Burundi Road Network

By | November 15, 2022

The national routes of Burundi.

According to wholevehicles, Burundi’s road network consists of approximately 11,000 kilometers of road, of which 4,456 kilometers are classified and 6,150 kilometers are unclassified. The national routes cover 1,952 kilometers. The provincial routes cover 2,504 kilometers. In 2017, 1,524 of the 1,952 kilometers of the national routes were paved (78%). Of the provincial routes, only 9 of the 2,504 kilometers were paved (0.03%). The total paved road network, including city roads, then covered 1,633 kilometers. In 2017, 45% of the paved roads were in good or very good condition. 13% was in a bad condition. Of the unpaved routes nationales, 80% were in poor condition.

The road network of Burundi is quite extensive due to the high population density. The density of the road network, together with neighboring Rwanda, is the highest in Central & East Africa. A number of main routes can be distinguished, such as the transit route from the DR Congo via Bujumbura to Rwanda, a main road from Bujumbura to the second city of Gitega and a route from Bujumbura along Lake Tanganyika to the border with Tanzania. The southern border area with Tanzania has few border crossings, because this part is isolated on the Tanzanian side without larger cities or other main roads. There are no highways in Burundi. The road network of the capital Bujumbura is also underdeveloped, with only the main roads being paved. Almost all side streets are unpaved. The road from Bujumbura to the border with the DR Congo is paved,

Burundi is located deep inland, far from seaports. It is therefore dependent on long-distance transport through neighboring countries to import and export goods. Road transport is the only option for this, as Burundi has no rail network. The port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania is the closest. Historically, however, the port of Mombasa in Kenya was more important, with transport through Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. For a long time, transportation through Tanzania was difficult due to the largely lack of a functioning road network in that country. However, in the period 2010-2020, the road network in Tanzania has been greatly improved and roads to the border with Burundi have also been paved, giving Burundi improved access to the port of Dar es Salaam.

Characteristic of the road network in Burundi is its simple character. The paved road network is relatively extensive, but the roads have low design standards, largely following the dirt roads of the 1930s that were later only paved, but not substantially improved in alignment. There are no fast highways built in the country. There are few bridges of any significance in Burundi, nor are there any tunnels or grade separated crossings. A number of streets in Bujumbura have 2×2 lanes, as well as a short section of the N5 to the airport. These are the highest quality roads in the country.

Routes nationales in Burundi
N1 • N2 • N3 • N4 • N5 • N6 • N7 • N8 • N9 • N10 • N11 • N12 • N13 • N14 • N15 • N16 • N17 • N18 • N19 • N20 • N21 • N22

Road management

The national road authority is the Agence Routière du Burundi (ARB). The ARB was created in 2019 as the merger of the former Office des Routes (OdR), the Fonds Routier National (FRN) and the Agence de Location du Matériel (ALM). ARB is part of the Ministère des Infrastructures, de l’Equipement et des Logements Sociaux.

The original Office des Routes was established in 2001 and was created to carry out the planning, coordination and control of road projects and road maintenance. The Routier National Fund (FRN) was also established in 2001 as a means of financing road maintenance. The Agence de Location du Matériel was also founded in 2001 and provided for the actual implementation of road maintenance.

History

Burundi’s road network was largely developed during the Belgian colonial rule in the 1930s. A relatively dense network of unpaved roads has been developed, mainly for agricultural purposes. Burundi was then also a very rural society with few raw materials and industrial assets. This is partly the reason that a railway line to Burundi was never built, so that transport takes place entirely by road.

It is unclear to what extent the road network was paved in colonial times. An official road map from 1949 does not yet distinguish between paved roads. The colony’s main road, the N1 from Bujumbura to Kigali, only started to be paved in the late 1950s. After independence, Burundi inherited a fairly extensive road network, in fact much larger than it could be maintained. The instability and conflicts in the country meant that the road network was poorly maintained. Nevertheless, the country has experienced periods of development. In 1980 Burundi had 280 kilometers of paved road, with 160 kilometers under construction and 400 kilometers planned at the time. The paved road network was therefore largely constructed in the late 1970s and 1980s. The maintenance budget fell from $11 million in 1993 to $1.2 million in 2003. Another problem was that many skilled personnel had left the country because of the conflicts, leaving virtually no expertise to maintain roads. Burundi also had little foreign support for the development of the road network. In the early 2000s, the World Bank and the European Union were the only foreign donors active in Burundi. In 2003, the motor vehicle tax was increased from $40 to $75, improving road funding, albeit still at a very low level of several million dollars a year.

One problem was that the low amount of road traffic meant that the fuel tax yielded little, and only a third of the revenue actually went to the road fund, so the fuel tax was only sufficient for sporadic annual maintenance and not for major reconstructions or the construction of new roads. With support from the World Bank, a strategy has been developed to improve the road network, increasing fuel taxes and concentrating all resources on a primary network of 4,789 kilometers of road.

Road construction was also seen to diversify Burundi’s economy, at the time 90 percent of the population lived in poverty and there was virtually no employment outside of its own food supply. Burundi exports few goods. With an improved road network, employment would improve and the export of agricultural products could bring more prosperity. In 2004, funding of $29 million was awarded to repair 162 kilometers of road on the N3, N4 and N10, as well as minor repairs on the N1, N5 and N7.

After 2010, there has been a somewhat larger investment in Burundi’s road network, mainly by paving the remaining routes nationales, such as the N15, N16, N18 and N19. Some of the remaining routes nationales are still unpaved.

Road numbering

The road numbering system is divided into Route Nationales and Route Provinciales. The RN1 to RN5 run clockwise from the capital Bujumbura. The RN6 and RN7 are branches of this. Numbers above RN9 are less important, and often unpaved. There is no fixed system in the numbering of Route Provinciales, but consecutive numbers are usually close to each other. RP numbers have two or three digits.

Routes

# No. Route Length
N1 Bujumbura – Kayanza – border Rwanda 117 km
N2 Mpehe – Gitega 65 km
N3 Bujumbura – Rumonge – Nyanza – Mabanda – Tanzania border 167 km
N4 Bujumbura – Gatumba – DR Congo border 16 km
N5 Bujumbura – Rugombo – border Rwanda 81 km
N6 Kayanza – Muyinga – Kinazi – Tanzania border 134 km
N7 Bujumbura – Mahwa – Gitaba 128 km
N8 Gitega – Gitaba – Rongera 82 km
N9 Bujumbura – Bubanza – Burumbic 82 km
N10 Butaramuka – Kayanza 120 km
N11 Cankuzo – Kagera – Shembe – Makamba – Mabanda 191 km
N12 Gitega – Muyinga 94 km
N13 Gasagara – Ruyigi – Cankuzo – Mishiha – Tanzania border 146 km
N14 Kabari – Kirundo – border Rwanda 67 km
N15 Gitega – Ngozi 80 km
N16 Mutumbura – Mahwa – Kibungere 106 km
N17 Bururi – Makamba 37 km
N18 Kiyange – Bihanga 47 km
N19 Muyinga – Cankuzo 58 km
N20 N13 – Gisuru 22 km
N21 Muhweza – Mburi – Tanzania border 31 km
N22 N10 – border Rwanda 20 km

Signage

Signage seems to be virtually non-existent in Burundi.

Burundi Road Network