The Rwanda cycling federation has started negotiations with the International Cycling Union (UCI) in a bid to host some global tournaments, with the government offering to remove duties on sport bicycles and their parts.
Finance MinisterUzziel Ndagijimana recently announced in the 2018/2019 budget that the government will drop 25 per cent import duty to support the sports sector achieve more successes at home and at the international level.
“Bicycles for racing or a rally will be exempted from import duty of 25 per cent,” he said.
While an ordinary sport bicycle can cost up to Rwf170,000, a professional sport bicycle can cost upto Rwf8,5 million.
Officials, who talked to Rwanda Today welcomed the waiving of duties on cycling equipment as lately the sport has been on the rise in the country.
Aimable Bayingana, who is the head of Ferwacy (a cycling federation in Rwanda) hailed the removal of taxes and said such incentives will help the federation buy more bicycles and support struggling local clubs.
“This will help us improve our work and we look forward to engaging with the business community to join the sector and make some investments to promote cycling.
“Such incentives will also help increase talent detection as we seek to grow the number of participants ahead of more tournaments in the region, in Africa and at a global level,” said Mr Bayingana.
According to Mr Bayingana they have already held discussions with high-level officials from the International Cycling Union on the prospects of hosting global cycling events at the level of the renowned Tour de France.
“For that to happen, we need to first to develop the local cycling profession. For example, starting next year, we will seek to take “Tour du Rwanda” to another level by inviting big teams from Europe and the US, which has not been the case previously,” he said.
Going by cycling standards, “Tour du Rwanda”has been ranked at 2.2 grades, which means organisers are unable to have participants from outside Africa, but with an improved grade such as 2.1, the federation can invite big clubs from Europe and America.
Nathan Byukusenge, a retired national team cyclist and a member of Muhazi cycling generation, applauded the removal of tax, but called on more support for local clubs especially at the district levels.
“Ten years ago, cycling as a sport was at its lowest and received no support whatsoever, and so the tax removal on equipment comes as great news for us and hopefully clubs will take advantage of it to help their riders.
“We want other institutions like districts and other members of the private sector to start looking at this sport as lucrative. The money saved from the removal of import duties should be used to develop cycling,” he said.
According to Mr Byukusenge, with the support of President Paul Kagame and the establishment of Africa Rising Cycling Centre, home to Team Rwanda Cycling, many people who used to be taxi bike riders are now professional cyclists in international teams.
Currently, there are eight local cycling clubs dispatched across the country and in different districts, comprising of more than 120 cycling athletes, while the national team alone is made up of 24 players, many of whom participate in international clubs.
Some of the big names in cycling are Adrien Niyonshuti and Joseph Aleluya, who are currently members of Dimension Data, a world tour cycling team based in South Africa.
Cyclists who represent different local clubs mostly benefit from regional and continental tournaments, which can earn them Rwf1.7 million per tournament and about Rwf85,000 per month.