Developments that shaped City of Kigali in 2015

Pedestrians walk through the car free zone at KN Avenue Street in the central Business district Kigali. (Timothy Kisambira)

Pedestrians walk through the car free zone at KN Avenue Street in the central Business district Kigali. (Timothy Kisambira)

On March 23, 2015 a new bus terminal was launched opposite Nyarugenge Prison to reduce traffic jam in downtown. The facility, equipped with sheds and seats, is now used by passenger service vehicles serving nine routes in the city of Kigali.

Last year, President Paul Kagame on August 10, inaugurated the new Kigali City Hall, and a nearby commercial complex, M Peace Plaza that belongs to businessman Bertin Makuza. This was a landmark signalling the good relationship between the government and the private sector. Both buildings are located in downtown Kigali with the M Peace Plaza, located in the premises of the former Post Office headquarters, and expected to host a number of businesses.

Although the implementation of the car free zone was received with mixed feelings, it has since become the most iconic thing to have happened in Kigali last year.

In August, City of Kigali gave a four days notice to the general public to prepare for the implementation. The area that stretches from KN 4 Ave has mainly banks, uptown boutiques, furniture shops and forex bureaus. The road touches KN 78 St. (Ecole Belge Street) and KN 84 St. (below the car-free zone street) which were also affected by the No Parking policy.

The only services, where a car can be allowed is in case of an emergency (ambulance), banks that have to transport large sums of money and shops that have to replenish their stock.

This, according to city officials was partly in recognition of the fact that a city belongs to the people not cars and to decongest the area for Kigali’s growing population of 1.1 million residents, many of whom conduct businesses within Central Business District (CBD) or use it to access other areas.

Government took initiative in encouraging property developers in the CBD to construct underground parking which would ease the implementation of a car-free zone. Within the car free zone, there is a free WiFi Internet service for pedestrians, resting places, among other activities that can take place there.

Since its implementation, the car free zone has had activities such as silent street party, where revelers listen to music through wireless headphones connected to internet WiFi and live art painting exhibition dubbed ‘Rwanda Art Exhibition’. People also took to the street to use it as an exercise area and the highlight was the “Sports for all” that was organised by the Ministry of Sports and Culture together with other partners.

Although, the car free zone dominated news about Kigali this year, there were other high profile conferences.

The second Transform Africa summit took place in October and attracted more than 2,500 delegates who discussed how to advance a more digital Africa. Among various discussions, the main focus was on how to invest in home-grown solutions, innovative and win-win partnerships, as well as the right regulatory policies to attract about $300 billion of investments in Africa’s ICT projects.

With over 850 ICT companies and over 80 countries worldwide represented, delegates also debated about paramount issues affecting the growth of the ICT industry. Prominent among the attendees included global IT giants like Facebook, CISCO and Ericsson, as well as global telecom giants like Millicom International Cellular, the company that owns mobile telephone communication company Tigo.

Big conferences

In October, Transform Africa saw launch of FaceBook in Kinyarwanda following the launch of the Kinyarwanda app at the Summit through the Free Basics platform which provides internet users with free access to information like news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information. The summit ended with a commitment to mobilise over $300 billion worth of investments in the ICT sector on the continent by 2020.

In November, the 84th Interpol Annual General Assembly brought together 1,000 delegates from about 150 countries. The main discussions centered on cross-border challenges faced by police today such as terrorism, the organised criminal groups behind drug and human trafficking, and the different aspects of cybercrime.

Law enforcers discussed the issue of counter-terrorism and the possible formation of a global network to break the foreign terrorist fighter cycle. The issue of organised and emerging crime was also tackled. Delegates also tackled the criminal threat to wildlife and environmental sustainability, owing to the fact that this is a threat to biodiversity that erodes national economies, destabilises political order and harms communities leading to an impact upon national security.

In December, Kigali was also host to the fourth African Union High-Level Dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance held under the patronage of the African Union and the Government of Rwanda. Held under the theme “Women’s equal participation and leadership in political parties,” the meeting focused on involving women in political processes by enhancing their participation in the management of political parties in countries across the continent.

At the end of the event, participants prepared key policy recommendations for consideration by the AU’s Heads of State and Government Summit slated for January 2016, a background paper on the state of women’s participation and leadership in political parties in Africa, as well as a strategy and work plan on enhancing women’s equal participation and leadership in political parties to be implemented by the AU.

Other milestones

December still saw the inauguration of the $30 million Champion Investment Corporation Complex (CHIC) in Kigali city centre on the outskirts of the Central Business District a facility that provided business space to at least 1,500 people. Mohammed Mazimpaka, the CHIC secretary general said it was a dream achieved to solve the problem of shortage of buildings in Kigali.

In 2016, Kigali is preparing to host other high level events, such as African National Championship (CHAN) in January and February, World Economic Forum, Africa in May, ID4 Africa Forum and Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA) -Africa Union Summit in June and the Africa Hotel Investment Forum in September.

By Dean Karemera & Hudson Kuteesa, The New Times

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