Effective City Management: Conference Paper

This paper summarises the authors’ presentation at Rwanda’s National Forum on Urbanisation in Support of EDPRS2 (Kigali, March 2014). It explores lessons from United States cities regarding the role of planning, performance management, and community engagement in effective urban management. As ‘outsiders’ to the Rwandan context, the authors offer our insights here, as at the Forum, with caution. They met dozens of Rwandan city managers and government partners prior to the Forum, and learned from their Rwandan-specific expertise and experiences. They acknowledge at the outset that the United States and Rwanda are very different places. The US of course enjoys more resources per capita (US GDP/capita is about eighty times higher), and thus local governments operate on a different scale. For example, a city with Kigali’s population size in the USA would have twelve to twenty thousand municipal employees, not including staff in schools. US cities are also at a much later stage in their physical development now. And of course they face different economic advantages and disadvantages, different histories, and different political configurations. But, there are similarities. And, the authors believe these open the way for fruitful peer-to-peer learning. Urbanisation in the United States is not very old. And as it took place, the US faced many of the problems that Kigali faces today. The US saw vast immigration from rural areas (as well as from other countries); those arriving in US cities found poor roads, housing, sanitation, water, and power; we suffered recurring epidemics; and we had to plan to survive. The authors use this paper to explore the progress of US cities, the current shape of their local governance, and to draw out lessons they may offer for Rwanda. The authors offer these not only with caution- due to the differences between the US and Rwandan contexts, but with humility. They are acutely aware that what Rwanda has achieved in the last twenty years and what Rwanda has set as its development goals for the future are extremely impressive. Political leaders and US city managers could learn a lot, as have we, from their Rwandan counterparts. In this paper, as in their presentation at the Forum, they focus on: Background: Power-sharing between layers of government in the United States. Managing performance to implement visions. Master-planning. Citizen engagement.