President Paul Kagame has said that his government decided to put urbanization plan among top priorities in its journey of rebirth from a tragic history of Genocide that befell the country in 1994.
The President made the remarks yesterday on Tuesday, while addressing the first Integration Summit at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, United States.
The three-day event is organised by the UN’s Economic and Social Council and will discuss the principle of sustainable urbanisation and come up with policies to create better cities in the world beyond 2015.
“For Rwanda, the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi destroyed the country’s social fabric. However, 20 years later, urbanisation has been made part and parcel of the rebuilding and unity and reconciliation efforts,” Kagame said.
Rwandan government has also established a comprehensive legal framework for the inclusive registration and management of land, and built a national database for property records and land use maps in an effort to make the most efficient possible use of land.
President Kagame stressed that the best response to the risks and dangers associated with urbanisation is innovation and cooperation rather than alarm.
“Sometimes social problems become more noticeable when concentrated in urban areas, but that does not necessarily make them more difficult to deal with. In some cases, urban density may make them easier to solve.
Take the case of basic services, which will have to be provided more extensively in cities in the coming years.”
Kagame challenged leaders to prioritise urbanisation startegies as a path to development, adding that it’s among the best tools of reducing poverty in ways the handouts cannot.
“The choice is not whether to urbanise or not. The issue is whether we manage it in such a way that we obtain, together with our citizens, the maximum benefits possible,” Kagame said.
The President added that: “Our task as leaders is to maximise the benefits by promoting orderly migration, investing in basic services, and adopting policies that support affordable housing and transport.”
President Kagame called for cooperation between various stakeholders so as to build more environmentally-friendly and affordable cities for people to live in.
“If we work together to stay focused on these policy objectives, Africa can become a middle-income continent within our children’s lifetimes,” he told the delegates.
In his speech, however, Kagame warned against growth without planned urbanisation, saying “It is a recipe for soaring housing inequality.”
President Kagame pointed out that like other African countries, Rwanda faces many challenges and opportunities of rapid urbanisation, including the urgent need to upgrade informal settlements and avoid such development in the future.
The City of Kigali was in 2008 granted the Habitat Scroll of Honour Award for its innovations, making it the first City in Africa to win the prestigious UN’s award that recorgnises countries, governments, organisations and individuals who have made great contributions to the development of housing.
The UN has recently taken to paying more attention to urbanisation now that it estimates that by 2050, about 70 per cent of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas, and over 60 per cent of the land projected to become urban by 2030 is yet to be built.
UN’s Economic and Social Council has declared that there is no doubt that urbanisation, if done right, can deliver a sustainable future and has since 2012 invited Governments to further promote sustainable cities.