Rwanda takes delivery of its first large passenger and freight boat in the coming months as it explores how water-based transport can cut costs and boost trade with its neighbours.
This is part of Rwanda’s efforts to develop a multi-model transport system linking roads, railways, waterways and air infrastructure.
The planned waterways include Lake Kivu, a major link to Central African markets through DR Congo and the Akagera River which flows into Lake Victoria, that is shared by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
Experts say Rwanda could thus cut freight costs that make her goods uncompetitive on pricing by 30 and 50 per cent.
On Lake Kivu, Rwanda plans to launch two cargo and two passenger boats to link cities along the shoreline as well as Goma and Bukavu in DRC.
“Shipping of Nkmombo 2 boat parts has started and assembly is expected to commence next month. The boat, with a capacity to transport 120 passengers and at least 15 tonnes of freight is to be assembled at Karongi in Rwanda,” said Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye, State Minister for Transport.
The vessels will be managed as a public-private partnership.
Rwanda has also reached the procurement stage for contractors to build ports on its side of the lake, targeting five over time.
The ports are planned at Karongi, where the main shipyard, a ship building plant and a marine transport training centre will be located, specifically at Bwishura. The other ports will be Nkora, Nkombo, Rusizi and Rubavu.
“Out of those five, we expect to hire a contractor to start the construction Rusizi and Rubavu ports by the end of this fiscal year,” said Mr Uwihanganye.
Poor connectivity between Rwanda and the DRC has been cited as a major obstacle slowing trade between the two countries.
DRC is the largest informal trade market for Rwanda. Data shows that DR Congo imported 86.2 per cent of the total informal exports from Rwanda, closely followed by Uganda at 11.1 per cent and Burundi at 2.7 per cent.