An artistic impression of Kigali city in the coming years as part of a new development master plan
Has a city develop using initiatives that challenge our thinking? That is exactly what has happened to Kigali City. Its development agenda was featured at the Design Indaba 2012 Expo and conference in Cape Town, which took place from February 29-March 04, 2012.
Former mayor of Kigali city, Aisa Kirabo Kacyira (2006-2011), spoke on a panel at the Expo that also included former mayor of Bogota (Colombia), Enrique Peñalosa. Kacyira is now the UN under secretary for UN-HABITAT.
With a focus on international thought leadership, the Design Indaba Conference and Expo have become one of the world’s leading design events and hosts more than 40 speakers and 2 500 delegates. The world’s design minds converge in Cape Town annually for this event.
Kirabo spoke about how Kigali was transformed during her time as mayor. Under her leadership, Kigali became the first African city to win the UN-HABITAT Scroll of Honour Award “in recognition of the high level of cleanliness, greenness, safety and the sustainable, affordable housing initiatives combined with pro-poor urban employment opportunities”. The award was in October 2008.
Her initiatives to improve Kigali were arguably as bold Bogota’s as they have defied reason, but eventually won over supporters and Kigalians. If you arrive there today, any plastic bags are confiscated at the airport before you can enter the city. The city is spotless.
The boulevards are lined by nicely trimmed trees and traffic flows smoothly, largely because of an army of motorcycle taxis and a thriving bus and taxi system. You are often within eyesight of an armed policeman which enhances citizen’s safety.
On every last Saturday mornings of every month, all citizens take part in Umuganda, a nationwide initiative in which neighbours come together to pick up litter, cut grass, trim trees, and even help build schools.
Through this, civic pride is instilled in the citizens of Kigali and the greatest benefit is that social barriers are crossed because all citizens take part, from taxi drivers to government officials; doctors to priests; and all the other diversifying aspects in the country.
President Paul Kagame has been the biggest backer of a perfect Kigali. The city now has a new master plan depicting how the city will be in 50 years. Contrary to the past decades when anybody chose where to build or live, the current development strategy requires that whatever is built is reflective of how that specific area will look like in several years to come.
In Kigali, real estate construction is the order of the day. After years of stagnation, some parts of the city look like a construction sites as magnificent skyscrapers continue to prop up the skyline.
The road network is another major develop. All roads have been either tarmac, stones or under construction.