Urban Growth Management Strategies

Didier Sagashya, of the National Land Centre, began by speaking about the role of Rwanda’s National Land Use Masterplan. The plan (adopted in 2011, and repeatedly updated according to new data and targets) uses economic and spatial mapping to show how land is being used, and to suggest how each plot should be developed to help Rwanda meet national targets such as Vision 2020 and EDPRS2.

Shagashya stressed that land use planning was particularly important for Rwanda, because of its incredibly dense population (more than twice as dense even as China’s). He also argued that Rwanda is particularly well-prepared to make good land use plans, due to being number one in Africa for registration of land (with nearly all plots of land in Rwanda registered).

UN-Habitat’s Mathias Spaliviero also discussed the spatial mapping of land. He stated that achieving 35% urbanisation by 2020 would require a huge acceleration of the historically low urbanisation rate in Rwanda, and that planners, while planning for accelerated urbanisation, should also investigate why urbanisation has been historically low and make plans flexibly with this in mind.

Spaliviero introduced Rwanda’s National Urban Policy, which, like the Land Use Plan, uses spatial mapping to highlight existing services and economic activity by area, and plan primary and secondary areas for urban development. He stressed that government planning was vital for ensuring that high quality public spaces (such as parks, museums, and public libraries) are created and defended in Rwanda’s cities, to keep them attractive to potential rural migrants, and to protect the human capital within cities.

Okju Jeong from the Global Green Growth Institute described Rwanda’ green urban growth agenda and its importance to sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Dr. Jeong showed that no countries had achieved middle-income status without considerable urbanisation, but that rapid urbanisation was not always associated with growth, arguing that as well as the quantitative target of 35% urbanisation by 2020, Rwanda should, as an equal priority, adopt qualitative targets about what life and economic activity in cities should be like.

Dr. Jeong suggested how economic activity should be spread between Kigali and Secondary Cities, with Kigali becoming a hub for East Africa, and Rwanda’s ‘Secondary Cities’ becoming specialised industrial producers and centres supporting the growth of local rural economies. She explained that GGGI was facilitating the development of Rwanda’s Secondary Cities as model green cities.

The session was closed by Pedro Ortiz, a metropolitan planner and World Bank consultant, who began by highlighting that Rwanda was roughly the size of Los Angeles, New York, or London; one can travel almost anywhere within Rwanda in under 3 hours. Rwanda’s accessibility, combined with its dense population, creates unique possibilities for its urban structure, and policy-makers should think creatively about how to use this endowment.

Ortiz also highlighted that despite the benefits of dense housing, people may resist moving into apartment blocks, and creative housing alternatives should be considered. He highlighted the expense of urbanisation and affordable housing, stating that urban plans must be made and adapted in line with budgets. Finally, Ortiz stated that the priorities of local municipalities should be on providing the most essential public infrastructure- water, electricity, and feeder roads-, to support high living standards and human capital, while social goods like stadiums and markets should not be neglected if Rwanda’s cities are to attract and nurture the population.

Please find Pedro Ortiz’s presentation here.