The Africa Report - - CONTENTS -

Keep­ing up with Ki­gali

The cap­i­tal city wants to plan its way to sus­tain­able growth, but cit­i­zens and de­vel­op­ers say their con­cerns have not yet been taken into ac­count

Visit the gleam­ing Ki­gali Con­ven­tion Cen­tre and its per­fectly man­i­cured en­vi­rons, and you might say Rwanda’s cap­i­tal – home to about 1.3 mil­lion peo­ple – is one of the green­est and clean­est in Africa. But for those who live there, the rep­u­ta­tion can some­times come with a heavy price tag. In 2013, the gov­ern­ment launched the am­bi­tious Ki­gali City Mas­ter Plan to guide the city’s ur­ban de­vel­op­ment, and res­i­dents have been di­vided on how the plan is serv­ing the needs of the grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. C h r i s t o p h e r K a y u mb a , a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Rwanda, says the gov­ern­ment’s aim of rapidly trans­form­ing the city into a mod­ern cap­i­tal is of­ten achieved at the ex­pense of in­fra­struc­ture tai­lored to the needs of the pop­u­la­tion. For ex­am­ple, the busy and lively Cen­te­nary House-ecole Belge Street in the heart of the Ki­gali busi­ness dis­trict was des­ig­nated a car-free zone in Au­gust 2015. “When you travel in Europe and North Amer­ica, you find a num­ber of car-free zones,” says Kayumba, who sug­gests the pol­icy was dreamt up by a Ki­gali of­fi­cial af­ter vis­it­ing one of these zones, “with­out con­sid­er­ing the con­di­tions that are unique to the busi­nesses in Ki­gali, that re­flect our pur­chas­ing power and that re­flect our level of de­vel­op­ment.”


The push to make the city less de­pen­dent on cars – which in­cludes other green ini­tia­tives such as ‘walk-through’ neigh­bour­hoods – is all part of the gov­ern­ment’s plans to cater for a pop­u­la­tion set to grow to 3.8 mil­lion by 2040, and to build a rep­u­ta­tion for sus­tain­able and green growth. But the car-free project has come un­der in­tense crit­i­cism from res­i­dents and lo­cal busi­ness own­ers who say the once-bustling area is now a ghost town. Kayumba says the Ki­gali au­thor­i­ties should have en­gaged the own­ers of build­ings in that area to in­clude fa­cil­i­ties and ser­vices that would at­tract peo­ple to the area. “For ex­am­ple, eater­ies, cin­e­mas, shop­ping malls and things that will at­tract chil­dren and fam­i­lies,” he says.


Na­talie Camp­bell Ro­drigues, owner and manag­ing di­rec­tor of For­rest Jack­son Prop­er­ties, a realestate com­pany, con­curs about the prob­lems with plan­ning: “The mas­ter plan may sug­gest a de­vel­oper use a lot they own to build a res­i­den­tial unit of ground plus 2 [ground floor plus two ad­di­tional floors], but the mar­ket is not ask­ing for that.” She says con­sult­ing with de­vel­op­ers more “could lead to a re­duc­tion in the num­ber of de­vel­op­ers who build and then can­not sell the fin­ished prod­uct.” Re­ports show that as of midApril 2018, only 142 of the 502 units in a high-end hous­ing es­tate, Vi­sion City, had been sold, de­spite the 30% re­duc­tion in unit price in July last year. Com­pleted in 2017 and built in line with the 2013 mas­ter plan, the multi-phase project has been ex­ces­sively priced – be­tween $179,000 and $560,000 per unit – in a coun­try with a per capita in­come of around $750. On the other end of the spec­trum, the mas­ter plan has the goal of re­mov­ing all slums by 2040, but that means re­lo­cat­ing thou­sands of peo­ple. Fam­i­lies from the Kan­gondo slum have com­plained that they are be­ing re­lo­cated to less de­sir­able ar­eas far away from es­sen­tial ser­vices. Ki­gali’s cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict on Nyaru­genge Hill. The mas­ter plan aims to de­cen­tralise the city, with hubs for busi­ness, shop­ping and ad­min­is­tra­tion

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