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Six Ways Rwanda Is Building Resilient and Sustainable Transport Systems

KIGALI, Rwanda, May 4 2022 (IPS) - Over the last decade, Rwanda has invested in building efficient and resilient transport systems. Guided by the country’s Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy (GGCRS), the Government of Rwanda has carried out numerous initiatives to promote sustainable mobility and the green economy at large.

Road transport accounts for 13% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Rwanda and this is expected to continue to rise. That is why developing efficient and resilient transport systems is one of 14 programmes of action under the GGCRS. This specific programme of action has four key components that include:

    ● Improving the efficiency of the internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles measured by reduction in emissions per kilometre
    ● Awareness of new technology
    ● Investments in infrastructure
    ● Developing efficient operational systems measured by reduction in emissions per km.

The 2018 Inventory of Air Pollution found high levels of air pollution across Kigali, mainly due to the burning of biomass and traditional cooking methods in rural and peri-urban areas and vehicular emissions in urban centers. The study found that from 2012 and 2015, the number of hospital admissions for acute respiratory infections doubled to more than 3.3 million. A major contributing factor to air pollution identified by the study was that 95.2% of cars in operation in Rwanda are currently more than ten years old with less stringent emissions standards than newer models. The Government of Rwanda is working to address the pollution levels and GGGI support is vital to ensure that the country can achieve its goal of reducing air pollution.

The Global Green Growth Institute has been supporting the Government of Rwanda to achieve low-carbon development. Part of the GGGI work has been supporting the transition to green cities and sustainable urban development, introduction of non-motorized transport, introduction of car free zones and adoption of e-mobility as a key elements to ensuring that cities are more livable, less polluting, and contribute to improved public health outcomes.

Over the past years, GGGI has supported a range of initiatives across the transport sector to emphasize green cities components of access to sustainable services through an emphasis on walking and cycling and recently in the area of e-mobility. GGGI Rwanda completed assessments in secondary cities and conducted stakeholder consultations on sustainable mobility. The work of GGGI has led to the introduction of cycling and pedestrian lanes on the roads in Kigali and across the six secondary cities as well as the introduction of public bycicle sharing scheme in Kigali and Musanze, and plans to introduce it in Huye and Rubavu cities.

From 2019, GGGI Rwanda has made headway into e-mobility and GGGI is providing technical support and awareness creation support. GGGI Rwanda also worked on a collaborative project on non-motorized transport o contribute towards the pedestrianization of car-free zones in the City of Kigali and the prioritization of walking and cycling infrastructure in urban centres. The aim of all these interventions is to reduce vehicular emissions through several means to support a multi-modal transport system with an emphasis on low-carbon options for residents and commuters.

Here are six ways Rwanda is building resilient and efficient transport systems at both the national and local levels.

    1. Developing a national sustainable mobility policy

Rwanda is developing a national sustainable mobility policy to facilitate the transition to e-mobility as the country continues strives for low carbon economic growth. The policy will strengthen collaboration between the private sector and the Government of Rwanda, attract investment in electric mobility solutions, foster new transport innovations and enhance the usage of non-motorised transport as a part of a wider transit oriented development policy.

Rwanda’s transport sector is highly dominated by internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles (mostly old vehicles imported from abroad) , with each of the over 264 500 car registered in Rwanda powered by gasoline or diesel. The transport sector is rapidly growing, with an annual vehicle growth rate of about 12% according to Rwanda’s Ministry of Infrastructure. These fuel-powered vehicles are the biggest contributor to poor air quality along busy roads in Rwanda, according to a 2017 study on air pollution carried by REMA, Rwanda’s environment watchdog.

Among key proposed actions is to transition to electric vehicles, with the country aiming to have 20% of all buses transition to electric by 2030 and introduction of incentives for the adotpion of electric vehicles.

GGGI is supporting the transition to electric vehicles through supporting strategy and policy formulation, awareness creation and conducting assessments and research to support informed decision making. Specifically, GGGI Rwanda Sustainable Mobility Program supports the government of Rwanda to (i) provide strategic advice on the development of Rwanda’s e-mobility transition, specifically in the adoption of electric vehicles (including electric buses), (ii) Support in the formulation of the Transport Policy, Transport Master Plan, and regulatory framework governing the adoption of e-mobility, (iii) Strengthening of non-motorised infrastructure prioritization and engagement of vulnerable groups and (iv) resource mobilization.

Investing in sustainable mobility is expected to reduce levels of pollution and emissions from the transport sector and improve the overall commute experience across the country.

    2. Attracting e-mobility investments

Rwanda has seen an increase in major e-mobility investments thanks to the country’s friendly doing business environment. For example, VW Mobility Solutions, Victoria Autofast Rwanda, Ampersand, Rwanda Electric Motorcycle Ltd and Safi/Gura Ride have all significantly invested in electric cars and motorbikes. Rwanda welcomes investments that support the transition to clean and green mobility.

    3. Introducing e-mobility incentives

The estimated cost of transitioning to e-mobility and the adoption of electric vehicles in Rwanda is US $900 million. However, transitioning to electric motorcycles alone would save the Rwandan economy Rwf 23 billion (US $22 million) in fuel imports every year.

That’s why the Government of Rwanda has introduced numerous fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to fast-track the electric mobility transition and attract additional investments in the growing industry. These incentives include:

    ● Low Charging Costs: Costs for charging stations will be priced at the lowest industrial tariff, which is significantly lower than the residential tariff. Electric vehicle owners will also benefit from reduced tariffs when charging during off peak hours – from 11pm to 8am.

    ● Tax Breaks: Electric vehicles (including Battery- electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles), spare parts, batteries and charging station equipment are now exempted from import and excise duties, zero rated Value Added Tax and spare parts, batteries and other equipment will also be exempted from withholding tax.Ordinarily, vehicle imports have to settle a bill of 25 per cent import duty, 18 per cent VAT, five per cent to 15 per cent excise duty, depending on the size of the engine, five per cent withholding tax, plus other levies.

    ● Provision of land: Companies setting up charging stations across the country can now access government owned land on a rent-free basis.

    ● Promoting Local Production: Companies manufacturing and assembling electric vehicles in Rwanda can now enjoy a 15 percent Corporate Income Tax rate and tax holiday.

These incentives will make it easier for Rwandans to be part of the country’s efforts to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

    4. Expanding and enhancing public transport networks

Rwanda has been working to improve public transport infrastructure. In 2012, the government approved the Public Transport Policy and Strategy and the Ministry of Infrastructure ensures the national road network is expanded, rehabilitated, upgraded, and maintained. The same direction was reiterated in the overall National Transport Policy and Strategy for Rwanda adopted by Cabinet in April 2021, where the infrastructure development aims to ensure public transport connects different areas of the country, thus contributing to sustainable economic growth.

The City of Kigali is also working to increase the number of bus stations in Kigali and upgrade existing infrastructure to build the capacity of the city’s public transport network. A long-held plan to build a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that is expected to comprise of a 160 km road network around Kigali, that will be plied exclusively by buses with capacity of more than 100 passengers is also still on the table. In Addition, in May 2021, Rwanda entered a partnership with a private investment company to jointly work on introducing aerial cable cars in Kigali.

    5. Improving the quality of public transport systems

The Government of Rwanda, through the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority, recently introduced the Public Transport Generation 2. The new system aims to improve public transport by increasing the use of technology, improving route planning, fostering a better vehicle mix and introducing a scheduled service.

To improve public transport, buses in Kigali are equipped with free internet for passengers and make public transport more attractive to users, thus discouraging usage of private cars. The provision of the internet is part of the Smart Kigali Initiative launched in 2013 to provide free wireless connection in buses and taxis, airports, hotels and restaurants among other places. Apart from expanding public transport facilities, the country also plans to introduce high quality, high frequency Dedicated Bus Lanes (DBL) for public transport in Kigali to further encourage the use of public transport instead of private cars.

In line with electrification of mobility, Rwanda aims to have 20% of all buses electric by 2030, which will result in an estimated reduction of 72,000 tCO2eq.

According to Rwanda’s Vision 2050, Rwanda will develop a modern and efficient transport system where median time taken to commute to work is 45 minutes by 2035 and 25 minutes by 2050. The percentage of population using public transportation will grow to reach 90% or more and convenient public transport will be accessible at least within 500metre radius or less from commuters homes.

    6. Partnering to achieve sustainable mobility

The Government of Rwanda is working with a range of partners to achieve sustainable mobility and an efficient and resilient transport system. Key partners are the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), UNEP, KfW, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank (WB). These partners are working with the Ministry of Infrastructure and other government institutions on the following activities:

    ● Background and feasibility study on introduction of electric vehicles in Rwanda: In partnership with UNEP and KfW, a study was conducted to assess the feasibility of introduction of electric vehicles in Rwanda. This study sheds light on benefits in terms of emissions reduction, impacts on energy consumption, and other cross cutting issues associated with the new technology namely job creation, poverty reduction and gender dimensions.
    ● E-mobility Showcase: In collaboration with Rwanda Environment Management Authority, Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Infrastructure, GGGI hosted an e-mobility showcase on current and emerging technologies in Rwanda and connected companies with potential investors in the region and internationally.
    ● Electric Buses: GGGI has been providing support to the Government of Rwanda to prepare a conducive environment and bridging the knowledge gap for the uptake of electric buses – first within the City of Kigali, and eventually to other urban centers in the country. The team has supported by promoting investment, helping to produce an Electric Bus Charging Infrastructure Report and training government staff on e-Bus System Planning and Optimisation.
    ● Electric Buses: IFC has initiated a study to assess the feasibility of e-buses in Kigali and inform the Government of Rwanda on potential PPP model for deploying e-buses in Kigali for start up and with a possibility to replicate a model for larger scale deployment in the rest of Rwanda. This work is to be complemented by concurrent work conducted by IFC to develop a diagnostic framework to prioritize and evaluate selected Sub-Saharan African cities’ potential for adoption of e-mobility solutions.

Through a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) has also joined the effort to promote electric vehicles, including the following initiatives:

    ● Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle: REMA recently launched its first ever plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) that will support the institution to fulfill its mandate of environmental protection and showcase that electric vehicle usage is possible in Rwanda.
    ● Converting ICE motorbikes to e-bikes: The United Nations Development Programme is also supporting REMA to retrofit 80 internal combustion engine motorbikes to electric motorbikes through a local company, Rwanda Electric Mobility. The initiative will support efforts to phase out polluting internal combustion engine motorcycles, particularly the motorcycle taxi fleet, which accounts for more than 80% of motorcycles in Rwanda. At least 40% of motorcycles, especially moto-taxis, will be eligible for the programme. Rwanda Electric Mobility aims to retrofit up to 30,000 motorcycles over the next five years.

Okechukwu Daniel Ogbonnaya is GGGI Country Representative and David Toovey is Communications Consultant at Spruik based in Rwanda.

IPS UN Bureau


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