Kigali City, located at the foot of three hills—Mount Kigali, Jali, and Bumbogo—is endowed with wide sidewalks, immaculate roads, trees, and plenty of green space. It is a city whose calm appearance is part of a healing process that is still very important 30 years after a genocide left its people scarred.
From a modern high-rise, the best way to see the city is from a hill, where you can see the growing number of “eco-parks” in the city.
According to Faustin Munyazikwiye, the Deputy Director General of the Rwanda Environment Management Authority, the city’s latest project, which includes the creation of green and car-free zones, encourages sporting and urban tourism. The city has zeroed in on its ecological hotspots.
“The government of Rwanda, indeed, in the bid to promote environmental sustainability, has taken a decision to prioritise the rehabilitation of critical ecosystems, including wetlands, forests, and other critical and endangered ecosystems,” he explained.
Visions of a “new age” of modern, commercial, recreational, and innovative African urban centres are carefully and deliberately shaping the city.
Inspired at least in part by what Ghanaian author Sangu Delle describes in his book “Making Futures: Young Entrepreneurs in a Dynamic Africa,” Kigali aspires to be a city of moguls-in-the-making, of social-preneurs, creatives, and techies, another crucial element in the country’s physical and psychological recovery. And very clearly, the way forward is green.
This has meant removing homes from the city’s five wetlands: Kibumba, Nyabugogo, Rugenge-Rwintare, Rwampara, and Gikondo. Environmental officials and city planners say this will “improve access to basic services, increase resilience, and strengthen urban planning and management” for the city.
“We are offering a recreational hub or recreational environment where people can start enjoying nature. We are not destroying the environment or critical ecosystems,” Munyazikwiye said at the launch of the initiative.
One of the landmarks of the rehabilitation of the wetlands is the Nyandungu Eco-Tourism Park. Formerly housing an informal settlement, it is now a key urban tourist spot.
For the sake of environmental restoration, we want to see economic benefits, biodiversity benefits, and, most importantly, social interaction between people and nature,” said REMA’s Deputy Director General, adding that the work, which began in 2016, had cost approximately 5 billion Rwandan francs (US $4.5 million).