The image of “our satellite city has changed tremendously,” Innocent Kayiranga, Muhanga District’s Vice Mayor in charge of economic affairs, told a team of visiting reporters on Monday, June 14. Muhanga, one of Rwanda’s six secondary cities is about 45 kilometres south of Kigali. “Thanks to the new infrastructure, our security at night has improved and business is picking up. The Covid-19 pandemic is a real challenge but we are moving on. There is hope. New infrastructure inspired residents to upgrade their buildings,” Kayiranga went on. The mayor was talking about impacts of the Rwanda Urban Development Project (RUDP), an ongoing World Bank-funded project meant to provide better roads, street lighting and drainage systems. “Tax revenues improved; which are in turn used in improving our district. Industries are coming up because of the new roads. We are seeing tremendous change. In the past, for example, taking a pregnant woman to the hospital would be difficult on some roads.” The RUDP project aims to provide an integrated package of support to address key challenges associated with Rwanda’s urbanization: access to basic infrastructure to promote livability and local economic development; upgrading unplanned areas to promote inclusive urbanization; and supporting Districts to engage with the private sector and enable economic development. The WB injected $95 million and the government of Rwanda contributed $5 million in the project; for all the six secondary cities and parts of the City of Kigali. During phase one of the project – July 2016 to November 2018 – up to five kilometres of new asphalt roads were constructed in the Kibirigi, Kabgayi, and Agakiriro areas of the city at a cost of Rwf4 billion, in addition to an expropriation cost of Rwf 38.8 million. Standalone drainage was constructed at Ruvumera and Kibirigi areas (0.996 km) at a cost of Rwf281.7 million. The total cost of phase one was Rwf4.3 billion. The impact, according to residents, is that, besides improved security, revenues and transport to health centres and schools, investors are eyeing opportunities in the area more than before the roads and electricity came. Onesphore Nzabonimpa, director of infrastructure at the District’s One Stop Centre, said: “In two to five years’ time, Muhanga will be much far from what you see now because already, investors are following the infrastructure developments and many locals are also upgrading their buildings.” Three big investors – Mountain Ceramic (makers of cray tiles), Seven Hills (saucepans manufacturers), and Basil Company (cleaning equipment) – have already paid expropriation and are looking to construct industries, he said. “The first two are constructing already. Basil is still processing paperwork.” “We had an industrial area with 67 hectares that were empty because expropriation by the government was not yet done. But local investors couldn’t wait; they stepped in to do the expropriation themselves. More than 10 hectares are now taken.” In the ongoing phase two – December 2018 to June 2021 – about Rwf5.9 billion has been injected into, among others, construction of a total 7 kilometres of asphalt roads and upgrading of informal settlements in Ruvumera area of Nyamabuye Sector. In Gakombe village, Ruli cell, residential properties are cropping up. A new road with street lights and a drainage system passes through the village. Yvette Umuhoza, business lady in Murambi village, said the improved road helped boost her restaurant business. “I now get up to 50 customers per day yet they used to not exceed 25,” she said. “This area used to be so muddy and dusty and movement was very difficult. The cost of plots has now shot up, from Rwf1 million to Rwf5 million. Better still, the development got rid of issues such as theft. It is a very good environment now.” Her neighbour, Oswald Nteziyaremye, a bar and restaurant owner, noted that actually, land value started shooting up soon after news trickled in that the place was going to be upgraded. “It’s just because of this unfortunate situation with Covid-19 protocols but all is well. I get few clients now because many people have been affected by the pandemic but I am hopeful that things will get much better once this is over,” Nteziyaremye said. The city‘s new covered drainages are used as walking areas and sanitation has generally improved. In Ruvumera village, a busy commercial quarter snakes through the city on the other side of the town. Storeyed buildings are being elected on either side of a new road there as well. Inside one of the shops, Sylvestre Muhozi, a trader who has operated there for the past six years, was busy selling eggs. Muhozi said: “This used to be a dirty muddy road with many bumps. But now, it is easier to navigate and very busy. We now also have lights full time. “The tarmac road opened our area up. There are people who never dared venture here but now many come and this certainly means more clients for us. We have hope many more will come.” Clessence Mukasekuru, a restaurant owner in the quarter, said: “We can’t believe it; this place can now operate day and night, just because we have lights and a good road. Vehicles would not move through here easily, in the past.” By and large, besides the easily observed improved infrastructure and sanitation facilities and upgrading of the informal settlement, the overall impact of the project in Muhanga is bigger due to the improved linkages, accessibility, and mobility.