City of Kigali authorities envisage a more developed and ‘smart’ city that is able to offer basic services to residents and visitors, as well as promote sustainable development and social inclusion. According to the city master plan unveiled last year, green growth, job creation, as well as provision of affordable basic social services are some of the key ingredients required to take the city to the next level in its development process.
However, the unprecedented growth Kigali has seen over the past few years has attracted big numbers of rural folks who want to partake in the good services the city provides. This could turn out to be the acid test for city authorities, a new report by the statistics body indicates.
The City of Kigali census report by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (Nisr) indicates that rural-urban migration, for instance, is stretching the city’s ability to provide urban dwellers basic services. This is especially when one considers that the city faces many topographic hurdles with limited developable land, meaning that the increasing numbers of rural-urban migrants greatly affecting the City of Kigali’s authorities to offer better services to residents and visitors despite the good plans in place. So, will the City of Kigali’s development blueprint, which seeks to turn Kigali into a smart city, deliver it to the city ‘promised’ land?
According to Nisr city census statistics, there is growing pressure on basic utilities like electricity, water and sanitation services, waste disposal facilities, Internet and other public infrastructure.
The report, released last week, indicates that the city population has reached 1,132,686 people, and is expected to reach more than 2.5 million people by 2017. This could mean that the city authorities need to do an overdrive to cater for this ever-growing population.
The demand for electricity which currently stands at 67.4 per cent has steadily increased rising leaving more than 67.4 per cent residents with no option but to use charcoal posing a threat to environment.
Also, over 26.8 per cent of Kigali residents still use wood fuel for cooking, while those using candles are about 12.1 per cent.
The unemployment rate was 9.4 per cent over the past few years compared to the national average of 3.4 per cent of the working-age population, according to Prosper Mutijima, the Nisr census co-ordinator.
Mutijima said the city authorities need to promote sustainable investment as per new data if they are to provide quality services.
Although 88.8 per cent of the private households in the city have access to clean water, 11.2 per cent dwellers still use unsafe water.
“City authorities will also have to work doubly hard to provide more affordable housing because 65.7 per cent of residents still live in bad houses, while 20.6 per cent others are staying in condemned ones,” Mutijima said.
He said planned urban housing accounts for only 9.3 per cent, although at the national level owners represent 80 per cent of the private households with tenants representing the highest proportion (52.9 per cent) in Kigali City.
“This poses a serious challenge to those investing in real estate to do more to help save the situation. There is no way the city will offer excellent services and create jobs for its citizens without looking at what statistics are saying,” Mutijima added.
The city promotes Internet use in all spheres of life, but only 28.1 per cent households have Internet connection, according to the report.
Statistics vs city plans
Yusuf Murangwa, Nisr director-general, said the data shows a disparity between policies and statistics.
He urged city authorities to align policy formulation and investments with the available statistics to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
“We spent over $3 million to put this research together.
“Therefore, we hope that city authorities will use the data to plan and budget properly for the city. This could be in terms of resource allocation, service provision, as well as which investments to prioritise,” Murangwa said.
“Statistics help identify the missing gaps, thus ensuring proper planning and investments.”
City authorities’ take
Fidèle Ndayisaba, the City of Kigali mayor, said they will continue working closely with the statistics body to ensure the city master plan realises its objectives.
“It’s important to continue working together as stakeholders to achieve our development goals,” he said.
He, however, noted that such information should always be given timely rather than waiting for five or 10 years to provide data that is essential in planning.
“If this is done, we will be able to plan and implement projects from an informed position, giving us better chances of delivering on these targets,” Ndayisaba said.
Liliane Mupende, the City of Kigali’s One Stop Centre and urban planning director general, said the city has instituted many reforms over the past three years that are helping them cope with the growing demand for services.
Mupende said the city authorities are working round the clock to be able to offer all the necessary social and economic services to its residents by 2017. They are also looking to create at least 2.3 million jobs by 2018.
“The city is also giving private sector players incentives like land and tax waivers to people willing to invest in areas such as affordable housing and recreational parks,” she said.
According to the city census statistics, it could be hard for the city’s three-phased development blueprint to deliver the desired results and as per plan if new realities are not factored in the plan.
Residents speak out
Gilbert Ngarambe, a city resident, says his hopes of buying a refrigerator or a water heater are diminishing “because of high power tariffs”. Ngarambe says: “The cost of electricity is high so I decide to forego these ‘luxuries’.
Grace Muneza, a restaurant owner in downtown Kigali, says she spends almost a quarter of her profits on electricity and water bills, making life hard.
“It’s not about access to electricity or water, but how much money you pay for using the utilities compared to what you make from the business. I spend almost all my profits on paying utility bills. This is a big challenge for us and has made the city expensive for us.”
According to experts, for Kigali to achieve its goals and offer better services, residents should be able to pay for basic social needs without feeling the burden.