Opinion: Is Kigali Becoming Africa’s Model City? 

In quite simple words, a model city is a city that ticks all the right boxes: Education? Check.

Housing? Check.

Food? Good governance? Security? Check, check and check!

A model city sets a (high) standard for other cities to imitate. With this in mind, let’s talk about Kigali. Can the bubbly East-African city be termed a model city and can other cities learn a thing or two by looking at the blueprint Kigali has laid down?

Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, is a developing city located in the East of Africa. Kigali is at the centre of Rwanda, making it the heartbeat of its economy as well as its main destination for culture, tourism and entertainment.

Infamously remembered for the 1994 genocide that claimed tens of thousands of lives, the country as a whole has recognised its shortcomings and has learnt from the costly mistakes that plunged Rwanda into a state of chaos back then.

Since that dark period, Rwanda has dusted herself up through the collective effort of the government and the governed, taking giant strides to move past the events of 1994.

The government’s focus has been on (re)building the economy. The driving tools for this have been production and exportation of green tea, foreign aids and tourism.

Tea export has boosted Rwanda’s economy by a large margin. The fields of tea gardens are famously located in the highland regions of Rwanda. The main industries in Kigali produce beverages, agricultural products, textiles, cigarettes and furniture.

Rwanda exports products such as coffee, tea, tin ore and leather to the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Kenya, United States of America and Singapore.

Paul Kagame, the current president of Rwanda, has a vision to make Rwanda ‘the Singapore of Africa’ in the nearest future.

Image: Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president.

Women’s participation in the political arena of Rwanda has been nothing short of impressive. In the 2013 parliamentary elections, women had a 64% success percentage, winning 51 out of 80 seats. Rwanda currently boasts the highest percentile of women in government in Africa.

Over 97% of children in Rwanda are enrolled in a primary school, the highest rate across Africa (that is 5% more than Egypt and a whopping 36% more than Nigeria).

This emphasizes Rwanda’s focus on youth which is a more-than-wise idea as the country’s life expectancy is 55. Free education has been a focus for Paul Kagame. This would greatly encourage the enrolment of children into basic schools. 

About 40% of Rwandan youths are still unemployed though, which means attention needs to be paid to the labour market as well. 75% of the labour force engage in agriculture, with 55.5% of Rwanda’s population living on less than $1.90 per day.

The Rwandan government has made affordable housing a priority. The Rwanda Housing Authority is at work with a view to providing more economical housing units for the people. Accommodation is relatively expensive in Kigali as it is the commercial hub of the country. A three-bedroom apartment may cost as much as 1200 USD compared to 250 USD for a similar apartment outside the capital.

Kigali – Rwanda!

The city of Kigali boasts pleasant attractions and striking structures. Beautiful places in Kigali that will appeal to sightseers include:

a. The Kigali Genocide Memorial
b. Mt. Kigali
c. Inema Art Center
d. Nyamata Church
e. Kimironko Market
f. 1000 Hills Distillery

g. Niyo Art Gallery

h. Ntarama Church

Kigali has opened its doors to foreign investments. The Kigali Investors Forum, a joint initiative between the city of Kigali and the Private Sector Federation, has promoted investment opportunities and better communication between the city of Kigali and the business sector.

The city has also made financial provisions to assist small businesses.
Affordable and accessible healthcare plans are provided to the people of Kigali by the government.

Primary healthcare that caters for the basic needs of the people have been put in place for the people’s benefit without them having to pay through their noses.

Rwanda is one of the few places in the world where mountain gorillas can still be found. Preservation of the wildlife for tourism has generated a stream of revenue for the Rwandan government. As limited as the resources in the country may seem, a well-planned and hands-on-deck approach has seen the country rise from the bottom.

A conscious effort is being made by the government to clean up the streets of Kigali. The government has imposed bans on non-biodegradable materials like plastic bags and other materials that do not decompose easily.

To discourage the people from using or selling such products, a punishment of up to a year jail term was put in place as well as a fine of between 10,000 to 100,000 RF. Environmental initiatives were set up to educate the residents of Rwanda on the benefits of cleanliness and good hygiene. The last Saturday of every month is set aside for general sanitation known in Rwanda as ‘Umuganda’. This effort by the government had made Kigali the cleanest state capital in the whole of Africa.

An insight into the budding state of Rwanda would be incomplete without touching the impact the sport of football has had on Kigali and Rwanda as a whole.

It has served to unite a divided nation of people, bringing harmony and peace to the country. Football also helped to improve morale in the wake of the 1994 crisis. Kigali is home to professional football clubs like AS Kigali, AS Muhanga, Esperance FC and Espoir FC.

These impressive factors have seen the stocks of Rwanda rise rapidly over the years. The country’s model plan is one other developing countries should look to follow.

That said, Rwanda has a long way to go still. Good work has been done in the education sector as well as agriculture and exportation.

Sights now should be set on reducing the percentage of citizens living below the poverty line as well as creating gainful employment for the youths.

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