Connecting markets: The positive impact of new roads on Rwanda-DRC cross-border trade

By Esther Muhoozi
On 18 June 2024 at 05:31

The administration of Rubavu District has announced the opening of a new road linking the town of Rubavu to a strategic border post between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), aimed at promoting cross-border trade and facilitating the movement of goods and people. This road, constructed in a modernized manner and, features a dedicated lane for vehicles entering the DRC and another for those entering the town of Rubavu, including access to markets, lane reserved for Passengers(Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) Type) and other facilities within the city.

This road construction project, funded by the Belgian Development Agency (Enabel), with a focus on accommodating vehicles with high loads (including trucks without engines) and providing pathways for traders, ensures smooth transit for individuals traveling to and from this border area.

Olivier Ruhamyambuga, the Economic Development Officer of Rubavu District, explains that this initiative aims to alleviate congestion at Rubavu Town and improve the efficiency of commercial activities, thereby transforming the city’s landscape and benefiting residents and traders who engage in various business activities.

He states, "With the completion of this road, trade will thrive, and traders will find it easier... There was already some level of commerce, but today, we have a modern street market where we trade in goods, including motor vehicle parts. Due to the numerous roads, we’ve constructed and the integration of pathways, vehicles move in harmony. There are roads for entry and exit, and these are separated from the main road leading to Congo, which enhances efficiency. It’s a significant development."

The construction of this road, supported by Enabel to the tune of 3 billion Rwandan francs, along with additional funding from the World Bank amounting to 1.5 billion Rwandan francs, has catalyzed further investment totaling 9 billion Rwandan francs.

Ruhamyambuga elaborates, "Previously, traders used the road leading to the markets, but now, it’s mainly Congolese traders. Despite some fluctuations in trade due to various factors, they continue their activities and have even extended their trading hours, which has boosted commerce significantly."

Jeannine Nyirahabineza, a fruit vendor in this area since 2018, recalls the challenges before the road’s construction when trucks would block access to marketplaces. She comments, "Before, the trucks would park in the marketplaces, making it difficult to navigate. Now, the road is well-constructed, and when people come to buy, they find ample parking space, and it’s much easier."

She notes the positive impact on their business operations and customer experience, both for local residents and those crossing the border from the DRC.

Dieudonnee Harerimana, a 40-year-old resident who has been operating a shop along this road since 2016, recounts how the condition of the road previously affected their business, with the mud causing inconvenience to customers and damaging goods. He expresses relief at the improvements, which have enhanced both safety and trade efficiency.

The Rubavu District administration asserts that since the establishment of these roads, there has been a notable increase in commercial activities not only within the town but also along the border, with new businesses emerging and existing ones expanding. This development has prompted residents to come together and establish additional entry points into the markets, further boosting economic growth in the Gisenyi area and beyond.