Minister Gatete implores service sector to leverage secondary cities

Rwanda targets to be a middle income and high income country in 2035 and 2050, respectively, and secondary cities are expected to accelerate this process.

Infrastructure Minister Claver Gatete has said that all the six secondary cities in the country have basic infrastructure, enough to accommodate a large number of varied players in the service sector.

Minister Claver Gatete said this Tuesday while in Nyagatare District where he presided over the official reception of the first phase of Rwanda Urban Development Project, aimed at rolling out infrastructure in the secondary cities.

The first phase focused on basic infrastructure, mainly roads and drainage systems in the six districts and Agatare Cell in Nyarugenge District of City of Kigali.

Some 18.3 kilometres of asphalt road and 13.3 kilometres of standalone drainage systems were built in cities of districts of Nyagatare (Eastern Province), Musanze (Northern Province), Rubavu and Rusizi (Western Province) and, Muhanga and Huye in Southern Province.

"Different service providers should bring their services to these cities, since we have now brought the basic infrastructure, this will also help attract more businesses in these cities," he said.

Officials walking in the newly-constructed street in Nyagatare.

He said that government has put more effort to make these cities attractive to businesses, which will boost economic activity in these areas.

The flourishing economic activity will also benefit crop and livestock farmers, among other sectors that are most predominant in the countryside, the minister stated.

He said that developing these cities is up on the government’s priorities, adding that this is why they borrowed $95m (approximately Rwf84.6 billion) from World Bank to bolster infrastructure in secondary cities.

"All this effort is geared at uplifting our country's economy," he noted.

Gatete said government decided to put more effort in the development of the six cities following a report that was conducted by World Bank which suggested this as a main trigger towards economic development and urbanisation.

Rwanda targets to be a middle income and high income country in 2035 and 2050, respectively, and secondary cities are expected to accelerate this process.

The second phase of the project, which will focus on planned urban settlement, is expected to start in July this year.

"We even want to do better, because the first phase was our first experience, which actually showed us that it is achievable," he said.

Gatete explained that the most important thing was to work on masterplans of both six secondary cities and the capital city, Kigali.

He also explained that the Government is working on increasing affordable housing for small income families living in these cities.

A fund was established for this in Rwanda Development Bank (BRD), and he said the Ministry is still looking for more partners to boost it.

"We do not want these cities just to be for offices or expensive buildings, we also want them to have houses affordable enough for small income earners," he said.

The chairperson of Private Sector Federation in Eastern Province, Jean-Bosco Ndungutse said that the more investments grow in the secondary cities, the more jobs will be created, and investment which will directly impact the surrounding communities.

“Investments will of course be attracted by such basic infrastructure,” Ndungutse told The New Times, adding that the practice for local entrepreneurs is that as soon as businesses grow, they only look at relocating to Kigali for bigger market.