10 January 2019

Rwanda: Private Sector Pushes for More Consultations on City Master Plans

Members of the private sector have urged the Government to ensure that citizens and relevant private entrepreneurs are more involved in the process to design and implement city master plans across the country.

They delivered the message yesterday to members of the senatorial Standing Committee on Economic Development and Finance as the latter met them in Kigali to collect views on how land is being used across the country to ascertain whether various master plans are respected.

In November last year, the senators embarked on a countrywide tour to assess, among other issues, how land for farming has been separated from land for settlement, how master plans for different dwelling areas have been implemented as well as how expropriation processes to pave way for public interest projects have been conducted over the years.

In a session with members of the private sector yesterday, it was clear that implementation of different city master plans remains a challenge, with most private entrepreneurs at the meeting signalling that there was disconnect between the designed master plans and the reality on the ground.

In some instances, master plans have been designed without considering residents' capacities to build the needed homes, the entrepreneurs said.

Other places have construction master plans that don't match needed economic activities in the designated areas, others lack specific detailed local master plans, while in other places master plans have made it impossible for land owners to exploit their property and at the same time they weren't expropriated to get compensation.

In light of the challenges, the entrepreneurs urged both the central government and cities' management across the country to ensure that residents are extensively consulted in processes to design city master plans and also be given a chance to transit from their normal way of living to the new way of life suggested by the master plans.

Francis Gasana, the Chairperson of the Private Sector Federation (PSF) in Kigali City's Gasabo District and an engineer, said that it's a pity some people are stuck with land they can't use just because of master plans that were never implemented.

"For example, some people's land isn't being developed because the master plan says it's part of a public road. No expropriation compensation on the land is given for the owner to relocate and no tax exoneration; which makes people stuck with unproductive land," he said.

He also gave another example of unprepared industrial zones designated in the master plans which have become an issue as people who own the land in areas designated as industrial parks are stuck with it as it is not yet expropriated while industrialists at the same time can't buy it because the government is yet to provide the area with the needed infrastructure.

Senator Chrysologue Karangwa, who has been touring the country as part of the committee's assessment, said there is a sense of disconnect between designers of master plans and citizens who are affected.

Senator Karangwa gives his comment during the meeting with private sector representative yesterday (Sam Ngendahimana)

"There is lack of consultations between designers of master plans and members of the private sector who implement them. There is also lack of awareness among the citizenry about master plans," he said.

The senator advised that the private sector needs to be extensively consulted right from the beginning of designing master plans throughout the plans' implementation.

"Rwanda has to be developed based on our own realities. We have to base on our specific situation which is different from other countries," he said, essentially encouraging consultations with local residents and discouraging any copy-paste approaches to designing local master plans.

Senator Consolée Uwimana, another member of the committee, equally urged members of the private sector to be more involved in consultations to design and implement habitat master plans in different neighbourhoods.

"You need to own these plans," she told participants at the meeting after showing them different cities that are exponentially growing on the country's map.

It is expected that the senators' report on the situation of land use and implementation of habitat master plans across the country will be tabled before the Senate early this year.

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