-based Spea Engineering was awarded the contract for the development of a feasibility study and for the preliminary design for the BRT system.


The scope of work includes an analytical review of the existing land use and transport models; data collection for the development of an integrated transport and land use model; development of an integrated land use and transport model for Kigali city; development of parking strategies; and preparation of action plans for the development of an integrated public transport system.


Source: Compiled by Global Mass Transit


Rail system

Rwanda’s rail transport policy provides the framework under which the country is planning the development of the railway network. The policy aims to promote rail connectivity in both the central and northern corridors, including the regional rail system. The key focus of the policy is to ensure the harmonisation of future infrastructural development, gauge and service provision, and the adoption of a legal and regulatory framework for rail transportation systems within and between the East African Community (EAC) countries. The main objective of the rail transport policy is to provide guidance for financing an appropriate railway network for Rwanda.


In September 2021, the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and the RTDA signed an agreement for the development of the rail network in Rwanda. The scope of the partnership includes the provision of training for the construction, maintenance, and management of railway transport. Two railway lines are planned to be established along the two major trade routes in the country. Developments are ongoing on the first line from Isaka in Tanzania to Kigali in Rwanda.


Further, Rwanda is developing two major rail projects to establish reliable and efficient rail connectivity in the region. The projects will connect the countries of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi, and Tanzania.


-        Kenya–Uganda–Rwanda–South Sudan Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line: It will connect the four countries. Construction works on the line are currently in progress. The completion of the railway line is expected to provide huge benefits and to ease trade within the EAC.


-        Dar es Salaam–Isaka–Kigali/Keza–Gitega–Musongati Railway Project: The project will link the countries of Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. It is expected to cost USD5 billion. The project involves the rehabilitation of the existing 980-km Dar es Salaam–Isaka line as well as the construction of a new 494-km Isaka–Kigali line, which will run for 355 km in Tanzania and 139 km in Rwanda. Further, the project includes the laying of a 197-km line from Isaka to Gitega and Musongati through Keza in Burundi. The project is being funded by the EXIM Bank of China, the African Development Bank, and the World Bank. It is being developed under a public–private partnership (PPP) model. The detailed study of the Dar es Salaam–Isaka–Kigali/Keza–Gitega–Musongati Railway Project was carried out by the Canadian firm CANARAIL in partnership with GIBB Africa, a Nairobi-based East African consulting firm.


The three countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) defining their respective roles. Under the MoU, Rwanda is leading the coordination, Tanzania is chairing the project, and Burundi is the deputy chair.


Funding in the post-COVID-19 period

In February 2021, the Government of Rwanda announced an RWF29.3 billion relief fund for public transport providers. Under Covid-19 regulations, public transport operators were required to function with half-passenger capacity. As a result, the operators were facing economic losses.



Public transportation in Rwanda is undergoing significant changes. The Government of Rwanda is taking concrete measures to develop a reliable and efficient public transport system and is encouraging people to choose public transportation as an alternative to private transportation. The government is also planning to develop a comprehensive railway network to ease transportation in and around the country. The Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected the public transportation sector but the government is providing subsidies to bring it back on track.