A World Bank-funded project meant to provide better roads, street lighting and drainage systems to Rwanda's six secondary cities is steadily enhancing urbanisation in Nyagatare city.
When The New Times toured the city on Tuesday, June 8, significant changes were noticeable compared to the last visit in 2018 when phase one - July 2016 to November 2018 - of the project was nearing its end.
During phase one, new developments in the city included up to 3.9 kilometers of asphalt roads constructed at the cost of Rwf3.1 billion as well as 2.2 kilometres of standalone drainage, costing Rwf537.8 million.
The immediate impact, according to residents, has been new buildings that are sprouting along the new roads and reduction of surface run-off water due to the standalone drainage.
The new roads, residents told The New Times, among other things, opened up new opportunities in terms of real estate development and business, even though growth has been relatively slow especially due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Commercial motorcyclists are especially happy about the new roads as this makes their work easier.
Cyprien Niyonambaza, 22, who has for the past two years worked as a commercial motorcycle in Nyagatare, said: "In general, the good roads have made life easier. I no longer have to move longer distances while avoiding the bad bumpy and dusty or muddy roads.
"We used to go around the town and take longer distances just to avoid bad roads but now it is better. I save time and money and my bike can last longer. That is development."
Improved drainage also helped improve the city's general cleanliness.
Residents, especially in improved areas, also said that during the rainy and flood periods, they now have access to safe walkable pathways and can reach their homes and other places - places of work, markets, health facilities, and schools, with ease.
All this is because of ongoing implementation in the city, and five others, of the Rwanda Urban Development Project (RUDP).
The project aims to provide an integrated package of support to address key challenges associated with Rwanda's urbanization: access to basic infrastructure to promote livability and Local Economic Development (LED); upgrading of unplanned areas to promote inclusive urbanization; building the capacity of District governments for better urban management; and supporting Districts to engage with the private sector and enable local economic development.
The WB injected $95 million while the government of Rwanda also contributed $5 million in the Rwanda Urban Development Project.
Shedding light on the project's phase two activities now being wrapped up (December 2018 to June 2021), Augustin Manirakiza, a Nyagatare District roads engineer, explained that the project has seen 14.2 kilometres of asphalt roads built at a tune of Rwf9.1 billion and 3.16 kilometres of standalone drainage at the cost of Rwf471.9 million.
Though University of Rwanda students in Nyagatare decried the insecurity around their hostels, especially at night, the city engineer noted that phase three of the project will soon see the areas around the university campus lined with asphalt road and street lights.
Esther Muhoza, a second year accounting student, said the dusty roads around the campus are not befitting a city of Nyagatare's status.
"Walking from the hostel to the main campus can be a nightmare," she said.
"I may have left campus when the roads are finished but I am sure those who will be here will be happy when roads are done, they will enjoy a better environment than I found it."
Girls at the campus, she said, are especially wary of thugs in the evening.
"We have had cases of thugs taking advantage of the darkness and stealing from students."
One of the city's new asphalt roads passes by the entrance of Nyagatare Hospital. On the other side of the road, near the Hospital gate, Geremie Habakurinda, a local businessman, was busy supervising construction works on his new building site.
Habakurinda already owns a commercial property on the same street and is expanding operations, thanks to the improved infrastructure.
His two-storeyed commercial building has a lodge and a hardware shop, and he is now building another building by the side to make room for a shopping centre.
"This road is an added advantage. This area is no longer dusty, or muddy during rainy weather. Vehicles don't get spoiled due to better roads."
Habakurinda said that land value has skyrocketed. While one would buy a 300 square metre plot at around Rwf2 to Rwf3 million, three years ago, "now, even at Rwf10 million I cannot sell."
David Mushabe, the Mayor of Nyagatare District, is a happy man, especially considering that his District - and Muhanga - were commended for having done a good job at planning and implementation of the ongoing project.
Mushabe said: "The new roads improved the city's outlook. Wherever we have a new road it also goes with electrification as all streets are lit and it has enabled residents to enhance the beautification of their areas. The roads also enhanced city development."
"Security also improved since all new roads are lit at night. All this is development. The new roads are helping Nyagatare's business perspective in a big sense. And the infrastructure development project won't end soon."
The Mayor explained that they plan to take new roads and electricity to other areas that are not yet developed so as to open them up for settlement and development in an effort to "make Nyagatare a better secondary city."
In the future, Mushabe envisages a green Nyagatare city that is also touristic and bustling with commercial activity, "with industries based on agriculture and animal husbandry."