Green growth through green urbanisation: A way to sustainable urban growth in Rwanda

Rwamagana solar plant. File.

Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (2016), set a new urban agenda about paradigm shift that follows from a realisation that urbanisation is not a threat or a process to be curtailed. Conference proceedings maintained that well-managed urbanisation is a necessary driver of sustainable, equitable and prosperous societies. Habitat III marks a generational opportunity for Green growth through urbanisation to define the transformative role of our cities and secure a new vision of the urban environment for the 21st century.

Rwanda is among one of the countries in Achieving Sustainable Urban Development (ASUD) programme. To reach this goal, the  Government of Rwanda has come up with Rwanda National Urbanisation Policy. The objectives of policy included- enhancing institutional capacities to manage urban development in a coordinated manner at all levels of governance, integrating urban planning and management and compact economic growth.

In Rwanda, to test and promote a new approach to urbanisation, a pilot green city is proposed to be launched that uses technology to create sustainable cities. The National Fund for Environment and Climate Change in Rwanda (FONERWA) has been entrusted with identifying funding for the pilot city.

Rwanda’s green growth efforts are guided by the country’s Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy. Green growth through Urbanisation is provided in the National Roadmap for Green Secondary City Development (NR) which serves as a practical guide to the Government of Rwanda for planning the six secondary cities.

Rwanda NR is an operational tool for the National Strategy for Climate Change and Low Carbon Development and it paves the way for the development of a climate resilient country by addressing climate change and low carbon emission until the year 2050.

The foundations of urbanisation in Rwanda are the bases for effective implementation of the pillars of urbanisation. There are three foundations and third foundation is about the compliance with safeguards which enables the consideration of both environmental and social policies for implementation. This is particularly significant as the secondary cities face population growth and have to adopt mechanisms to efficiently absorb increased human activity.

Global concern for sustainable urbanisation

Presently, growing urban population in developing countries has become a major concern due to its impact on climatic change. According to a study of UN –Habitat Executive Director- by 2050, cities in the developing world will absorb more than two billion new urban residents, representing 95% of global urban growth. Out of this, African cities will take major share, in some cases increasing twice as fast as any other urban population worldwide. By mid-century, the urban population in sub-Saharan Africa alone is expected to quadruple, ushering in 1.15 billion new urban residents.  Such high growth in urban population requires Africa to prepare for its urban future as it will have far-reaching social, economic and environmental impact.

Sustainable Urbanisation requires adoption of appropriate growth model for each country. Unfortunately, in many African countries, the current pattern of urban growth is following the outmoded model of the last century, characterised by an over-reliance on industrialised forms of transport, limited public space and sprawl. In Accra, for example, according to UN-Habitat’s research, only 17% of built-up space is dedicated to streets and boulevards; in Arusha, it is just 15%. Again upto 60% to 70% of people residing in Africa’s large metropolises live in slums without access to access to clean water, sanitation and other essential services. Such type of urban growth has long term environmental consequences.

Another concern raised by Executive Director of UN- Habitat Mr Joan Clos is high rate of land usage through urbanisation in Africa. With such high rate of land consumption per capita, the land area of cities in sub-Saharan Africa will still increase almost six-fold by 2050. Therefore, achieving sustainable development in Africa largely depends on the success of ensuring sustainable urban growth pattern.

Way forward for sustainable urbanisation

Green Urbanisation is one of strategy for achieving sustainable urbanisation in developing countries. Growing environmental damage and climatic change needs an immediate action throughout world. National Roadmap including Infrastructure development, provision of basic amenities along with environmental protection will help in realising objective of sustainable urban growth. Also is need to develop proper institutional and legal framework to this end. Rwanda is on the way of accomplishing the goal of green growth through sustainable urbanisation. Rwanda could serve as a model for sustainable Urbanisation in Africa.

The writer is a Kigali-based economist and consultant.


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