The development of cities in Rwanda is very recent, and the rate of urbanization stands at about 18%. Although, this rate is among the lowest in the world, the annual growth rate of the urban population of 4.5% far exceeds the worldwide average of 1.8%. Almost half of the urban dwellers are concentrated in the City of Kigali, with about one million inhabitants.
This monocephalic (sometimes called “megacity”) situation highlights the imbalance between urban centers, towns and rural settlements within Rwanda. Challenges caused by rapid and unbalanced urbanization combined with scarcity of land are: the proliferation of unplanned urban growth, insufficient and unjustly distributed or inadequate housing and services for many residents, social instability, environmental degradation, and unsustainable, unhealthy cities. In parallel to these growing challenges and limited resources, Rwanda has become a sub Saharan centre of urban leadership in the last decade.
After independence and until 2004, urban planning did not receive much attention – a fact that resulted in a rapid rise of unplanned settlements. Since 2004, Rwandan leadership has recognized the importance of urban planning in Rwanda, as demonstrated by its commitment to the extensive urban planning portfolio for Kigali, and across the country (including national land use plan, district plans, and plans for special projects such as the new airport, lake fronts, and tourism zones).
Kigali has gained notoriety for its attention to the “clean and green”; secure urban landscape, its emerging urban skyline, and its protection of environmental assets such as steep slopes and wetlands. Key demonstrations and pilot projects have managed to influence and shape the sustainable urbanism agenda with limited available resources.
With the forecast population growth, demand for accompanying economic growth, climate change and environmental stresses, and long term opportunities for Rwanda to reinforce its leadership of urbanisation in sub Saharan Africa, Rwanda wants to exert renewed energy towards the urban agenda.
Thus, the Government of Rwanda has established a new Urban and Rural Settlement Sector to focus concerted and coordinated attention to this crucial problem; and hence this Urbanization and Rural Settlement Sector Plan. The newly created sector joins the two lead Ministries, Ministry of Local Government and Ministry of Infrastructure. The two with joint force will in line with the decentralization strategy focus on the management of urban and settlement development and growth.
The mission statement, in coherence with the long term socio-economic development goals of the country reads: Rwanda’s human settlements and urbanization are sustainably managed and promoted, supporting economic development and benefiting all strata of population.
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