Secondary cities need to harness their potential - Singaporean expert

A Singaporean expert has advised Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) to strengthen the potential of the six secondary cities across the country through improved dissemination of information to citizens, promoting new thinking and highlighting the next step after implementation of the master plan.
Prof. Shyaka. Courtesy.
Prof. Shyaka. Courtesy.

A Singaporean expert has advised Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) to strengthen the potential of the six secondary cities across the country through improved dissemination of information to citizens, promoting new thinking and highlighting the next step after implementation of the master plan.

Devadas Krishnadas, the Chief Executive Officer of Future Moves Group, a consultancy firm, called on secondary cities to focus on a strong export initiative to follow in Kigali’s successful footsteps.

 

Rwanda’s six secondary cities include Musanze in Northern Province, Rubavu and Rusizi in Western Province, Muhanga and Huye in Southern Province and Nyagatare in Eastern Province.

 

“It is very important for the secondary cities to be sources of export revenue growth for Rwanda. To complement domestic market package strategy, you also need to focus on a strong export initiative. They have the opportunities of focusing on the niche sectors such as tourism, agro-processing to be able to sell to the labour market in EAC,” said Devadas.

 

He was early this week speaking at a meeting that brought together districts leaders, officials from Rwanda Governance Board and other stakeholders in the country’s urban development.

Speaking about Singapore’s experience on the contribution of secondary cities to the central government, Devadas said Singapore was a small country of only 700km² and one of its potentials of contribution to the central government was to try to look at secondary cities as additional engines of economic growth. ‘‘The same could be done here,’’ he said.

Devadas said Rwanda has ambitions and is keen to make sure that good governance is the foundation for the development of its future.

Future Moves Group did a report for RGB last year titled “Development through Good Governance, Foresighting Service Delivery in Secondary Cities” in which he made several recommendations, looking at good governance practices, beyond Vision 2020 to Vision 2050.

He contends that Rwanda is very similar to Singapore and it is important to try to learn lessons learned from Singapore over the last 50 years.

The report used Singapore as the orientation of several recommendations as well as engagement in this week’s meeting.

As the report highlights, one of the many aspects of Singapore’s early development that seemed to defy accepted conventions and norms was public housing.

The report states that the Singaporean government managed to provide quality public housing through careful urban planning, policy commitment by the administration and difficult legislations such as reclaiming prime land.

The Singaporean Housing and Development Board was set up in 1960 and is said to have completed its first 100,000 flats within a decade.

By 1976, 51 per cent of the then Singaporean population lived in public housing and by 2000, 86 per cent of the population lived in public housing which homeownership rate was 93 per cent.

In the 1960s, Singapore had a GDP per capita of less than US$320 and was a third-world nation with poor infrastructure, resources and capital.

Its real GDP continued to grow at an average of 6.7% per annum from 2010 to 2015. In 2015, Singapore’s GDP per capita was about US$56,000 and among the top five in the world.

Attracting foreign investors

The expert recommends secondary cities in Rwanda to work towards implementing the preconditions cited in the report by committing political and financial resources to attain the set good governance targets and embark on niche sector strategy developments.

Prof. Anastase Shyaka, RGB Chief Executive Officer, said developing the secondary cities was one of the objectives of EDPRS II that also targets the country’s development.

“It is in that framework that RGB committed to help different actors to plan services of secondary cities by assessing strengths and weaknesses most especially by promoting new ideas to speed up this development,” he noted.

“It is what we did with Singapore’s experts as the example of a country that sped their development which was not based on high financial capacity but on advanced thinking,” said Shyaka.

According to the evaluation of the secondary cities, Nyagatare, Rubavu, Muhanga and Rusizi should focus on resources of potential growth engines and export-oriented strategies said to be relatively high.

Huye should exploit its great potential to fix human capacity, while Musanze should take advantage of its touristic potential.

Shyaka added that the most important lesson leant from the report was to focus on thespecifics of each district.

He pointed out that the report showed that there was still a lot to be done for the secondary cities to emulate Kigali.

The wish is that the citizens in these cities have good welfare, infrastructures, and the GDP that follows Kigali in terms of income.

“If Kigali has Rwf1.5 million for example, the secondary cities should have between Rwf400,000 and Rwf600,000 and be the real poles of growth. RGB commits to increase efforts in advancement of views on secondary cities’ development,” he noted.

Shyaka pointed out that the most important was that the governance of the cities must be key catalysts to fast-tracking their development.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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