27 September 2010

East Africa: Rwanda Looks to the Left

Kigali, Rwanda — The Cabinet will decide whether Rwanda will maintain driving on the right hand side or switch to the left, Vincent Karega, Rwanda Infrastructure Minister says.

The traffic guidelines have been submitted to the Prime Minister's Office, paving way for a debate that will also decide whether Rwanda maintains a ban on importing right hand vehicles or lifts the ban.

Another issue to be debated is whether Rwanda should lift the ban on right hand drive vehicles. Each of the three options has its own financial and economic implications, according to Karega, "which is why thorough discussions will be held before a final decision is taken."

This follows a study commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure showing divided opinion among Rwandans on which side to drive on but the majority sampled prefer driving right hand vehicles.

The private sector is pushing the country traffic flow to be switched to the left in consonance with other EAC members states, apart from Burundi.

All the options have benefits and side effects, according to the study.

"For example, if the cabinet chose shifting to left-hand drive, it means we have to change sign posts and many other things, but it also opens up opportunities to acquire cheaper cars and to harmonise our traffic rules with most of other EAC partner states," Karega tells the media.

On the cost implications, the study indicates that right-hand steering vehicles are between 16 to 49 % cheaper than the left hand drive vehicles.

For example, without taxes and duties, a left-hand drive cars costs $7,337 on average, compared to an average of $5,602 of the equivalent right-hand steering vehicle," reports indicate.

The team that carried out the study further found that a left-hand pick-up costs $13,279 on average, while a right hand one costs $11,021. The study also ascertained that a three-axle left-hand truck costs $59,638 while a right-hand steering truck costs $49,891.

It is has been noted that restriction on the importation of right-hand vehicles contribute to increased transport fares in the country and slowed growth in the transport sector.

Rwanda also has relatively few locally registered cargo trucks, a situation partly blamed on higher transport expenses compared to most of the other EAC partner states.

The study found that foreign cargo haulers account for over 70% of the total number of cargo trucks, partly because they are relatively cheaper to hire.

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