Kigali’s rapid urbanisation and City Hall’s challenges

SINCE THEIR emergence nearly 3000 B.C, cities have always been the natural centre of everything that matters: the temples, the market, the court, the university, name it.  
Oscar Kimanuka
Oscar Kimanuka

SINCE THEIR emergence nearly 3000 B.C, cities have always been the natural centre of everything that matters: the temples, the market, the court, the university, name it.  

And for anyone with an iota of ambition, there is little choice.  Shakespeare once left Stratford to go to London, after all, not the reverse. It is said that the city is what happens after sin sets in. 

For Africa, it has been argued that while mega cities like Lagos and Kinshasa have captured the world’s attention through their size and impressive rates of growth—both will overtake Cairo to become the two largest cities in Africa within the next few years. 

We hope that Kigali will then be the Geneva of Africa.

Kigali, our capital, is not by any comparison a mega city but is one of the fastest growing cities in the region, driving dynamism and progressive change for the country. 

Kigali is becoming a conference destination and will soon become the next phase of exponential growth in East Africa. 

We have mega cities like Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Mumbai and others with more than 8 million inhabitants. Kigali is said to have just over a million inhabitants going by the recent census. 

What this means is that for every ten Rwandans, one is a resident of Kigali.  This state of affairs has a lot of ramifications for the policy makers at City Hall. 

A visitor to Kigali should be prepared to be overwhelmed not so much by the number of skyscrapers and thousands of vehicles plying the routes and thousands of pedestrians on the move, but by the paucity of facilities at the disposal of the man on the street.

The greatest problem of Kigali is not its people, for this is in fact her richest resource, but how to make it work.  

There is an increasing paucity of parking space, owing to an increase in the number of motor vehicles and cyclists, plying our roads. We have limited recreational grounds, theatres and a few other key facilities for a modern city. 

The good news is that hotels and restaurants are on the increase and Kigali’s skyline is rapidly changing. We are now able to host international conferences, something we could not dream of accomplishing five or so years ago! 

Kigali could indeed become what an academic from Oxford said a few years ago—the poor man’s Dubai!

A friend from overseas on a visit recently took time to see what our city has to offer. It is not the shapeless turmoil, the chocking air, crushing slams and the alluded to skyscrapers that he encountered. 

His deepest impressions were the people, so tenacious, gallant, ingenious and hospitable. 

My advice to the city authorities is that they should very quickly carry out a study, or call it a survey, if they have not, of the needs of the city with the view to putting in place facilities that will ease the anxieties of the now growing population and ensure safety of our people and that of the growing number of visitors. 

So far they appear to have started. From the airport to KBC building along the main highway, there are “No Parking” sign posts.  

At least for a start, the congestion along this busy road is going to be taken care of. But the motorists need alternatives. 

Where do they park their cars? The parking wardens, where they exist, are equally a menace. 

Admittedly, the rise in population of Kigali has not matched the corresponding increase in facilities. There is no better time for the city hall to resolve these problems than today, for as the old saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine.

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