Residents in Rwanda’s six secondary cities say their lives are being changed, for the better, by an ongoing $95 million World Bank-funded project to provide roads, street lighting and drainage systems.
The project also involves upgrading an unplanned settlement in Agatare area of Kigali’s Nyarugenge District.
The impact was revealed during the ongoing week-long media tour in the six cities and Agatare village, identified as a pilot to be developed as centres of growth and investment.
The six cities are Muhanga, Huye, Rusizi, Rubavu, Musanze, and Nyagatare.
In Muhanga town, the project’s impact, as Sunday Times observed, include a new and flourishing Muhanga Industrial Park [Agakiriro craft centre] that generates jobs and revenues to the District, reportedly doubled land prices and improved living conditions.
Assoumpta Mujawayezu, a resident and farmer, said: “Our area is quickly opening up to more development activities and our lives are getting better. The roads to the market are not as dusty or muddy as they used to be. It is a cleaner place”
Enhanced connectivity within the six cities, improved drainage systems, creation of more off-farm jobs, and enhanced living conditions for people are some benefits seen on the ground in each city.
At Kabgayi Hospital, Dr. Philippe Nteziryayo, the Director General, explained that before the dirt road leading to the hospital was upgraded, “the situation was unbearable” to staffers and patients alike.
He said: “Previously, ambulances found it difficult to get here; the road was bumpy, muddy and very dusty depending on the season. This did not rule out chances of unwanted infections, which is not the case now.”
A few kilometers away, inside the new and busy Muhanga Industrial Park where a newly upgraded asphalt road passes, Mathias Ngezahayo, a carpenter, said: “We have larger and safer space to work. We have more clients thanks to a better road.”
According to George Munyaneza, the Coordinator of Rwanda Urban Development Project (RUDP) at the Ministry of Infrastructure, the first phase of the $95 million project began in July 2016 and is now at completion stage.
The project’s second phase is scheduled to start early next year and end in June 2021.
Munyaneza said key priorities for supporting Rwanda’s urban transition include “providing basic infrastructure through strategic identification, selection and implementation of investments.”
Others are promoting inclusive cities through effective approaches to unplanned settlement upgrading; developing the technical capacity of districts to adequately manage, operate and maintain basic infrastructure; and supporting secondary cities to create the enabling environment for local economic development.
There are potential health benefits in Muhanga, Huye, Rusizi and Rubavu Districts like reduction of flooding and diseases through improvements in urban drainage systems.
In Huye town, road upgrades of nearly six kilometres in two sectors – Tumba and Ngoma are almost complete. The previously blocked Tumba area is now connected with good roads. Residents said there are no more cases of flooding due to lack of drainage channels.
Ange Sebutege, the Mayor of Huye District said that phase one activities have, among others, helped improve transport as most roads were impassable in the rainy season.
“More than 240 local workers got employed in construction works industry, with the biggest percentage being women,” he said.
Issa Kazungu, a taximoto operator in the Tumba area told The New Times that he used to charge Rwf200 per ride during the rainy season when roads were muddy.
Now he charges Rwf100, he said, but life is better because he moves easily and has more clients.
“Houses in the area that were not rented in the past are now occupied because of the new roads,” Kazungu said, pointing to occupied rentals in the background.
In Rusizi where phase one of RUDP involved construction of 4.6 kilometres of asphalt roads and rehabilitation of more than 450 metres of drainages, everything was complete by March.
Besides employment opportunities, the projects’ impacts, according to locals, include a cleaner environment, increased land plot prices, and investors being attracted by the beautification of the area in general.
Napoleon Ntawuharuwe, Director of the district’s One Stop centre, said the value of plots has hiked. Plots of 600 square metres are in the range of Rwf 15 millionand 20 million yet they used to be about Rwf 5 to 10 million .
“What is more pleasing now, however, is that land owners are increasingly taking advantage of the improved connectivity and developing their land instead of selling or moving to Kigali for better opportunities,” he added.
Rusizi and Rubavu towns both share some characteristics of being on the common border with the DR Congo where business booms and the USA dollar is in abundance.
The construction of nearly 4Km of tamarc roads is at 95% complete, according to officials. Apart from the more than 200 jobs created, the project’s first phase enhanced urbanization of the busy city, created new business activities, and investors are reportedly flocking in.
“By investors we don’t only imply the very big ones as small investors also now have more opportunities such as in cross-border trade and such as in opening up new restaurants along the very busy border,” said Oscar Gasuku, the director of the one stop centre in Rubavu.
Christian Majabo, a trader along one of the newly rehabilitated roads, said operating on a cleaner street now brings in more clients and he is looking to expand operations.
The government prioritised the development of secondary cities as poles of growth and centres of non-agricultural economic activities.