The construction of four cargo and passenger ports on Lake Kivu has been derailed by review of the designs and unfavorable site conditions that came as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, The New Times has learnt.
In 2018, the government embarked on this Rwf22 billion project which intended to develop trade, maritime transport and tourism along the lake.
The ports are to be built in four districts of Rubavu (Nyamyumba), Rusizi (Bugiki), Karongi (at the Karongi cross-border market); and Rutsiro (Nkora region).
Construction activities were actually expected to be concluded in early 2022, but were delayed by getting the wrong designs of the facilities which necessitated further reviews, according to Imena Munyampenda, the Director General of Rwanda Transport Development Agency (RTDA).
“Designers of the ports had over-designed it, so it took us an additional time to review the design, come up with the optimum one considering our finances,” he told The New Times in an exclusive interview.
Munyampenda also reiterates that the Covid-19 pandemic had effects on the project, as workers were not allowed to attend the site at maximum capacity.
“Due to the Covid-19 measures, workers at the site had to operate at 30 percent of the needed capacity, hence a reduced taskforce caused delay in construction works,” added Munyampenda.
He then disclosed that the construction activities are set to end in late 2022 for Rubavu district, early 2023 for Rusizi port while Karongi and Rutsiro ports will be completed by early 2024.
So far, Rusizi and Rubavu ports are the ones with construction activities undergoing while Rutsiro and Karongi ports development are still in procurement phases.
The three biggest ports with the expected capacity of about 1.5 million passengers per year in 2020 is projected to reach 2.8 million by 2036, while a smaller one in Karongi was expected to start with a capacity of about 300,000 passengers per year by 2020 and 400,000 passengers by 2036.
The port’s maximum cargo handling capacity is 580,000 tonnes, while the minimum is 270,000 tonnes.
According to Michael Shyaka Nyarwaya, the Deputy Managing Director of Pan-African Logistics Limited, the completion of these ports would be an important step towards economic development.
“A business person won’t need to come from Kigali to Kinshasa or vice versa to buy a certain commodity. The ports will be their meeting point, hence simplifying the movement,” he said.
Nyarwaya added that the ports will open the Rwandan business community to a market of almost seven million living in Goma and Bukavu.
Rwanda and DRC are strategic trading partners, as the latter is Rwanda’s leading destination of informal exports as it receives 86 percent of all the informal goods.
In 2019, Rwanda exported goods worth $372 million to DRC which took 32 percent of all Rwanda’s total exports.
However, this amount was reduced to $88 million in 2020 due to Covid-19 pandemic that affected cross border trade but still DR Congo ranked second in receiving Rwanda’s exports.