About 35 per cent of the population is expected live in urban areas by 2020 from about 17 per cent presently under Rwanda’s new urbanisation policy. The national policy unveiled adopted in 2015 is one of the initiatives that seeks to encourage balanced and sustainable development across the country to help reduce rural-urban migration and create jobs in the provinces. To achieve this, the government identified six towns across the country to be developed as satellite cities under the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II). These are Rubavu, Musanze, Huye, Rusizi, Nyagatare, and Muhanga.
However, the strategy is experiencing huge challenges that have affected its implementation, according to a recent meeting of local leaders and technocrats to review progress of the national urbanisation policy. The situation prompted the Local Government State Minister Vincent Munyeshyaka to urged local leaders to be at the forefront of implementing the urbanisation policy. In a meeting organised by the Ministry of Infrastructure in collaboration with the City of Kigali, Munyeshyaka said enforcing of the national urbanisation policy will help ensure guided urban development, including industrial development, ease access to access to infrastructure and basic services, as well as create jobs for dwellers to improve their quality of life.
The meeting also aimed at ensuring local leaders understood the potential of implementing sustainable green city development policies and strategies.
Speaking at the function, Munyeshyaka said proper planning is essential as it will enhance the social wellbeing of satellite city dwellers. He added that the budget for the development of secondary cities has increased from 20 per cent in 2000 to 60 per cent this financial year.
What is holding back devt of secondary cities?
Rwanda’s urban population currently stands at around 17.3 per cent of the national population, and almost half of it is concentrated in Kigali, the capital city, with about 1.1 million inhabitants, according to the Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey 4 (EICV 4) released in 2015.
However, despite the low urbanisation rate, Rwanda’s 4.5 per cent annual growth rate of the urban population far exceeds the global average of 1.8 per cent and that of Africa (3.2 per cent). This has created structural and infrastructural challenges for the country and City of Kigali, in particular, as the growing number of city dwellers exerts enormous pressure on facilities. There are also no jobs especially for unskilled youth from rural areas.
According to Parfait Busabizwa, the city vice-mayor in charge of economic development, the development of secondary cities will be instrumental in addressing most of these challenges as “it will create new opportunities and ease pressure on Kigali.”
He said the satellite cities will help absorb the growing urban population and foster development besides reducing the existing and envisaged socio-economic pull factors.
The vice-mayor said the expected development of social amenities and facilities, including hospitals and education institutions, will create job opportunities and markets for industries, service providers, and farmers.
“The secondary cities will attract investors in all sectors, which will create jobs and help transform people’s lives, thanks to increased incomes,” he said.
Experts say the policy is crucial to manage urbanisation and will help avoid unplanned settlement in cities besides ensuring sustainable use of resources and promotion of environmental conservation.
Already, $100 million (about Rwf84.2 billon) has been allocated to the six secondary cities for road construction, according to the Rwanda Housing Authority.
There are other budgetary allocations for other sectors targeting cross cutting activities in these cities.
According to Augustin Kampayana, the Rwanda Housing Authority head of human settlement, planning and development, lack of funding is one of the main challenges in the implementation of the urbanisation policy and development of satellite cities in particular.
Lack of coordination while putting up projects in satellite cities and low financial capacity of citizens to participate in the income-generating activities is also hindering the development of the secondary cities, he added.
Pascal Nyamulinda, the City of Kigali mayor, said the huge sums of money required to compensate residents affected by developments in secondary cities is also hindering implementation of the policy.
Nyamulinda called for establishment of ‘land banks’ to address the challenge, arguing that this would enable government to lease the land to investors at affordable rates going forward.
Steven Rwamurangwa, the Gasabo District mayor, called for involvement of stakeholders in all the processes in developing the cities, saying this will hasten implementation and promote ownership by residents in secondary cities.
He also urged banks to reduce interest rates on loans for development projects in the cities. “High interest rates are still a big challenge which results into failure by some borrowers to repay the loans. This in turn discourages developers in the cities to invest, say in affordable housing projects,” he said.
He encouraged rural districts to partner with the City of Kigali as well as set up income generating initiatives to create jobs and help raise funds for them instead of depending on grants from the central government.
According to Rwamurangwa, 87 per cent of the revenues at districts comes from taxes, a situation he termed as “spoon-feeding” and called for it to be put to an end.
“Districts, particularly those in secondary cities, should not wait for the government to give them but need to find avenues to raise resources to fund the development of their home cities. Therefore, creating activities that could generate income from districts is the only way that the cities could generate their own funds,” he said.
Though local governments, including provinces and satellite cities can mobilise development funds by issuing municipal bonds, none of them has done so despite an enabling law that was published over two years ago
Aimee Muzoora, the Director General, Ministry of Infrastructure, said the ministry is studying master plans of the secondary cities and source for funding of construction projects in secondary cities.
“We are partnering with education, Electricity Utility Company Limited and health sector to set up basic facilities to support development of the satellite cities,” he said last week.
He added that policies related to the development of cities are going to be reviewed in next six months to improve them and ease implementation.