We can redevelop our cities without hurting small businesses

Editor,I wish to respond to the story ‘Huye closes down old city structures, eyes overhaul’ (The New Times, July 29).
Some of the houses that were to be locked down on July 31 in Huye District. The New Times/J.P. Bucyensenge.
Some of the houses that were to be locked down on July 31 in Huye District. The New Times/J.P. Bucyensenge.

Editor,

I wish to respond to the story ‘Huye closes down old city structures, eyes overhaul’ (The New Times, July 29).

This is a clear recipe for failure. If I make it short, the mayor is going to shut down dozens, if not hundreds, of businesses because the buildings they operate in simply don’t appeal to him.

First of all, according to this paper, the city council closed businesses three years ago for redevelopment in old Huye and only two buildings have been erected since then. What makes him feel that closing more will bring development?

Secondly, did he measure the economic loss for the city centre with all these businesses closing down? Where are people going to go when their shops are closed? Is there a report made by experts that clearly shows an urgent demand for development in the area? Why push people to invest in costly buildings when they clearly don’t have the means? What’s the real benefit for the district other than the image?

There’s a lot of unclear points that need to be clarified.

Finally, isn’t this another example of urban policy failure in our beloved Rwanda?

Clearing a whole area so harshly because the buildings are not “modern” shows a complete lack of knowledge in urbanisation and how cities are built.

Jean, Brussels, Belgium

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Achieving  the ambitious EDPRS II will mostly have to be driven by the private sector. Not only will Rwanda have to achieve a double digit growth, it will also have to create jobs for its young population.

Since we want the private sector to become the engine of our economy one would think that the entrepreneurs will be facilitated to invest in the country. Having already huge barriers through high transportation costs, unskilled labour etc., the private sector – mostly in rural or semi-urban areas – is already struggling a lot.

The ease of doing business in Rwanda unfortunately did not bring the results one would have thought of. This means that we will have to rely on our local investors to achieve local economic development in order to reduce poverty, create off-farm jobs, be self reliant and in the long term become a middle income country.

Is this really the way we shall achieve our ambitious goals by closing down businesses that are making profits, generating incomes for households, creating non-farm jobs and paying taxes?

One of the major problems for micro-businesses in our country is access to finance in order to invest further, expand businesses and improve services. Providing loans for refinancing and development should be a priority to local and central government (through credit schemes by banks) to enable local investors willing to invest in the country instead of shutting them down.

Having said this, the experiences made by closing the old commercial area “Icyarabu” as the article says did not boost Huye economy. One of the great successes of Rwanda is to change the course when the target we are aiming at cannot be achieved with the actions taken – “try and fail”.

It is high time to truly support the private sector.

Anne, Kigali, Rwanda

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