By Daniel Sabiiti
With cities spawning innovations, reducing poverty and driving social change, planned urbanization was critical to ensuring sustainable development.
Rwanda has a plan of becoming urbanised at a 35 percent by the year 2018. Today the urbanisation process is below 20 percent and while some projects have kicked off, others have stalled as a result of resident’s dissatisfaction with expropriation plans.
Civil society organisations (CSO) have called on government to engage residents in the participation of decision making on urbanisation projects if the government is to attain its development goals
Research findings from CSO indicate that when residents are involved in urbanisation decision-making, the process and progress of implementation is faster.
The call comes after several urbanisation and formal settlement projects are coming up in Kigali and their success has pegged on the involvement of residents.
“Unlike in the past when government made all the decision without consulting residents, today we have found out that engaging residents is key and this has to be based on research of their needs” said Ann Kayiraba the Managing Director of Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development (RISD).
Kayiraba said that this approach has borne fruits in areas where civil society has been engaged in educating residents on the benefits of urbanisation, unlike the previous approach where residents were expropriated without consultation.
Kayiraba made the remarks during a consultative meeting held on November 22, 2016 at Hotel Villa Portofino, aimed at tackling urbanisation and the upgrading programs of informal settlements.
The stakeholders’ meeting comes after the City of Kigali (CoK) implementing a pilot project on the ‘upgrading of informal settlements’in Agatare Cell, Nyarugenge Sector in Nyarugenge District.
In this pilot project various stakeholders are involved, and these include, the civil society and the private sector. RISD as part of the LandNet Rwanda Chapter is in particular supporting the pilot project in the area of community participation.
Previous experience has showed that without consultation of residents the results can be disastrous in expropriation processes and at times create a population pressure on rural settlement, and delays in implementation of the projects.
For example, thousands of residents were expropriated and forced to shift from the Kiyovu slums, in the heart of Kigali city, but it has taken at least 14 years, for government to implement the planned commercial structures, with less than
However, the new citizen centred approach suggested by CSO has seen some fruits since last year when the city of Kigali started upgrading some of the settlements instead of evacuating them.
Residents of Agatare Cell community are a living testimony to the citizen-centred approach of urbanisation, where 70 percent of the settlements have been expropriated for upgrading and a road is already in place to improve their connectivity.
Potien Nkinzingabo, a resident of Agatare says that when they were approached by RISD, they were educated of their rights to land and benefits of the urbanisation project.
The doubts were had in the earlier experience were all gone, when we were told of our rights. Those who were expropriated consented with the valuations done and the one who disagreed appealed” he narrated.
“Now we have a road, we are connected to other communities and doing business with ease. We can dispose waste bins and collect water easily unlike in past, when there was no infrastructure” Nkinzingabo said.
Residents however say that, even with these benefits there is a problem of paying taxes for land titles at the same price, even when part of their land was used during the expropriation process. They also said that infrastructure development should be uniform especially drainage systems to avoid
Edward Kyazze, the Ministry of Infrastructure, Head of Urban Settlement Division said that engineers will work with the relevant authorities and civil society to promote the citizen centered approach.
“We have realised that this approach works and with the involvement of civil society we will be able to meet the EDPRS 2 targets, with a steady urbanisation growth at 3 percent per year,” Kyazze said.
Rwanda has taken progressive actions to address urbanization of which among the primary objectives of the National Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy -2(EDPRS 2) is to increase urbanization from 19% to 35% by 2020, so as to match rapid population growth with economic development and poverty reduction in urban areas.
Findings by the Rwanda Parliament and RISD indicate that today, most Rwandans understand and appreciate the benefits of urbanization, but there’s a challenge of upgrading many existing informal settlements that require upgrading should be focused on education of residents if the target of 35% urbanization is to be achieved.
As the informal upgrading expands and the development of the secondary cities, “it is RISD’s hope that the government of Rwanda strengthens even further community participation in deciding the upgrading priorities, for the success of the process, based on Agatare pilot experience” said Bishop Gasatura Nathan, the Chairperson of RISD Board of Directors.