WHEN BONIFACE NZITABAKUZE was asked to leave his house in Sovu Cell and look for another place to relocate his family, he first thought his rights were being violated.
That was about two years ago as authorities in Huye District, Southern Province, moved to clear a zone earmarked for industrial development.
A year earlier, government had adopted plans to set up four provincial industrial parks in Bugesera, Huye, Nyabihu and Rusizi districts in a move that was aimed at spurring local development and boosting the manufacturing sector.
Nzitabakuze was among the more than 300 households that were instructed to relocate to pave way for the construction of small, medium and large industries in Sovu, an area outside Huye town that was identified to host the park.
“At first, I thought we were going to sink into poverty,” he says. “I was worried that we would be paid little money that wouldn’t cover for our relocation and help us start a new life in an unknown place.”
But, today, Nzitabakuze is a happy man after all his property was valued and due compensation paid.
On his 30 square metre plot of land, where a small three-room mud brick house was erected, Nzitabakuze was paid Rwf3 million to relocate. He used part of the money to buy a five-room house and a large plot of land an adjacent the hill where he has since settled his family.
“The house is bigger and better. Its doors and windows are made with metals and its floor cemented,” he says as he collects the blackened reeds that made the ceiling of his former family house.
Hope for better life
In total, 316 households that lived in Sovu, Huye Sector, were paid about Rwf600 million to relocate and pave way for the development of the area.
The majority of the households have so far relocated and the place is defined by dilapidated homes and debris from houses that were destroyed as the residents moved to other places.
Only a dozen families, whose properties still have cases of legal irregularities, are yet to get their money, according to officials.
Fifty-five hectares of land are set to be developed to host the industries, according to Bertin Mukiza, an official in charge of cooperatives in Huye District and one of the officials following up on the implementation of the special industrial park project.
Huye mayor Eugene Kayiranga Muzuka siad the zone is expected to be a hub of industries and a stimulus of development once completed.
The mayor said authorities are expecting thousands of jobs to be created through investment in industrial development to the benefit of the local community.
The plants, once established, will also be a valuable market for local products and will allow for knowledge exchange between the industrialists and the local population, Muzuka adds.
“We expect this investment to bring about significant positive change in the lives of our population,” he says.
Nzitabakuze shares similar views.
“I believe investing in industrial development will give a chance to our children to access jobs,” the 55-year-old man says.
Mayor Muzuka says apart from the expropriation process that has been completed, a master plan of the industrial area was also done.
The next step will be the establishment of basic infrastructures including roads, water and electricity before industries are given green light to start operating, according to the official.
“We want to make the park a model. I believe in the next two years, we will have industries operating from the site,” he says.
Muzuka says the district is working hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Rwanda Development Board on the project, including on mobilising funds and wooing potential investors.
But there have been worries and concerns over the feasibility of the project after two major plants that were already established in the area shut down a few years ago.
The Rwanda Agribusiness Industry (Rabi Ltd), a food processing plant, closed shop over accumulated unpaid bills by the Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS) which had contracted it to supply food to correctional facilities.
Mayor maintains faith
Another factory, the New Rucep, a leather tanning factory that was owned by Indian investors, is said to have relocated its operations to the neighbouring Burundi. A coffee washing station is the only operating factory in the area although it also works on a small scale.
But Mayor Muzuka is optimistic on the project and strongly believes it will be a success.
He says Rabi Ltd is set to resume its operations after the Cabinet adopted a resolution allowing RCS to be a shareholder in the factory.
“That some factories have [temporarily] closed shop shouldn’t be a point of concern,” Muzuka insists. “We are in talks with investors and all is going well.”
According to the mayor, one local investor is set to establish a juice plant at the site and construction activities are set to start.
The New Forests Company (NFC), a company that manufactures value-added wood products for the construction industry, electricity transmission poles and charcoal, has also expressed interest in setting up a plant in the Huye industrial park, the official says.
“We are in talks with other investors and some of them are ready to invest here. They are just waiting for the development of the area to be complete,” he says.
“If we are investing lots of efforts in this project it is because we believe it will impact the lives of so many people. Apart from creating jobs for our people, it will also pave way for knowledge transfer, it will be a market for local produce and will contribute to lowering the prices of some commodities as they will be manufactured here,” Mayor Muzuka says.