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Urbanization and the transformation of Kigali

Urbanization and the transformation of Kigali

A tour of Kigali will undoubtedly arouse your dreams of owning properties in upscale neighborhoods. From lavish mansions to luxury villas and ultra-modern apartment buildings, real estate in the city’s affluent suburbs creates a sight to behold.

Like any other commercial hub in Africa and elsewhere, Kigali has seen an influx of young people from rural areas in search of what they presume to be brighter job prospects. Over time, the rapid pace of urbanization led to the emergence of informal settlements.

Then came the highly pro-development 2013- 2020 Kigali City master plan. As the city’s facelift took effect, high-end housing developments gained momentum. This went hand in hand with affordable housing projects and model villages constructed for the benefit of relatively low income earners and vulnerable city dwellers respectively, especially those formerly living in high risk areas.

As the transformation of Kigali picked up steam, the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) II unveiled the plan to upgrade six other urban areas into secondary cities. The secondary cities, namely Musanze, Rubavu, Rusizi, Muhanga, Huye and Nyagatare, are now positioned to reduce the pressure of urbanization, previously exerted on the shoulders of the capital.

With the new development comes a dual internal migration pattern. As expected, the three Kigali districts of Gasabo, Nyarugenge and Kicukiro are attracting a big number of people relocating from rural to urban areas. At the same time, many new home owners, formerly residing in Kigali, are moving to Bugesera and Kamonyi districts found in the eastern and southern provinces respectively. Rwamagana, another Eastern Province district with close proximity to Kigali, is also a recipient of a significant number of those who are drifting away from Kigali.

The eastern and southern exodus is encouraged by seamless connectivity in terms of infrastructure and technology. Low density settlements are forming a rapidly expanding radius around Kigali, breaking administrative boundaries.

The low density sprawl in the greater Kigali area is recording a much faster growth in comparison to the six secondary cities, with Musanze and Rubavu being the only exceptions. Exponential growth in the Musanze - Rubavu urban corridor is driven by the natural population increase as opposed to rural - urban migration.

The latest population and housing census, conducted in 2012, showed that urbanization stood at 16.5%, a significant increase from 4.6% recorded in 1978. Currently, the pace of urbanization is unprecedented. Although Kigali is still doing the heavy lifting, six other emerging cities are extending a helping hand.

The author is currently visiting all 30 districts of Rwanda. His tour of Gasabo is sponsored by The Click Creations, The Peakspot Lodge, Ikaze Rwanda Tours & Travel, Elimo Real Estate Ltd and Imari Hose Ltd.

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