Arup and Bechtel build bridges with Rwandan communities

06 November 2017 3 min. read
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Multinational professional services firms Arup and Bechtel have participated in a not-for-profit project in Nyaruguru, South Rwanda. Employees of the firm worked with representatives of Bridges to Prosperity and members of the local community to build a 64-metre pedestrian footbridge.

A recent report into the equity capital markets of the African continent saw FTI Consulting researchers note the remarkable success of Rwanda, in particular in attracting international investment. However, while the document noted that Rwanda had become a remarkable success story in spite of the notorious genocide which took place there just 23 years earlier, the distribution of that wealth has not reached the poorest communities of the nation, who still depend on not-for-profit assistance to deliver key infrastructure development.

Global engineering and professional services firms Arup and Bechtel recently travelled to Rwanda to assist in the construction of a footbridge in the community of Nyaruguru, in cooperation with not-for-profit Bridges to Prosperity. Upon completion, the structure became the largest suspended footbridge that the group has delivered and will make it safer for thousands of people to travel to work, the market, medical centre and school.

Bridges to Prosperity provides isolated communities with access to essential health care, education and economic opportunities by building footbridges over impassable rivers. The partnership between Arup, Bechtel and Bridges to Prosperity is currently in its sixth year, and last year, the two firms raised £45,000 for the construction of a 42-meter suspension bridge for the village.

Arup and Bechtel build bridges with Rwandan communities

This year, a team of engineers, five from Arup and five from Bechtel, travelled to Rwanda once more for two weeks in August to build the bridge. Arup and Bechtel Group Foundation contributed £45,000 to the cost of materials and labour, while the team undertook their own fundraising to contribute an additional £7,000 to the effort.

Uwimpfizi footbridge

The Uwimpfizi footbridge over the river Basubira is the largest suspended footbridge that Bridges to Prosperity has delivered to date. The crossing will make it safer for thousands of people from surrounding communities to travel to work, local markets and to access healthcare facilities. Over 600 school students cross the river each day to reach school. Before the new bridge was constructed, the only crossing was a makeshift timber bridge that was unusable for three months of the year. In the last two years alone, two people died and six were injured trying to cross the river.

Arup have invested significant resources in providing access to innovative and affordable bridging, in recent times. Earlier in 2017, Arup Ventures, the investment arm of the engineering consultancy, aided the creation of a new glass-fibre reinforced polymer modular bridge. The original technology, developed by construction expert Mabey, will be used in areas in where traditional steel torsion bridges are unable to tread.

Sophie England, an Arup Consultant, said of the project, “It’s been a hugely valuable experience to live amongst the community and work alongside local builders. Seeing first-hand the impact this bridge has on thousands of lives, and how it enhances day to day life has been extremely rewarding.” 

Nick Amso, a graduate engineer with Bechtel, added, “It was incredible to draw on the skills from my day job and to work with the Rwandan team to bring much-needed infrastructure to the community. Seeing the immediate difference the bridge made to the people in the area was a truly humbling experience that will stay with me for a long time.”