Sustainable urbanization process transforms the quality of livelihoods and promotes skills development and decent employment opportunities in both urban and rural areas especially for youth and women.
The Government of Rwanda therefore has put due emphasis on the formulation of a National Urbanization Policy that reiterates the role of cities and towns in national development.
According to the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Infrastructure Christian Rwakunda, Rwandans are dedicated to manage country’s present and future urban and human settlement development for the economy to benefit from coordinated growth, and assuring a qualitative life for every citizen, resident and visitor.
“When we think about urbanization, we are thinking about the functionality and competitiveness of cities for regional and international outreach, about livability in our towns, the beauty of our villages, productive land and, foremost of all about our natural environment. All needs to co-exist in equilibrium, serving our population not forgetting the poor, while it is each of us who must devote to sustainability and protection of what our lives are based upon,” says Rwakunda.
Capacity building of policy makers and key players involved in the urbanization process has been carried out, with sustainable programmes piloted in selected intermediate cities together with programmes aimed at upgrading informal settlements.
A model integrated approach to promote an urban green economy and create urban jobs for youth and women has also been formulated in addition to development of Green building codes, innovative building techniques and affordable housing finance.
“Rwanda is one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa, with agriculture accounting for a third of the economy. Urbanization, if not looking at only consumption, but commercial and industrial production, domestic growth through job creation and protection of natural and agricultural resources, offers opportunities for a sustained and intensified growth and a raised livelihood to the growing population” says the Permanent Secretary.
Kigali has gained prominence for its attention to the “clean and green”; secure urban landscape, its emerging urban skyline, and its protection of environmental assets such as steep slopes and wetlands.
Key demonstrations and pilot projects have managed to influence and shape the sustainable urbanism agenda with limited available resources.
With the forecast population growth, demand for accompanying economic growth, climate change and environmental stresses, and long term opportunities for Rwanda to reinforce its leadership of urbanisation in sub Saharan Africa, Rwanda wants to exert renewed energy towards the urban agenda.
Thus, the Government of Rwanda has come up with Rwanda National Urbanization Policy with the main objectives of enhancing institutional capacities to manage urban development in a coordinated manner at all levels of governance, integrate urban planning and management in order to achieve resource-efficient and compact growth.
The other policy objectives involve supporting quality of life and equity in human settlement as well as facilitating employment and off-farm productivity for local subsistence and regional competitiveness.
Urban areas are no more simple open spaces for settlements and services, they now greatly shape and influence social relations at every level, determining advances and impediments in modes of production, culture and ethics.
This state of current cities has to rejuvenate our planning perspectives and guide the formulation of city goals, and reassert the value of relating short-term practical actions with long-term awareness.
While the many benefits of orgarnised and efficient urban areas are well understood, there is need to recognize that uncontrolled urbanization brings risks of profound social instability, risks to critical infrastructure, potential services scarcity and crisis and the potential for devastating spread of disease.
To mitigate the negative environmental and social costs resulting from uncontrolled rapid urban development with its long-lasting impacts, a recognition of existing links between urban people, economic opportunities and environment need to be diagnosed for a better, safe and sustainable human settlement free of urban poverty and the hazards posed by climate change and natural disasters.
“Rwanda’s population growth and density on a small area with a difficult to develop terrain and subsistence agriculture as the prevalent means of economic activity pose physical, social and economic challenges to sustainable development; the challenges point us at the areas to care for when adapting to change - coordination, densification, conviviality and economic growth - the pillars of this policy,” says Rwakunda.
A matter of facts, there is in turn an urgent need for multi-level institutional coordination, good governance and effective urban management; supported with appropriate tools for optimum decision making.
The coordination to achieve good collaboration and complementarity in- between a variety of actors and stake holders is key to achieving integrated planning and implementation following an agreed goal.
Urban planning documents must integrate economic, environment and physical planning tasks with each other, and shall be aligned to the budget through strategic plan and action plan.
An urban planning document further establishes a shared vision, and the strategy of how to achieve the vision. This involves prioritising of investment locations and projects with the intention to achieve the required servicing and enable quality of life according to guidelines.
The establishment of a shared vision and prioritisation of implementation tasks must be done in a participatory manner, involving the public and private sectors, and civil society. During the participatory process, the views of a variety of peer groups shall be discussed assessed and taken into account.
This implies integration of views of all levels of local community such as low income people in the plan making process so to effectively impact their lives, and ensure equity and the legitimacy of planning initiatives.
Communication is also part of facilitating urban life, by providing indications on the supply of urban service locations and ways to facilitate navigation in cities in turn supports local economic development.
So there is need for public communication through the use of information and communication technologies that should be promoted for facilitation of people’s participation in urban development, and knowledge transfer through data sharing.
Urban development also reflects the effective use of land, strategic investment phasing based upon development principals. Also performance based guidelines for urban planning and informed decision making shall support the development of efficiently service urban neighborhoods.
Densification constitutes a strategy to optimize land use. It implies achieving urban compactness, well-structured functionality, connectivity within urban areas and in-between urban areas with low ecological foot print.
The economic and social health of urban areas depends a lot on the performance of the transport system.
Transport represents a basic service and enhances spatial relation between locations which provide diversified activities, economic vitality, and social sound conditions.
Life in the city depends on transport to facilitate movements of people from their places of residence to where they must go pursue all activities of life, such as work, education, business, shopping and leisure activities, as well as movements of goods.
There is need of mass mobility in urban areas and approaches to sustainably meet urban transport demands, to reduce economic costs of traffic congestion and environmental degradation, such as air pollution and excessive energy consumption.
Public transport in support of adequate mass mobility makes better use of urban space, reduces dependence on polluting modes of transport, and remains an affordable means of transport for urban residents.
The measures being pursued include promoting an integrated transport system, which give priority to public transport and non-motorized means of transport, provide adequate urban transport infrastructures to ease the mobility, to ensure adequate coverage of public transport route network and ensure the use of green alternative transport technologies in transportation responding to the challenging terrain.
Physical planning and development aims at improving the quality and mitigation of disaster risk. Social inclusion and cultural preservation shall be promoted in urban development schemes.
Urbanization and urban development should take place in a way that supports interaction and friendliness in urban areas as means of better quality of life. This implies the promotion of socially, environmentally, culturally and economically integrated urban areas.
Sustainable city and neighborhood design is an essential component in urban development, which impacts on people. Neighborhood design is also crucial in the context of challenges faced in regard to population growth and limited resources, as this requires changes in the design of urban neighborhood and housing typologies and of mind-setting of professionals and users.
The development of urban areas shall be guided in a way to ensure that the wellbeing of its community is priotized.
There shall be measures reducing the risks of people using road networks in the city being killed or seriously injured, including pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, their passengers and passengers of on-road public transport.
Also measures shall focus on flood risk reduction. Flood probability and potential damage is increasing due to climate change and due to continued investment in areas at risk of flooding. There shall be flood risk reduction by reducing potential damage in flood-prone areas through adapted land use planning, zoning and introducing water retention areas and upstream and upstream land use adaptations.
Also measures shall be put in place to enhance the ecological quality of rivers and floodplains and controlling building activities and permissible technologies.
The planning, design and management of urban areas shall promote a sense of belonging, enhance cultural preservation, and increase inclusion.
Social inclusion safeguards that each urban resident has a stake in the development of the location. It shall ensure that those at risk of poverty and social inclusion gain the opportunities and resources necessary to participate in economic, social and cultural life, and enjoy quality standards of living and wellbeing.
Urban management shall be guided by green economic criteria and market responsiveness plus enhancing urban areas to become centers of innovation and entrepreneurship and sources of socio-economic services and opportunities.
In Rwandan context, economic growth is also one of the main anticipated outcomes of a well-coordinated urbanization that will benefit all residents, and provide the basis of socio-economic opportunities for Rwanda to become a middle income country.
Green growth is economic growth that is compatible with protecting the environment by reducing carbon and other unwanted emissions, improving the rational use of natural resources, mitigating the effects of climate change, securing access to clean energy and water and simultaneously targeting poverty reduction, job creation and social inclusion.