Kigali introduces metered taxis

VISITORS TO KIGALI WILL SOON HAVE EVEN MORE TO SMILE ABOUT

(Posted 12th October 2013)

When tourists and business travellers arrive in Rwanda by air, their first impression at the airport is one of some serious expansion work going on, which started a year ago and, according to the work schedule available, should be completed early in early 2014. Once ready the Kigali International Airport will be able to accommodate the sharply grown number of passengers, and flights and is expected to suffice until the brand new international airport some 25 kilometres outside the city at Bugesera will be ready by 2016 or thereabout.

As the visitors drive into Kigali, a modern, well planned capital city unfolds before their eyes, orderly traffic flow, observance of traffic rules, pothole free city highways, all lit at night and the sense of having come to a safe place as people are walking unhindered and unimpeded even late at night with security being visible, and at times invisible but certainly there. One can be forgiven to think to have actually arrived in a European city and not in Africa, living proof that the clichés the world has about Africa do certainly not apply to Rwanda, which has lived up to their by-name of being the Switzerland of Africa.

Much has been written here about the progress Rwanda has made and how it has risen like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes of the post 1994 genocide, and has become a beacon of hope for many Africans across the continent who hope their own leaders can and will take a leaf from how Rwanda is governed.

The ongoing renaissance has taken root, the country is on the run, tourist numbers have grown by double digit numbers in recent years and the three national parks and plenty of other scenic areas like the Lake Kivu zone have gained global acclaim.

But it is in the city of Kigali where some of the most striking developments have taken place in recent years, making visitors smile. An entirely new city mapping exercise was completed, with road names and easily recognizable grid patterns, making sure those exploring Kigali on their own do not get lost. Wifi in public busses has been rolled out over the past months and only weeks ago were free wifi hotspots launched across the capital, giving visitors as well as the locals access to the internet on the move, to the knowledge of this correspondent the first such undertaking anywhere in Africa. The launch of a city public transport system recently, while still fully finding its footing, too had brought changes to the way one can reach places but it is the latest move by the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority which will probably make business visitors smile even more. RURA has given taxi operators licensed to ply their trade an 18th October deadline to install meters showing approved fares, and while commending the 318 licensed cabs which already installed the gadget, hundreds more are now under pressure to comply or else to see their license pulled until they do. From information given on arrival in Kigali last evening it was learned that airport taxis will then be allowed to charge 600 Rwandan Francs per kilometre, about 1 US Dollar, while taxis in the city will have to make do with 500 Rwandan Francs per kilometre but have the advantage to get a minimum charge of 1.500 Rwandan Francs covering the first three kilometres.

This will make sure that the nightmare stories from other African cities, where travelers have in the past been literally held hostage by unscrupulous taxi drives when they refused to pay Gagaland tariffs, will not be repeated in Rwanda, when the deadline comes up and the new tariffs will then be charged. It is understood that clients can still negotiate full day rates with drivers or owners of the cabs but for one off trips it will be the metered amount which will be due, plus, depending on the level of service, a decent tip of course.

The Kigali Taxi Owners Association has reportedly endorsed the move while working hand in hand with the city administration. Another first for Rwanda, another first for Kigali and another feather in the hat of The Land of a Thousand Hills. Visit www.rwandatourism.com for more information about the destination or else click on to www.rwandair.com to get schedules and fares for flights to Rwanda.

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