EDPRS: MININFRA strives for better urbanisation

BY GODFREY NTAGUNGIRA Since independence, urban planning and development were not given much attention. Thus taking into account the rapid and uncontrolled development of the sector, and its potential contribution towards the socio-economic development of the country, the Rwandan government made a decision to formulate an urban housing policy which is geared towards achieving its development goals.


Since independence, urban planning and development were not given much attention. Thus taking into account the rapid and uncontrolled development of the sector, and its potential contribution towards the socio-economic development of the country, the Rwandan government made a decision to formulate an urban housing policy which is geared towards achieving its development goals.

The process of urbanization is a driving force of economic development where it can yield tangible results as long as it is controlled, planned and directed in line with accepted standards and norms.

The policy is to be implemented within the framework of sustainable development while meeting the needs of the people and contributing to their social and economic development with due regard to environmental sustainability.

Its implementation depends on the increase of tax revenue from the communities, the transfer of government resources and the capacity of cities to conceive and implement development strategies.

It is important to emphasize on resource mobilization in order to produce the necessary planning tools and ensure their utilization.

Objective of Sector

Main objective

The main objective of the “Urban Housing Development Policy” is to contribute towards improving the conditions of living of the urban population through controlled and harmonized development of urban areas.


Urbanization comprises the establishment of procedures and tools for urban planning (Master Plans, Urban Development Plans) zoning and re-zoning, and the upgrading of unplanned settlements with the provision of adequate social infrastructure facilities.

The urbanization is defined within the context of a Presidential Decree through a proposal from the Council of Districts and recommendations of the Minister in charge of town planning.

Planned, controlled and well oriented urbanization must be considered as an opportunity and a driving factor for the development. It is accompanied by the development of the commercial and service sectors thus contributing to the GDP and enhancing the standard of living of the people.

According to the physical and economic attributes of urban areas, each city may be developed to cater for a particular vocation (tourist, industrial, cultural, etc.) which will be taken into account in the architectural design.


The population of Rwanda has more than quintupled from 1,595,500 people in 1934 to 9,344,399 in 2007, a period of less than 70 years, which testifies to a great demographic vitality. Cities are very recent in Rwanda where the rate of urbanization currently stands as 18.7% representing 1,747,403 of the population.

According to the results of the National Census (1978 and 1991), the urban population increased at an average rate of 5.5% per annum during the above period. Currently, the growth rate varies around 9% per annum.

The urban demographic mass is concentrated in the City of Kigali which shelters approximately 800.000 inhabitants today.

The urban growth in Rwanda is an inevitable and advantageous phenomenon as the cities will make possible the integrated development of rural and urban population. The cities constitute centres for job creation which must be opened to all the social categories.

This employment results from the provision of services which develop rapidly in urban area including construction of infrastructure, houses and others.

The growth of cities will make possible for the reduction of demographic pressure on arable land and optimize agricultural production.

Even though urbanization is required for the economic development of Rwanda, the phenomenon must be controlled and planned in order to prevent negative effects.

Essentially 80% of Kigali has unplanned settlements which make it difficult to control these areas. This uncontrolled and spontaneous urbanization leads to proliferation and degradation of the zones close to the cities centre, dispersion of sub-urban settlements and for this reason the extension and construction of infrastructure becomes very expensive.


The National Urban Housing Policy includes all public interventions within the framework of the urbanisation process of Rwanda in order to constitute the urban structures at national and provincial level, to improve urban management, control development, and the spatial expansion of cities, particularly urban centres using effective planning tools.

The development and adoption of the National Urban Housing Policy aims at guiding government objectives and priorities in line with the objectives as laid down particularly in the Vision 2020, the EDPRS, and the National Investment Strategy.

According to the targets of Vision2020, about 30% of the population will live in planned cities with access to basic infrastructure necessary to ensure sustainable development.

The implementation of this policy will support the process, and coordinate all the activities to ensure its monitoring and evaluation.

Urban development related to the process of urbanization is restricted neither to physical installations nor to the construction of houses. It depends largely on economic, political, social and institutional factors.

Empowerment of Urban Local Bodies

Urban development requires having at the local level, adapted tools for planning and regulation, to reinforce capacities at central and decentralized level, and mobilize the public and private sector.

Furthermore it requires human and financial resources to develop and improve cities and other centres for the improvement the living conditions of the entire population, particularly the poorest.

This policy proposes the establishment of a regulatory body, an Urban Development Authority to manage the development of urban areas and urban housing in particular.

This body will regulate the issues concerned with allocation of land, its development, standards associated with housing and construction, private and public estate development among other function.

The sector is to contribute towards the realization of the objective of economic development and poverty reduction.

This situation has had the following consequences:
-The increase in the load factor in the unplanned areas;
-Increase in the extent of unplanned areas.

Due to the growing demand for housing in urban areas and the rapid development of slums (Utujagari), planning and organized settlement is becoming a complicated issue.

Moreover, it appears that urbanization of principal urban centres in Rwanda resulted more from accumulation of the population often of rural origin, around the structured city and not from within, thus generating perimeters of sub-urbanized zones where the density reaches 700 people/km².

This spontaneous growth of urban centre has led to the breakdown of social functions and spatial segregation, with land wastage that blocks any attempts for sustainable development.

Crooked urban structures

Kigali City contributed to an increase in the urban population (from 236,000 people in 1991 to 800,000 people in 2007; an average annual rate of 9%).

This resulted in a concentration of the urban population in the capital estimated at 44% of the urban population of Rwanda.

This situation confirms the phenomenon of urban “monocephalism” and highlights the imbalance between Kigali and other urban centres.

Secondary centres still remain unable to offer a solid base for employment and services to their population because of the insufficiency of public and private investments.

Demographic imbalance between the capital and other urban centres is accompanied by an imbalance in the economic activity and the services sector which are concentrated mainly in Kigali (more than 70% of industrial activity; about 50% of the wholesale businesses and 70% of the banking services, etc).

Strategies of the Sector 

The following strategies are adopted for harmonized and sustained urbanization of the country:

A. Promotion of economic and social development of secondary urban centres to receive the rural population, which normally converge mainly towards Kigali;

B. The allocation of affordable housing plots, which are priced within the reach of the targeted population;
C. Upgrading and provision of services to informal settlements;

D. Systematic registration of all the properties to ensure land security and land tenure in the informal settlements;
E. Sensitization, training, and strengthening of institutional capacities of the various players concerned and involved in urban planning and management, particularly local communities.

Policy Recommendations
Support City Planning

The urbanization policy is aiming at the establishment of city planning within the scope of national regional planning and takes into account the harmonious balance which must exist between Kigali city and other secondary cities, as well as the economic requirements of development of urban centres.

It will particularly allow the formulation of master plans for urban development and other planning tools and management adapted to the immediate requirements of the districts.

Data gathering

The policy will aim at gathering basic urban data, where the data so collected will be centralized and input into a web-based database created under MININFRA and accessible to the various players; police headquarters, local communities, engineering and design departments and others. 

Legal and Institutional Impediments

Development of tools and adapted mechanisms for urban land management

This program will aim at the improvement and the rationalization of urban land management by:
-the most precise possible evaluation of land requirements;
-the exhaustive inventory of public land reserves;
-the systematic survey and the monitoring of allocated plots which have not been developed within the time period and their subsequent re-allocation;
-The strict observation of ground rent and servicing of plots while penalizing assignees who default.

The legal and institution impediments will also look at the:
1. Elaboration and adoption of rules and regulations concerning the resettlement of expropriated households;
2. Elaboration and adoption of the Organic Law determining the use and management of land in urban areas;
3. Revision of urban development standards (sites, plots sizes, setting out …).

This program will also aim at ensuring security of land tenure by the systematic registration of the plots allocated in urban areas in relation to the Organic Law No 08/2005 of July, 14, 2005 determining the use and management of land in Rwanda and the Law on the code of urban planning and building in Rwanda.

It will also act as a framework for development and implementation of simple tools and mechanisms for urban management, adapted to the needs for urban areas.

Promotion of “Grouped Settlements”
Local communities will be encouraged to come together to form grouped settlements so as to make it possible to interact among primary zones with connection between neighborhoods.

Secondary development within these grouped settlements will be assigned to private or semi-private players within the sector.
During their conception, the operations carried out will be based on the following principles:
• Simplified development of the sites, adapted to the ability by the beneficiary households to contribute financially;
• Social cross-section of households;
• Integration of land reserves for the provision and installation of services ;
• Integration and inclusion of people already present on the site;
• Programming of specific and integrated operations for vulnerable groups (widows, women and children, heads of single households, handicapped people and other vulnerable groups);
• As far as possible, to use the labour based works;
• To increase the possibility of access to housing through long-term credit and research into affordable building materials to enable access for the majority of the population.

Formalizing informal settlements

As the need grew greater, the informal settlements has to be improved, The rapid growth of urban population together with the inability of the land administration systems to provide sufficient plots to meet demands has resulted in the growth of informal settlements in urban and peri-urban areas.

The process of upgrading and provision of services for urban areas will be carried out upon taking into account the income levels of households as well as infrastructure and services to be established.

Wherever land and housing occur, the two properties/assets together have considerable economic value which, if officially known, can be beneficial to both the individual owners and the state.

The upgrading is not synonymous with razing an entire neighborhood; instead, it means rational redevelopment in order to improve the living conditions of the population.

Nevertheless, if the option to rebuild an entire zone is taken into consideration, the people so relocated must be assisted to obtain alternative accommodation and facilities. The upgrading of the old site will have to take into account the income levels of neighboring households. 

Sanitation should be given careful consideration and be adapted to existing site conditions including storm water drainage, and where possible the constructions of bulk sanitation systems are recommended.

The allotment plans will take particular consideration of existing buildings (houses) and their integration into single grouped plots in order to limit compensation and demolition. Pilot schemes will be formulated and tested in order to determine the best way forward. The successful schemes will be replicated while taking into consideration lessons learnt from the pilot operations.

Building control regulations

The Building Control Regulations is a nationally recognized document which serves as a standard reference for the regulation of building design and construction and shall be used in collaboration with the Standard Specifications for Building Works. In addition, all planning and designs of buildings in Rwanda

The major benefits to be gained in applying this document are the harmonization of professional practice in building construction in Rwanda and curtailment of informal developments so as to ensure well-planned, well-maintained, safe, cost effective and decent building developments and housing settlements throughout the country.

Building regulations defines terms and specifications used in building, they also include definition of different materials used in construction, and different stages of construction, administrative procedures involved in building control regulations.

It also entails the design standards that are required before construction. Construction itself shall respect proper norms and standards under this particular document of building control regulation. Even the occupants of buildings shall observe regulation standard that range from inspection, safety and hygiene as defined in building control regulations book.

The primary purpose of these regulations is not for law enforcement in building and construction industry rather a design to make our urban and rural areas a better and dignified habitable place for mankind and in this case for Rwandans.

for more information about Rwanda Building Control Regulations on MININFRA website: www.mininfra.gov.rw

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