Long queues as shortage of public buses hits Kigali roads

Monday August 01 2022

Transport operators say they are incurring losses due to increasing fuel costs and now want the government to bail them out. Picture: File

By Ange Iliza

Shortage of public transport buses has hit Kigali City, resulting in long queues and delays. Commuters said they are increasingly getting frustrated by delays in getting means of transport due to a shortage of public transport buses, which operators have attributed to challenges the sector has been facing over the years.

While commuters say the long queues are unbearable, public transport companies say their options are limited as they are still recovering from losses suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic and rising fuel prices that has forced to ground some buses.

Transporters said the situation has been made worse by rising fuel prices despite the government subsidy. As a result, some operators are exiting the business to curb losses that has resulted in shortage of buses.

Operators told Rwanda Today that fuel, spare parts and other operating costs have more than doubled this year, making it di cult to operate. This is despite the Rwf29 billion government subsidy offered in 2021 and a monthly Rwf1.5 billion ordered by the government since October last year to salvage the situation.

When the Covid19-induced measures ended early this year, operators were banking on a new tariff structure as well as the gradual reopening of the economy to make up for losses accrued at the height of the pandemic. Hopes to recover were shuttered as inflation and prices continue to hike.

The subsidy is no longer helping. There is no profit in the transport business anymore. Some small companies that rely on private buses are shrinking or closing. We have also had to increase the maintenance and salary budget because we are barely making profits. I don’t think we can keep this up without the government's help,” said Jean Mwiseneza, an employee at Virunga transport company.


Some companies have reduced the number of buses on roads or cut the travelled distances to check rising operation costs. This has subjected passengers to long queues and hours of waiting in Kigali and other parts of the country. 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 are licensed to operate in Kigali. For seven years now, the number of licensed companies and bus fleets have barely
increased to meet the demand.

Passengers say long queues get worse when Kigali hosts major meetings, and some buses are redirected to transport delegates. For instance, Virunga gave out 12 buses out of 50 it owns to facilitate transport during the Basketball Africa League in May, leaving commuters stranded.

Long queues

“Long queues are not a new thing in Kigali’s bus stations. The problem is now worse because it has extended to routes out of Kigali. Some hours and days are worse like Fridays, Mondays, and evenings. The government should intervene,” said Kabagambe Innocent as he waited for a bus to travel to Rubavu at Nyabugogo bus station.

Acting director general of Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority, Deo Muvunyi, told Rwanda Today that the issue is caused by a shortage of buses and that the transport market is now open for any bus owner.

“We are aware of the problem. The subsidies will continue to be provided until the market stabilizes. We have also opened the market and called for private companies to apply,” Muvunyi Deo said. He added that there are no plans to increase transport prices.

In 2020, the government suspended a tariff structure that had raised fare by Rwf 25.9 and Rwf28.9 a kilometre in Kigali and provinces respectively, from Rwf22-Rwf21 per kilometre, to ease tension among commuters whose incomes were severely hit or lost to the pandemic.