City of Kigali: Rwanda’s epitome of resilience, prosperity

Kigali's skyline has changed a lot over the past two decades.

The glamour of Kigali city is so inviting to the eye, endearing to the heart and comfortable to the residents and visitors. The charming shadows and lights beneath the trees, yes it is a green city, where the rankly carpet-like grasses besides the roads are, give a natural exuberance and add to the charm. The pavements, made of interlocking blocks, are sheltered by cliffed honeycombs, articulately designed to create small topographies of their own—their own character, inviting and pleasant to the eye. A water fountain here and another long stretch of green, here and there are a common phenomenon. The streets are dustless, with clean—very clean sidewalks. It is part of the character of Kigali City.

This is a city that has evolved over the years to become an icon of Rwanda’s development and its people’s resolve to build a country that had been left in ruins following the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. 

Prior to 1994, Kigaliwas a prefecture (called Prefecture of Kigali), led by a Prefet and comprised of Communes until 2001 when it become the City of Kigali.

At that time, it had a smaller size than what it is today. In fact the size has more than doubled. In 1994 the city was seated on 349sqkm compared to today’s 730sqkm with revised subdivisions which are now districts—three viable districts.

1484050409Monique Mukaruliza mayor of the City of Kigali
Monique Mukaruliza, Mayor of the City of Kigali.

The districts are viable in the sense that they are cable of running their own recurrent budget by 100 percent with no subsidies from the central government which only intervenes to support development budgets. Before that, the divisions depended on the central government to pay salaries and other recurrent expenditures.

The districts are also increasingly financing their development budgets with some central government support.

Since liberation, the city has not only changed in area and population size, but also the governance structure that has changed from prefecture to an autonomous decentralized entity. So we have a capital city which is autonomous financially and also administratively. Today, the city is governed by a council that makes regulations to govern the city but in respect with national laws and policies.

There is a city executive committee that makes decisions on daily basis as a opposed to the previous system when all decisions were made by one person, called Prefet.


The city has tremendously improved the services rendered in terms of quality and accessibility by the residents. 


The number of schools has increased from 50 in 1994 to 184 primary schools. There has been a big increase with private initiatives that have brought in international schools in the city from the only two international schools Ecole Belge and former Ecol Française in Rugunga. Today there are more private and international schools with better infrastructure such as Green Hills, La Colombière, Riviera High School among others. The number of public schools has also increased, especially since 2003 when the President, His Excellency Paul Kagame, pledged that each child has a right to nine years of free education. Since then, the quality of class rooms and quality of programmes have improved. Today there are some schools that do offer Cambridge programmes and standards in Kigali.

In terms of institutions of higher learning, there are now up to 11 institutions— that is universities, colleges and institutes. Interestingly, most of them are private initiatives. Out of the 11 we have now, nine are private initiatives.

1484050554future vision
A future vision of a residential area in Kigali.

Before, the City of Kigali had only branches of government institutions—the faculty of law, one branch of Busogo Institute of Agriculture and Livestock and the Public Finance Institute in Mburabuturo that was producing a small number of staff for the Ministry of Finance—less than at a rate of 100 per year.

After 1994, we had KIST, KIE, SFB and all those public institutions that have been merged into one university, the University of Rwanda. So today there are two government institutions of higher learning—the University of Rwanda with several big colleges and IPRC Kicukiro which has been modernized.

Until 1994, there was only one private institution’s branch, Mudende, headquartered in in Rubavu. Today there are a number of universities including; University of Rwanda, Central Africa Adventist University, ULK, INLAK, University of Kigali, Kigali Institute of Management in Nyandungu, University of Tourism, Technology and Business Management, and international ones like Carnegie Mellon University, Mount Kenya University and Jomo Kenyata University of Agriculture and Technology and Agha Khan University.


In 1994 there was only one hospital, the CHUK. Today, there are three district hospitals—the Hospital of Muhima, the Hospital of Kibagabaga and Hospital of Masaka.

All sectors in the city, except five have got health centers. But even the sectors without health centers can access medical services within very short distances.


Less than 50 percent had access to improved and clean water in 1994. As per now, 89 percent have access to clean water.


In 1994, only 40 percent had access to electricity, now we have 67.4 percent of the whole city with access; including schools, hospitals, households industrial complexes among other entities.


In Kicukiro District there was only one tarmac road—from Kanogo to Remera and Kanombe. Only a few kilometres of tarmac were in Nyarugenge and Kiyovu—that is in the city centre. There was also Kacyiru-Kimihurura where there are ministries and the main road to the airport. But today, Nyarutarama, Kibagabaga, Kimuhurura, Kimironko, Remera have cobbled stone roads as well as tarmac.

1484050624Kigali street

National roads such as Gatuna to Nyabugogo had 102km of tarmac roads by 2001. Today there are 360km of national roads with tarmac.  There were no cobblestone roads then, now there are 25km and recently launched a new project of 100km of cobbled stone road. That will make 125km of cobblestone from zero in 1994. There are plans to cover all areas between cobblestone roads and tarmac.

Since the inception and eventual implementation of the Kigali Master Plan, all activities including construction of buildings and roads are done into step with the plan. The recent past has witnessed construction of asphalt roads (ETO Muhima road network , 0.7km, and completed a 3 year project of 34km in Nyamirambo-Rugarama (3.3km), Gishushu-INILAK-Shell (4.5km) and Cercle sportif-Rwampara-Gikondo (2.4km) and working on a project of 15.5km.

Construction of cobblestone paved road of 100km has also started for the Remera, Gatenga, Rwezamenyo; ravines at Rwarutabura, Kove and rehabilitation of Mpazi; building bridges of Nyabugogo (2), Kanogo, Rugunga, Cyumbati, Gisozi and Karuruma.

Murram/earth roads maintenance has also been carried out in    Ndera-Jurwe-Gikomero (17km), Karuruma-Amakawa-Bweramvura (7km), Gahanga roads (3km), Gatenga (2.5km), Nyarugunga (2.5), Gakoni-Ruharabuge (2.5km), Suncity-Rugarama-Gasharu (3km) and Nyamweru-Mont Kinyinya (1.5km).

Street lighting has too been carried out in much of the City of Kigali.

Modern markets and selling points have been established in different suburbs where they never existed before. These include;  Gikomero modern markets and market infrastructures constructed (COPCOM, ADARWA, Gisozi Complex,  Mulindi Commercial complex and Rusheshe and Nyamirambo mini markets.

Construction permits

The City of Kigali (CoK) has played a pivotal role in enhancing the  doing business reforms in the construction industry, reducing the number of procedures of obtaining construction permits from 10 to 5 and costs to Rfw 60,000, as water and electricity connection fee. 

The time of obtaining a construction  permit has been reduced from 77  to 20 days. Special observance is paid to the quality of buildings in the city, working in collaboration with professionals in the construction industry like the architects, engineers, and supervisors. It is important to indulge these associations because it enables them to take part in the formation of rules and regulations relating to the construction business. This draws them into executing works in professionally acceptable standards, codes and regulations.

CoK has introduced Construction Permit Information Management System where applicants for construction permits are able to access the service online. Memoranda of Understanding have been signed with telecom companies to ease payment for permits using this system.

City Beautification

City beautification enhanced by; landscaping 77.5km of roads with 25,848 ornamental trees, maintaining existing green and paved areas and increasing green and paved areas by 55ha and free WI-FIED hotspots installed in several public places.


New road designs have been developed and the placement of signage posts has been done on all the main and some peripheral roads. While upgrading the road system, the City of Kigali takes into account not only the motorists but the pedestrians as well. 

Recreational public spaces for a greener city

In the midst of this unprecedented development, the City of Kigali has undertaken a project that is going to see public spaces revamped into calm yet attractive recreational places where busy Kigalians can retreat to and refresh.

Street KN 4 and Kimihurura roundabout are to be developed into recreational parks before the end of this year and if successful, the parks will be replicated in other parts of the City. Development of the parks is in line with City of Kigali master plan goal of encouraging green transport within the City Centre.

Currently a car free zone, Street KN 4 will experience total transformation as pavements will be replaced with more aesthetic materials.  Bicycle lanes will be created to encourage cycling instead of using vehicles and reduce pollution.

According to Mugisha, 70% of the population in Kigali does not own vehicles and it is therefore important for City of Kigali to consider their needs. By creating car free zones, spaces are provide for them where they can walk comfortably and safely without the fear of being knocked down by a vehicle.

The Kimihurura roundabout, covering close to 8 hectares, will be transformed into a unique modern park with attractive recreational facilities including coffee and refreshment shops.  While the KN 4 is a car free zone, cars will not be prohibited on the Kimihurura round about.

Poverty reduction

In the city of Kigali, the rate of people below the poverty line is 16.8, according the latest housing and population census. This is already lower than the national target of 20 percent by 2020.

National development

Industry and service sectors are some of the main drivers of Rwanda’s economic growth and the City of Kigali has contributed a lot to the development of especially in manufacturing and construction. Tremendous changes have been registered in the construction industry—in real estate, commercial and modern buildings in the city.

1484050820MPeace Plaza
The MPeace Plaza.

In the hospitality industry, hotels have increased and significantly improved quality of services, contributing to flourishing of the tourism sector.  International hotel brands such as Serena Hotel and Mariott have a presence in the city center.

Today there are more than 50 hotels in the city of Kigali—including five and four star hotels that are a big blessing the promotion of Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE).

Other new services that have developed include; IT-oriented business entities, financial institutions including local and regional banks; currently, there are more than 10 private commercial banks, Microfinance institutions and SACCOs.

The city remains the main market for agricultural commodities produced in other parts of the country and hub for job opportunities.

The taxable population and taxable base in Kigali City is higher than elsewhere in the country. Such taxes as VAT, income tax, Withholding tax among others are collected by Rwanda Revenue Authority on behalf of the central government and used in supporting the city and other development activities of the entire economy.

Kigali Convention Center: Symbol of international positioning

Kigali Convention Center is a new addition to the city’s booming skyline and conference and exhibition infrastructure as Rwanda is now establishing herself as a regional hub for MICE tourism. The instantly recognizable building is a symbol of a country that s rising from an abyss in which it had sunk 22 years; rising into personifying hope and unwavering resolve.

The architectural marvel has got its roots in the Rwandan historical buildings; the exterior designed with an imitation of basket weaving and African beads.

The wrought building, and especially finishing materials give the structure a look of grace and spectacle, that has come to be an explicit architectural symbol of Kigali’s nascent architectural landscape.

The Kigali Convention Center is conveniently located just five kilometers from the city center and Kigali International Airport. Constructed on 12.6ha, and an ample gross flow area of 8000 meters, it is one of the biggest conference facilities in the region as it can accommodate 5,500 delegates.

1484051184convention center2
Kigali Convention Center.

It consists of three flours, an auditorium, four multi-purpose built halls and more than fourteen meeting rooms, banquet and special events spaces spanning over 14,000 sq meters.

The iconic dome houses the auditorium with three levels galleria sitting, retractable seats, 1257 sqmeters of flat space which can cater for 2600 people of various configurations.

The adjoining Radisson Blu Hotel has 292 rooms and suites with amenities that include private balconies and free WiFi connection to all site restaurants including one with all day dining, serving continental and Rwandan dishes as well as a super breakfast buffet.

Greening and sanitation

The efforts to keep a clean green Kigali have been supported by the government and the Kigali residents themselves who have ardently participated in the greening process.  Other than observing a strict code against crude dumping, proper liquid and solid waste disposal, residents invest their efforts in landscaping during the communal work –Umuganda. This is because they are the primary beneficiaries of this pleasantness. When they keep their lawns tidy, the road reserves and the adjacent buffer land between their property and public land, it is everyone’s benefit. Cleanliness is enjoyed by all, their properties gain in value and the environment is conserved as the soils are protected from the ravages of erosion. It is a win-win situation.

There are some companies hired to do the collection of garbage from public places—one in every district—and are paid on a monthly basis.

With the implementation of the Kigali Master Plan, hygiene and sanitation conditions will tremendously improve. Unplanned settlements, with spontaneously erected buildings are getting alleviated, replaced with planned residences, making it easy to connect households to the water and water systems, collection of garbage and simplifies access when disasters of any kind strike—like fires and epidemics—they become very easy to contain.

To approve any new building plan, it has to meet all the yardsticks of sanitation, hygiene and landscape considerations.  There is zero tolerance to unauthorized illegal constructions. This is done in the spirit of preventing disasters and avoiding suffocation. Buildings must meet standards to ensure safety of the people.

Addressing sewage challenges in the City of Kigali

The City of Kigali is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa with high demand in utility infrastructure including Water and Sanitation. The Government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Infrastructure, WASAC and the City of Kigali is undertaking measures to deal with waste management in the city in order to improve urban sanitation as well as protecting the environment.

The Kigali city Sanitation Master Plan was developed and adopted in 2010 after which a number of sanitation projects to address wastewater management issues are being undertaken. The projects under development will reclaim clean water that meets the required standards for discharge into the environment from black water (sewage) and grey water (other domestic wastewater apart from sewage) generated from the City.

The Kigali City Sanitation Master Plan is now being implemented starting with priority areas including Kigali Central Business District. A number of projects to address wastewater management challenges in Kigali are under development, and these are:

  • Kigali Centralized Sewerage System including a Waste Water Treatment Plant, covering Kigali Central Business District with the option to extend sewage network to Kimihurura and parts of Kacyiru and Gisozi in Gasabo District.
  • Kigali Faecal sludge treatment plant which will receive and treat sewage and sludge exhausted from decentralized sewage systems.
  • Rehabilitation and Upgrading of Semi-Centralized Sewerage Systems in Kigali Estates. 

Centralized sewerage system

The overall objective of the Kigali Centralized sewerage project is to improve collective sanitation services, enhance public health resilience and protecting the City water catchments and rivers. This will enable the provision of well-balanced ecosystems in the environment, and thereby enhance the ability of the catchments to provide eco systems services such clean water and climate change resilience.

This project was designed to cater for full flows at saturation levels in areas covering Kiyovu-Rugenge, Nyarugenge, Gitega and Muhima–the Central Business District’ including residential housing, high, middle and low-income, both formal and informal with the possibility of expansion of the area of the project.

Decentralization and civil participation

Since the decentralisation policy was adopted in 2000 and implemented since 2001, there has been more effectiveness and efficiency in service delivery with better participation in planning and implementation of different programmes amongst their respective communities.

The cost of transaction has been tremendously reduced because service providers to government institutions bid and supply from their localities.

Decentralisation has also cemented democracy—giving the population chance to participate in voting their leaders. Formerly, the Prefet were appointed but today all local leaders are elected at all levels—down to Village (Umudugudu) level, working in councils and committees.  

  • By Hope Magazine
  • Posted 10th January 2017


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