Map by Shem Oirere/ENR Art Department
Parsons, a U.S. engineering firm, has been tasked with developing up to 1,000 kilometers of rural roads in Rwanda.

A U.S. engineering firm has been tasked with developing up to 1,000 kilometers of rural roads in Rwanda, which represents eastern Africa's fastest-growing economy.

Parsons Corp., Pasadena, Calif. won a contract from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to spearhead the new road system, which will help open up the country's agriculturally rich interior districts to crop and livestock markets.

Parsons will make an inventory and assess the conditions of the roads as well as provide prioritization, planning, preparation of technical designs, procurement support and construction supervision of the improved roads, according to a company statement.

Further, the firm will provide training on procurement to Rwanda’s district governments in order to build local expertise and ultimately enable the districts to tender maintenance programs directly to rural communities.

The anticipated budget for this project is between $40 million and $50 million, according to Jon Roth, USAID/Rwanda spokesman. By the end of the year, USAID's total budget for Rwanda is projected to reach $240.2 million, out of which $65.2million is for development assistance.

“About 20% is expected to be paid to the support contractor [Parsons], and the remaining 80% will be channeled to district accounts through fixed-amount reimbursement agreements in accordance with agreed technical specifications,” Roth says. “The specifics of the roads to be rehabilitated will be determined by a technical study to be carried out by Parsons. But it is anticipated that all roads will be unpaved.”

The contract highlights a steady, if modest, focus on improving the country’s roads. Rwanda anticipates total revenue and grants of $1.5 billion for fiscal year 2011-12. It plans to spend $125 million on transport-sector projects over the next 12 months.

Last June, Finance Minister John Rwangombwa said that Rwanda, with a GDP growth of about 6%, intends to scale up the rehabilitation and upgrading of classified national road networks and urban road networks by the end of 2012.

"We plan to increase the national road network in good condition to 46% in the 2011-12 financial year, against 38.1% in the 2010-11 financial year,” he stated.

As for the unpaved-road network, the country plans to upgrade 25% of it to a "good condition" in fiscal year 2011, as opposed to only 4% in the previous year, he added.