Unpacking opportunities presented by Rwanda’s Green Economy push

By Julius Bizimungu

Last year, the City of Kigali declared some parts of the city a car free zone. The move aimed at reducing congestion in the city centre is also part of the larger plan toward creating green transport areas within the city.

The city authority said the car free zone would eventually cover the entire Central Business District (CBD).

Rwanda is promoting the green economy concept under its medium-term development blueprint to encourage resource conservation, as well environmental protection to ensure sustainable growth. Therefore, the launch of the car free zone should not have come as a surprise to keen watchers of the developments at City Hall.

The car-free zone policy is part of the city’s master plan for the urban planning, and it’s a tool to decongest the city, as well as create space for green environment, says Rwomushana Augustin, the director for urban economic development at City Hall.

The green economy approach is guided by the country’s green growth and climate resilience strategy that was launched in 2011 as one of the key steps to a sustainable, secure future. It cuts across all the sectors of the economy, including agriculture, power, construction, industrial, leisure and hospitality, as well as the technological sector, which presents immense opportunities for investors.

In the real estate sector, for instance, some smart investors have started building environmentally-friendly green homes; others are promoting use of renewable energy sources, while some government agencies and City Hall have reduced use of paperwork in their operations, among others.

Green homes

Steven Sabiti, the research and organisational development manager at Horizon Group, another local firm pioneering the green city concept under its Cactus Green Park project, says establishing the green neighbourhoods is central to the green economies.

“The main aim is to reduce the burden on social service providers. For instance, we have rainwater management systems that help ease pressure on the water utility,” he notes.

He explains that they use renewable energy sources for water heating, street lighting utilising low-cost and efficient materials to reduce carbon emissions and hence promote sustainable development.

The “Kigali State of Environment and Outlook 2013” report provides suggestions on how Kigali can be developed in a sustainable manners to make it a modern and appealing city as per the country’s Vision 2020. This is essential because Kigali contributes 50 per cent of the country’s GDP, and it is therefore critical that green economic growth policies are embraced fully.

Environment-friendly energy

For Liban Mugabo, the managing director of Safe Gas Rwanda, a local company that imports and distributes liquefied petroleum gas, the transition towards the green economy is now not optional. “The move toward the green economy in Rwanda is now unstoppable and it’s changing the traditional way of life as we knew,” he said.

He says in the energy sector, people can access environmentally-friendly products that are low-cost and energy efficient to ensure sustainability. Green energy solutions provided by Mobisol, and other firms all create a need for technicians and retailers, which enterprising Rwandans can exploit to earn a living.

More opportunities

Besides business prospects in the real estate and energy sectors, there are many other opportunities that the country’s green economy approach presents entrepreneurs, small and big alike.

For instance, the car free zone is already hosting different entertainment activities, creating jobs for youth in the creatives industry, and general trade. It also in a way widens the tax body’s tax base and hence boosts revenue collections, according to experts.

As one of the target priorities, Rwanda seeks to achieve under the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II), green growth has inspired innovators at AC Group, an ICT start-up, supporting the city’s goal to achieve green transport, to come up with initiatives that reduce paper-based transactions to also improve service delivery.

The smart card-based system for paying public transport fares was rolled out recently by the group and the city authority will virtually cut paper use in public transport ticketing, cutting on environmental waste and production of gases that are dangerous to the Ozone layer.

According to experts, as a fast-growing country, like Rwanda, has the opportunity to bypass old technologies and environmentally destructive development to build a resilient green economy that supports health and creates wealth for people.

Rose Mukankomeje, the director general of Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA), says to achieve this Rwanda drafted a green growth and climate change resilience strategy driven by 14 programmes of actions in agriculture, energy, water resources and forestry, among other sectors.

She says the strategy looks at both short and long-term projects, with the flagship project pushing for economic transformation under the green economy approach. This, Mukankomeje says, has clear outcomes to be achieved, including the green city pilot, green urbanisation, and sustainable rural development. These projects provide investors and innovators a chance to come with initiatives that could help create jobs and support the economy generally, she adds.

“The green economy approach that the country has embarked on does not differ much from what we are doing already. It is related to sustainable management of resources to benefit future generations,” Mukankomeje notes.

She adds that clean energy is key to drive green economy, urging entrepreneurs to take advantage of attractive government policies and invest in the sector.

Rwanda’s Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy is one of the key steps to a sustainable, secure future, and to deal with risks associated with climate change and population growth, while also managing the environment in a sustainable manner.

Meanwhile, some institutions have started undertaking holistic approaches that help to power off grid rural communities and drive development. Institutions like National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA), are working with American universities, investors and development researchers to ease access to solar power in rural areas that are not connected to the grid. The project under the ‘smart village micro-grid’ model is expected to support growth of agro-processing and other small businesses, irrigation, and help conserve the environment, among others, to ensure sustainable development of rural communities. The project that is yet to start is expected to create hundreds of jobs for women and youth in rural areas.

Green economy strategies in the city

The City of Kigali has strategies to promote the green economy model of growth that aims at reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities, as well as help reduce poverty, create jobs, and ensure social inclusion and resource security without degrading the environment, according to Rwomushana Augustin, the director for urban economic development at City Hall.

To cut on air pollution and congestion and ensure sustainable urban development, the city authority encourages use of standard and large buses for the city‘s public transport, importation of new motor vehicles, and strengthening its vehicle inspection regime to promote green transport.

The City of Kigali encourages residents to make green retrofits to their homes to ensure energy conservation.

The following green building strategies have been provided as one way of making homes more environmentally-friendly (home greening) and saving money by reducing energy and water use. As the city encourages use of energy savers (compact fluorescent) bulbs in homes and solar energy systems, service providers should take advantage of this to grow their enterprises.

The push for a green economy means that ways of production and service delivery need to change accordingly to suit this approach. Houses, for instance, will be built putting into consideration the aspect of green construction. Industries will do the same by ensuring sustainable means of production.

Though this approach could present challenges for policy-makers and implementers, the opportunities for entrepreneurs are immeasurable. The question now is whether businesses, professionals, creatives, and Rwandans generally understand the concept of green economy, to tap into the opportunities it presents to expand their horizons.

Source: The New Times

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