New Times Editorial [Rwanda]: Toward a modern city

Kigali, the Rwandan capital, is setting the pace as one of Africa’s cleanest and most punctual cities. Reuters/Frank Nyakairu

You don’t need to have studied the Kigali City Master Plan to figure out the City of Kigali and the government’s vision of what the capital and its outskirts are supposed to look like in five years going forward. But to get there, many changes are inevitable.

Like the latest directive from the City of Kigali that affects businesses and non-business entities operating from residential buildings. The City has given them three months to move their offices into bona fide complexes and other such structures built for purposes of holding offices or running of public utilities.

The City authorities say there is enough office space for businesses and there should be no reason for them to remain in residential dwellings, which not only inconveniences their clientele, but also contravenes the City Master Plan.

As expected, investors in real estate have welcomed the directive having previously complained of low occupancy in the different modern commercial complexes for both business and office purposes, saying most businesses prefer the cheaper residential buildings.

And, true to this, such entities have already voiced their concerns, saying complexes and arcades are too prohibitive in terms of rental costs. NGOs claim they cannot be sustainable and buying residential homes makes it cheaper to run their activities.

But if City authorities and the government lend an ear to such complaints, then chances are that the vision of modernizing the city will be compromised.

Residential houses are built with well-defined plans for such particular purposes. Similarly, office blocks are built for specific purposes. It is a bit unrefined to turn either into what it is not meant for in an era where arcades and apartments are plenty.

Last year, residents of Inyenyeri Village, Kamukina Cell in Kigali’s Kimihurura Sector must have been unhappy at being evicted to pave way for a bypass. The bypass from the new roundabout at the Dutch embassy through the former village to the new roundabout at Justice ministry, was completed.

Today, those former occupants of the village might feel a tinge of pride whenever they drive or walk on the modern road that snakes around what used to be their abodes.

That is what change is meant to effect. For modernity, homes are supposed to be what they are meant for: homes.

Source: The New Times

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