Rwanda Road Network

By | December 4, 2022

The National Roads of Rwanda. Much of these roads are secondary in character and more than half are unpaved.

In 2015, a network of 6,655 kilometers of numbered roads was established, consisting of 2,749 kilometers of national roads (44% paved) and 3,906 kilometers of district roads (1% paved). In 2019, the network of national roads covered 2,735 kilometers, of which 1,391 kilometers were paved. The paved roads are mostly in good condition, 86% of the roads were considered to be in good condition.

Of the national roads, the NR1 to NR5 form the radial roads from Kigali to the neighboring countries. These are the main roads of Rwanda. The higher numbers are clustered elsewhere in the country, only a small number of other national roads also have a significant function because Rwanda has almost no cities. Many rural areas consist of scattered buildings and not functional villages or small towns. Characteristic of the national roads is that they often follow a very winding route, which means that higher driving speeds are not possible on most roads. Only in the east of Rwanda is the terrain a bit flatter and higher speeds are sometimes possible, especially on the NR4 and NR24.

After the 1994 genocide, large-scale investments were made in Rwanda’s infrastructure, which means that the road network in the country is in better condition than the neighboring countries. Most places and areas of interest are now interconnected by paved roads. There are no highways in Rwanda, but there are a number of 2×2 roads in the capital Kigali. Traveling by road is time consuming due to the mountainous nature of the country. A major project is the construction of the Kigali Ring Road. In 2017, the road network in Kigali consisted of 2,851 kilometers, of which 16 percent (453 kilometers) was paved. In 2022, it was announced that Kigali had planned flyovers at 43 intersections.

According to wholevehicles, no major alignment upgrade of the main roads has taken place in Rwanda. Where, for example, in Tanzania many roads are designed for a driving speed of 100 km/h, the roads in Rwanda are very winding, sometimes even extremely tortuous with almost continuous bends that can only be driven at 30 or 40 km/h. Despite the small area of ​​Rwanda, travel times are therefore relatively high. What plays a role is that Rwanda has only one economic center, there are no places larger than a large village outside the capital Kigali. As a result, there are also no large traffic flows. Agriculture is also still mainly used for its own food supply, so that few products are exported by road.

National Roads in Rwanda
NR1 • NR2 • NR3 • NR4 • NR5 • NR6 • NR7 • NR8 • NR9 • NR10 • NR11 • NR12 • NR13 • NR14 • NR15 • NR16 • NR17 • NR18 • NR19 • NR20 • NR21 • NR22 • NR2325 • NR24 • _

Road management

The national road authority is the Rwanda Transport Development Agency (RTDA). The RTDA was established in 2010. This is an agency of the Ministry of Infrastructure (MINFRA).

History

During the Belgian colonial period, a dense network of agricultural roads was established in the 1930s in what was then the colony of Ruanda-Urundi. It is probable that hardly any roads were paved in the colonial period, partly because there were no real cities and there was very little motorized traffic. At independence in 1962, Kigali had only 6,000 inhabitants. In 1971, Rwanda had only one short paved road between Kigali and the airport.

Rwanda joined the World Bank in 1963, but had difficulties obtaining funding for projects in the early years. In 1970, the first loan was taken out for the construction of the NR3 from Kigali to the Ugandan border at Gatuna, with the project being largely financed by the Belgian government. In 1972 a loan followed for the development of personnel and equipment to set up an effective maintenance program. This was largely financed by Germany. In 1974 a loan was granted for the construction of the western part of the NR2 between Ruhengeri and the border with the DR Congo at Gisenyi. Chinawas involved in Rwanda relatively early, from 1974 on roads were built by Chinese companies, such as the road from Kigali to Rusumo. It is unclear how large the Chinese involvement was for the 21st century. Some sources claim that China built 70 percent of Rwanda’s paved roads. In 1977, Rwanda had 350 kilometers of paved road.

In 1986, Rwanda had 627 kilometers of paved road. From then on, the main links between Kigali and neighboring countries had been paved and work was underway to pave an additional 274 kilometers of road. This created a large part of Rwanda’s paved road network between the mid-1970s and late 1980s. In 1990 Rwanda had 970 kilometers of paved road.

Rwanda’s vehicle fleet was largely destroyed during the civil war from 1990 to 1994. In 1995, Rwanda had only 3,200 motor vehicles (excluding motorcycles & scooters). In 1997 there were 17,000 motor vehicles in Rwanda, in 2001 this had grown to 32,000 vehicles. In 2003, Rwanda had 1,022 kilometers of paved road. At that time, 23% of the paved roads were in good condition, 37% in acceptable condition and 40% in poor condition. The Road Maintenance Fund was established in 1998 to finance the maintenance of the road network. From that period on, a lot of foreign aid also entered the country. In 2011, there were about 50,000 vehicles excluding motorcycles in Rwanda, this grew to 90,000 in 2016. There are about as many motorcycles as other types of motor vehicles registered in Rwanda.

After 2010, considerable investments were made in Rwanda’s road network. Many existing paved roads have been reconstructed and work has also started on the asphalting of the remaining national roads. However, in 2020 a large part of the national roads was still unpaved, some are barely more than dirt roads that open up remote rural areas. In 2021, the NR5 was the first double-lane road outside the built-up area of ​​Kigali, built because of a new airport southeast of Kigali.

Road numbering

Rwanda has road numbering of national roads (NR) and district routes (DR). The current road numbering was established in 2015. Before that, road numbering was based on the French system, documentation before that also mentions the prefix ‘RN’ (route nationale), but since the 1990s, Rwanda has made a switch from French to English in government communications and as a primary foreign language.

The National Roads are zoned numbered. Numbers 1 to 5 run from Kigali to neighboring countries. The higher numbers are zoned and are usually in the same region. The numbering runs more or less first southwestwards, later northwestwards and then in the center and east of Rwanda.

List of National Roads

# No. Route Length
NR1 Kigali – Muhanga – Huye – Akanyaru (Burundi) 158 km
NR2 Kigali – Gakenke – Musanze – Nyabihu – Rubavu (DR Congo) 150 km
NR3 Kigali – Gatuna (Uganda) 78 km
NR4 Kigali – Rwamagana – Kayonza – Ngoma – Kirehe – Rusomo (Tanzania) 169 km
NR5 Kigali – Nyamata – Kagasa – Nemba (Burundi) 62 km
NR6 Ngoma – Ramiro – Kibugabuga – Nyundo – Nyanza – Gitwe 144 km
NR7 Rugobagoba – Kinazi – Ruhango – Gitwe – Nyabukono 112 km
NR8 Nyamiyaga – Ndora – Kiyonza – Akanyaru (Burundi) 91 km
NR9 Huye – Gatobwe – Kibeho – Ndago – Bitare (Burundi) 77 km
NR10 Huye – Nyamagabe – Buhinga 115 km
NR11 Pfunda – Rutsiro – Karongi – Nyamasheke – Buhinga – Rusizi – Ruhwa (Burundi) 270 km
NR12 Gishyita – Gisova – Gatovu – Kitabi 84 km
NR13 Gatovu – Masizi – Nyakogo – Kirengeri 69 km
NR14 Kibuye – Karongi – Nyabukono – Masizi – Nyamagabe 112 km
NR15 Muhanga – Karongic 61 km
NR16 Meru – Ngororero – Mukamira 99 km
NR17 Cyakabiri – Nyabikene – Muvumba – Musanze – Cyanika (Uganda) 124 km
NR18 Musanze – Nyabitsinda – Sashwara – Mburamazi – Rubavu (DR Congo) 94 km
NR19 Kiruli – Gicumbi – Cyuru – Mimuri – Nyagatare – Ryabega 142 km
NR20 Base – Burera – Butaro 36 km
NR21 Gicumbi – Butaro – Kidaho 75 km
NR22 Maya – Karama – Kizinga (Uganda) 83 km
NR23 Rwesero – Kiramuruzi 51 km
NR24 Kayonza – Ndatemwa – Bukomane – Gabiro – Karangazi – Ryabega – Kagitumba (Uganda) 116 km
NR25 Rukara – Buhabwa – Gikobwa – Rwinkwavu – Kamombo – Rusozi 175 km

Signage

The signage seems sparse. Previously, mainly white signposts with black letters were used, but Rwanda has since 2016 published the Road traffic safety — Traffic control devices — Requirements, in which the traffic signs and signage are specified. This is largely based on the standards of the SADC Road Traffic Signs Manual, although Rwanda is not a member. The new designs use green signs with white lettering and yellow road numbers in plain text, similar to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states.

Maximum speed

The speed limit in Rwanda was established in 2002. Outside built-up areas a maximum speed of 80 km/h is allowed, but many roads are not suitable for long distances at 80 km/h. For larger vehicles and minibuses, 60 km/h applies. The speed limit in Kigali is between 40 and 60 km/h.

Rwanda Road Network