Monday, April 12, 2021

Rwanda invests in cycling, helps boost clean air and jobs


According to a recent study commissioned by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority, vehicular traffic in urban centres is one of the two primary sources of air pollution.

“Traffic-related air pollution is a particular concern in African cities where there are high densities of older vehicles, inadequate vehicle maintenance, poor traffic management, poor road conditions, and inadequate mass transport systems,” said Air Quality Specialist, Dr Egide Kalisa.

Over and above, the East African county is one of the leading countries in Africa in bicycle innovations and has also hosted several international cycling competitions and is also a hub for bicycle innovations in tourism, urban mobility and entrepreneurship.

Earlier this year, a cycling tourism initiative was launched by the Rwanda Cycling Federation (FERWACY) in Musanze District in the north of the country with the objective to reduce emissions and ensure a cleaner environment. Citybuddiz was started by a group of six students and recent graduates from African Leadership University.

The young entrepreneurs started providing mountain biking tours of Mount Kigali and are now hoping to expand to professional cycling lessons and longer trips from the capital Kigali to areas in other districts like Kayonza in the east of the country.

Majority of urban streets in Kigali and other cities have basic pedestrian footpaths. The city governments have implemented quality footpaths on both sides of many newly constructed urban streets. This is among the many initiatives put in place to double tourism revenues from $374m generated in 2016 to a projected $800m by 2024.

The cycling federation has been working with the Rwanda Development Board to streamline activities and encourage cycling tourism. In other words,the government has supported the development of policies, methodologies and initiatives that emphasize the cross-cutting nature of sustainable mobility initiatives and the importance of mobilizing funds for meaningful interventions.

For instance, in 2018, as part of wider efforts to further the growth of cycling as both a sport and a tourism experience, the Rwandan government announced a 25% tax waiver on the importation of mountain and racing bicycles.

Malik Muoki, one of several entrepreneurs who has identified a need in the area of active transport and sustainable mobility for urban residents in the city of Kigali. He returned to Kigali in March 2020 during the Covid-19 lockdown, has set up a workshop and store selling bicycle spare parts, equipment and accessories near the central business district.

Following the opening of the shop, the business has exceeded his expectations. He currently imports bicycles from the Netherlands, but now has plans to set up a bicycle assembly shop in one of Kigali’s industrial zones.

“The government has been really supportive in cutting taxes for bicycle parts and has worked through Rwanda Development Board to make the case for increasing cycling for tourism and commuting,” concluded Muoki.

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