Rwanda will soon switch to the left-hand drive system on its roads.Â
Currently Rwanda uses a right-hand drive system on its roads and most vehicles are right-hand.
Â â€œPublic opinion about switching driving sides is 54 per cent in favour. 32% are against,â€ the study shows. It was carried out by Dr Barisay Mahabubul, a transport economic expert at ministry of infrastructure.
If Rwanda adopts the left-hand drive, it will have harmonised its traffic system with that of the rest of East Africa to which itâ€™s now a member and the Commonwealth countries, a grouping the country has applied to join.
But overall, the study says itâ€™s cheaper to own, easier to maintain and therefore cost effective to operate right hand vehicles.
This means government of Rwanda will have to repeal regulations requiring all traffic to keep the left side of the road and also lift a ban on importation of right-hand vehicles.
However the study cites some challenges should Rwanda switch driving sides. It warns that government will lose 16 percent vehicle import tax revenues.
It is anticipated that accidents will increase before the drivers get used to the left-hand driving.Â It is estimated that in 20 years there will be a 402 more accidents.
A Presidential Decree of 2005 slammed a ban on importation of right hand vehicles, giving motorist s only four years to phase out the right-hand drive cars.
The decree partly states: â€œAll motor vehicles registered in Rwanda must have a steering apparatus on the left-hand side. People already owning motor vehicles with steering apparatus contrary to the above have a period not exceeding four years to have respected it starting from the day of its signature.â€
John Bosco Rusagara, Chairman of Rwanda Forwarders and Clearing Agents, told The Independent the ban has had negative effects on the economy and scared investors in the transport sector.
Â Some Rwandan transporters now buy and register right hand trucks in neighbouring countries denying treasury a lot of revenue.
For example Jaguar, a passenger bus company with a fleet of 10, is owned by a Rwandan investor but is registered in Uganda.
The investor found it cheaper to register in Uganda. According to the study, right-hand vehicles are 16-49 per cent cheaper compared to the left hand ones.
For example without taxes and duties a left-hand car costs $7337 on average while the right-hand car $5602, a difference of $12735.Â
A left-hand drive pickup costs $13,279 while a right hand one costs $11,021. The study also discovered a three-axle truck costs $59,638 while a right-hand one costs $49,891. The restriction has sparked high transport costs in the country and slowed growth in the transport sector.
Currently Rwanda has 2,165 locally registered cargo trucks. This means importers heavily rely on foreign trucks to deliver cargo in the country.
Foreign cargo haulers account for over 70 per cent (about 5,025) of the total number of trucks that deliver cargo in the country, partly because they are cheaper to hire.
â€œWhen you buy a truck cheaply definitely the transport cost will also be cheaper,â€ Rusagara said.
Government has realised the transport problems the country is facing and wants to address the matter.
But the foreign trucks that the country heavily depends on are inconvenienced by Rwandaâ€™s traffic laws.
Out of an estimated 1,600kms from Mombasa to Kigali, it is only between Gatuna to Kigali where drivers switch driving sides from left to right for a stretch of 70km.
Should recommendations in the study be adopted, this will force government to source funding for redesigning the roads to suit the left-hand drive system. The government will also have to make new road signs.
Only 28 percent of the worldâ€™s total road distance carries traffic on the left and 72 percent on the right.
written by issa, September 14, 2009