Densification without contagion? Overcrowding and pandemic risk hotspots in Rwanda

In this paper, we estimate the location of overcrowding hotspots in Kigali and five secondary cities in Rwanda using a variant of the methodology used recently by the World Bank in Mumbai, Kinshasa and Greater Cairo.

This is of interest for three key reasons. First, whilst overcrowding is an imperfect proxy for the type of close interpersonal contact that spreads disease, evidence shows that overcrowding exacerbates the spread of disease in general and pandemics, such as COVID-19, in particular, where social distancing becomes impossible. Second, overcrowding itself is of wider interest in terms of housing, because it has a range of negative effects on welfare and health. Finally, the pandemic risk of overcrowding raises questions around the implementation of the densification pillar of Rwanda’s National Urbanisation Policy such as: what is the difference between densification and overcrowding? How can Rwanda’s cities take advantage of agglomeration economies generated by densification whilst avoiding the costs?