New land use masterplan is in line with Vision 2050 – official

A view of Kibirigi residential area in Muhanga town. Under the new masterplan, Muhanga is one of the satellite cities proposed to minimize the primacy of Kigali. / Photo: Sam Ngendahimana.

On July 29, the Cabinet approved a new National Land Use and Development Master Plan, a document that will guide how land in the country is used for at least the next 30 years, up to 2050.

The document, according to officials, comes to boost the optimal use of land to spur economic transformation in the country.


Alexis Rutagengwa, head of land use planning at the Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority, told The New Times that sustaining the country’s development relies heavily on efficient use of land resources, “which calls for a robust land use planning and management at national, sectoral and district level.”


Underlying and emerging land use challenges to be addressed going forward, he said, include population growth, settlement issues, and limited agriculture land.


In ensuring that achievements registered so far are sustained, he noted, the revised national land use development master plan for 2020-2050 introduces pertinent “new policy and strategic measures.”


Urbanization will continue to change rapidly with new growth poles projected to emerge besides the already planned six secondary cities and Kigali City.

The “urbanization hierarchy has been established” with estimated urban population and required land size for each city: Kigali city as capital, three satellite cities, eight secondary cities, 16 districts towns and 73 “urban settlements, or emerging centres.”

He defined “rurban settlements” as new centres that will have characteristics of rural and urban.

They are small centres playing the role of linking rural and urban centres, he said.

A new layer of satellite cities (Bugesera, Rwamagana, and Muhanga) is proposed to minimize the primacy of Kigali and support the development of growth poles or other potential towns.

Musanze, Rubavu, Rusizi, Nyagatare, and Huye will continue to develop as secondary cities with populations between 300,000 to 650,000 people.

Additional three secondary cities (Karongi, Kayonza, and Kirehe) were identified to maximize and support the periphery or nearby international borders.

16 district towns were identified with smaller populations ranging between 150,000 to 300,000 people.

The 16 towns are Gisagara, Nyanza, Ruhango, Kamonyi, Nyamagabe, Nyaruguru, Ngoma, Gatsibo, Rulindo, Gakenke, Burera, Gicumbi, Rutsiro, Nyabihu, Ngororero, Nyamasheke.

A layer of “rurban settlements” (73 nodes with 24,500 population each) was introduced as linkage nodes between urban and rural areas. “These are trading centres emerging and have potential to grow. All together they will be limited to a total of 1.8 million people on an area of 307 square kilometres.”

The size of the urban sites and their corresponding population were limited to avoid urban sprawl, Rutagengwa explained.

Rutagengwa said: “It means these urban areas will have a size and boundary to limit urban sprawl and enforce consolidation and agglomeration of cities. That’s why we set up sizes of cities. Anyone living outside these boundaries will be considered like someone living in a restricted zone.”


According to the new master plan, existing informal settlements will be upgraded and densification principles will be applied for existing cities and centers before using or developing new lands.

To achieve the desired consolidation and agglomeration, the new master plan recommends “development of housing by exploiting vertical construction to the fullest because low rise is a damage to agriculture and food sustainable.”

“This is a good call for investing in multi-family real estate development.”

More land should go to agriculture, Rutagengwa said.

Rural settlements

As per the new master plan, the 2050 projected population will be clustered into 3,000 settlement sites. An average of 1-2 settlement sites per one cell is required.

The Imidugudu system will be restructured into organized clusters, and this process will be undertaken continuously throughout the next 30 years.

“We need at least one rural settlement per every cell,” Rutagengwa noted.

The new master plan decreases the size of rural residences from 615 to 300 square meters and the dwelling models of 4x1 (four families in one bloc) and 8x1 to be promoted on 300 square meters.

It also avoids any new housing and utility development out of settlement boundaries.

Rutagengwa clarified that this means that water and electricity and other social amenities “should only be established within a settlement site and people will join those amenities, not vice versa.”


An agriculture yield model was developed. For the agriculture sector to feed the 22.1 million human population by 2050, the land demand scenarios were looked at. In one scenario, Rutagengwa noted, if the current yield situation continues, land demand will be 103,000 square kilometres, which is four times Rwanda’s surface area.

But if the best global yield is developed, 15 times of the current yield, land demand will be 14,500 square kilometers.

“This scenario is the only realistic one. If we use technology in agriculture and increase yield 15 times, the land demand will be 14, 500 km2 which is nearly the existing agricultural land which we must protect. This informs the needed protection of available agricultural land.”

The revised master plan’s recommendation is to protect agriculture lands of 12,433 km² (47.2% of the country’s surface) against any other use to ensure food sustainability. Land per farmer ratio should be around 1.5 hectares per worker. Scattered homesteads will be eliminated gradually to consolidate or agglomerate in few settlement sites.

Rutagengwa said: “The transformation of the rural settlement system will be key to unlock development of commercial agriculture.”

Manufacturing, Industrial development and mining

The growth rate of industrial parks will be an average of 7% annually, reaching 29km² by 2035 and 88km² by 2050. As noted, “spatial distribution and optimal sizes of industrial parks were determined” and only 13 Industrial parks for 2050 are needed. Every province is strategically represented.

“The past practice of planning industrial parks in every district through local urban development master plans will be prohibited.”

Small-scale mining exploitation will progressively transform into a regional mineral processing hub. Designation of mining sites will be done after undertaking a cost-benefit analysis of the sites, in which mining activities are proposed versus current or alternative land uses.


“The new master plans introduces a business mindset in forestry management,” Rutagengwa explained. This ensures that all existing 3,873km² of forest plantations will be protected, and professionally and financially managed.

It also seeks to ensure that all the bare slope above 55% totaling 1,554km² of high hills are planted with trees to become part of the forest cover. “If economically maintained and managed, cash crops like tea can be developed.”

The new master plan allows shrub land (436km²) and wooded savannah (1,040km²) to be allocated for agriculture, “except their protected parts.”

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