13 January 2013

Rwanda: Architects and Engineers' Role in Urbanization Crucial

Urbanization of Kigali city is growing fast with a significant increase of its population that could cause problems in the future if nothing is done, jeopardizing the vision to make the capital a center of urban excellence on the continent.

It is projected that the city will host a population of between 3.8 and 5 million by 2040, compared to 1.3 million today, or an increase of more than 30% in less than 30 years. According to officials, this would cause considerable pressure on the 730 km2 city. The developable land is 244 km2 (33.2%) of which a half is for transportation, infrastructure, open space and reserve while the remaining half is dedicated as a residential area. So far, 17% has been built up.

To make this sustainable, household size should have been reduced to 3.8 by 2040, down from the current 4.7.

If the 'urban excellence' vision is to be achieved, architects and engineers have an important roleto play, according to Alphonse Nizeyimana, the vice mayor in charge of finance and economic development in Kigali City. "Policy makers conceive plans, but you are the ones to realize their implementation. That's why your support is highly needed," Nizeyimana told architects and engineers last Friday in a first consultative meeting that will from now on be held on monthly basis to look at how to make further progress in urbanization.

Officials of the city as well as architects and civil engineers will be exchanging ideas on the best way of implementing the master plan of the capital that will serve as guidance for the development of the city until 2040. The master plan of the whole city, as well as a specific one for Nyarugenge, have been finalized for some time, while specific plans for Kicukiro and Gasabo have been recently finished and will be made public by February.

The master plan indicates that Nyarugenge district will be mainly turned into the 'financial hub,' Gasabo is to become the 'administrative centre' full of offices for various entities while Kicukiro will mainly host education institutions to make it the 'knowledge hub.' Due to limited resources, it is planned that the implementation will first be done in the areas that are already occupied until 2025 and from then expand step by step to other areas of the city until 2040.

"We are really limited and that is why we should go step by step," Nizeyimana explained. "One person can't decide to set up a house in remote areas and expects us to provide him with all the basic infrastructure."

Housing affordability

The professionals in construction sector will not only help the city in the implementation of the master plan, but also in creating more off-farm jobs through their design works. The city plan targets to achieve 2.3 million off-farm jobs by 2040, which would be a five-fold increase compared to today.

Another major issue to be taken into account is housing affordability. There has been a lot of criticism in recent years that only very rich people can afford the housing cost in the city, and that less fortunate citizens are left out. A recent study by the Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) in collaboration with Kigali city revealed that there is a need of more than 340,000 affordable decent houses by 2022.

The architects were therefore urged to advise their clients so that they can avoid unnecessary expenses in their house planning. Kigali mayor Fidel Ndayisaba noted that they are collaborating with the ministry of infrastructure and RHA in order to find lasting solutions for affordable housing. "Affordability of housing is really an issue and we want to have a clear policy on it. So there should be intervention of the government," he said.

It is expected that the implementation of the master plan will be checking all unnecessary expenses in order to get cheaper housing.

Apart from such consultations with architects and engineers, officials say that they are going to step up public review of major projects in order to achieve the intended center of excellence on the continent.

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