One of Kigali’s suburbs, Gahanga which is located about 20 kilometers from the city centre, is gradually developing into a unique city of the future.
Strategically located at one of the entrances of Kigali, Gahanga is well connected with the city centre as well as Bugesera International Airport, which is under construction.
Plans are in motion to turn the small trading centre into a modern business district that will, arguably, be the economic driver for the region. It is projected to be a hub for retail, commerce, sports and financial services.
As the Government undertakes preparation of several urban development plans, Gahanga, Kigali’s first planned regional centre, is positioned to be, among others, a Knowledge Hub with a high tech Business Park.
According to the available master plan for Kicukiro and Gasabo districts, key urban nodes were identified along the growth corridors besides the Kigali Central Business District at Nyarugenge. Gahanga is located in the southern part of Kicukiro District.
These growth nodes will be the key developments in the suburban areas requiring urban design strategies to manage their growth. Accordingly, Gahanga Regional Centre is one of the growth nodes with immense development potential. Its urban design will showcase strategies to create an attractive and unique suburban growth node with a distinct character and identity.
A stone throw away from the zone demarcated for setting up of the Expo, destination for large events such as expositions and trade shows, Ephraim Twahirwa, a construction entrepreneur, is hard at work supervising a new apartment building complex. He anticipates good returns in future.
Swayed by the area’s great prospects, Twahirwa on August 7 started building Igicumbi Estate, seven-storey flats that can host more than 130 families in a smaller land area.
“I am well familiar with this area’s master plan. My project was inspired by the government policy on housing where it is desired that many people settle on a small area so as to improve land use,” Twahirwa said, noting that the market will determine the pace at which he wraps up the project.
Upon reflection, Twahirwa is baffled by the fact that someone planned for Kigali to be located where it is today, instead of being at Gahanga.
“Gahanga’s future is big. Its landscape is splendid,” Twahirwa said, pointing to a vast vacant area – about 150 meters away from his plot – where the long awaited state-of-the-art Gahanga Olympic Stadium will be constructed. “From here, the new airport will not be far away.”
According to the master plan, Bugesera Airport – to the south of Kigali – and the high capacity urban road linking the City Centre to it, positions Gahanga as a strategic location with potential to become the gateway development at the entry to Kigali.
“I usually wonder why people in the past decided that Kigali should be where it is today, instead of here, in Gahanga,” Twahirwa said. “The city was supposed to be here, considering the good topography, among others.”
On the other side of the area where Rwanda’s first state of the art Olympic Stadium will be built, Sunday Times found world record-breaking cricket captain Eric Dusingizimana busy supervising works on the Rwanda Cricket Stadium which will be completed this year.
This architectural masterpiece stands out on a 4.5 hectare plot. Dusingizimana, who is the General Manager, is also convinced Gahanga is steadily turning into a city.
Dusingizimana said: “Our neighbours over there have 60 hectares to develop an international Expo facility,” he gestured.
The future meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) and Expo zone – with 138,000 square meters of event space – in Gahanga is envisioned to be a major attraction for businesses for hosting large events, among others. Area development plans indicate that large column free halls with latest digital technology will make the state of the art Expo in Gahanga the preferred venue for international events in the region.
“A new international airport is being constructed a few miles from here too. And there is so much more coming up in Gahanga. Gahanga will soon be a place for sports and leisure. The central market is going to be enlarged and modernized. This place is growing, and becoming more expensive,” Dusingizimana said.
Besides what he calls the Gahanga Regional Centre (Expo and Business Park), Eng. Fred Mugisha, Director of Urban Planning and Construction at the One Stop Center in the City of Kigali, says key proposed projects – to be implemented between 2017 and 2025 include phase one of affordable housing, the Gahanga Sport Hub and a Light Industrial Estate.
The cost of plots in the area, local folks told Sunday Times, is fast going up. A 300 square metre plot of land relatively far away from the main tarmac road is sold at Rwf5 million while one near the road goes for Rwf7million, locals said.
Speculation on land is, of course driven by demand. Apart from individual property developers, several companies including Amaco-Paints have established themselves in the area, occupying vast compounds.
Thomas Nturanyenabo, a taxi motor rider, said “no land owner is letting go of their land easily nowadays as they are aware of what is happening.”
Nturanyenabo said: “I think that at this rate, in the very near future this area will be far better, in terms of development, than posh areas such as Nyarutarama in Kigali.”
Inside Gahanga’s new huge Agakiliro market which was opened last year, Eugene Rutayisire, the owner of a hardware shop, observes that Gahanga has huge potential given its strategic location, and a big vision.
“Construction is on the rise here, everywhere. Business in the market right now is really not encouraging but I believe it will boom in the near future. I am patient.
There are several construction sites for housing projects and once these are completed and occupied it will be a flourishing city.”