Rwanda's urban development is increasing at a rapid pace but it is not accompanied by effective tools of urban planning to meet the increasing demands in form of essential basic amenities and services provision for the urban dwellers and this has resulted in side effects like ineffectiveness in preventing environmental degradation, shrinking public spaces, the proliferation of informal settlements, as well as transport and urban mobility failures, among other aspects. Urban centres have outgrown their original plans and face an enormous backlog of services and housing. 

There are indeed urban development challenges in Rwanda: the randomly built Urban Centres are inefficient and unsustainable and need increasing resources to be made more functional and liveable. Only those urban centres able to embrace different patterns of growth and address inequalities and inefficiencies will be able to provide better lives for their residents, while limiting ecological damage and enhancing their identity. 

To address this, the government of Rwanda through the vision2020 aims at becoming a middle income country with the GDP per capita of 900$ compared to 220$ in 2000. Thus it is envisaged that urban development could contribute to the fast economic growth by producing off-farm jobs through construction, industrialisation and urban agriculture. The vision of the government is to achieve 35% urbanization rate by the year 2024. 

This is also supported by Rwanda's Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS 2) that emphasizes; The urbanization sector will be an engine of economic transformation by developing secondary cities as poles of economic growth and development and efficient management of the country's economic geography, ensuring efficient rural and urban land use and environment management and protection schemes, and develop and implement master plans for new urban residential zones.

The Division of Urban Planning and Development has been at the helm of orientating the urbanization process of the country in a planned and organized manner to ensure future urban growth and development aimed at addressing the above challenges. To achieve this ambitious goal, a number of activities are done including but not limited to the following: 


1. Elaboration and implementation of urban planning and development tools that include; conceptual and detailed physical master plans, local urban development plans (LUDPS), sector specific plans, layout plans.

Urban planning tools are enacted to surmount absence of the planned spatial system or structure in the form of layout to guide the basic organization of public space, basic services, utilities, amenities and buildings especially for City of Kigali (CoK), secondary cities and other emerging towns. Indeed, in the history of urbanization, successes have not been possible in the absence of a physical layout and system of interconnectivity in urban neighbourhoods.

The overall approach is focused on the review of CoK, secondary cities and other district towns' master plan to facilitate sustainable urbanization and make them real engines of economic transformation and development as well as achieving green city development ambitions. 


2. Informal settlement upgrading 

Rwandan cities, towns and centers grew naturally without a clear orientation and this resulted in the creation of unplanned/informal settlements


Currently, 61.7% of the population lives in informal settlements of which 30% are in high risky areas. i.e. high slope higher than 40%, flood prone areas including wetlands and marshlands etc.

Countrywide, there are 79 informal settlement sites; the majority being in the city of Kigali and Rubavu city; categorized into worst, poor and fair according to the status quo study conducted in 2014. The strategy is to remove at least 20% of the population from informal settlements by the year 2024. 

Today Rwanda Housing Authority has contributed significantly to informal settlement upgrading of Agatare in Nyarugenge district by constructing coble stone road in this neighborhood to ease movement of people, and gatobotobo in Huye district by constructing a marram road and providing street lights to promote safety in the neighborhood. Studies to upgrade other informal settlements in Huye, Musanze, Gasabo, Kicukiro, Rusizi, Rubavu and Muhanga have been conducted and will be conducted ad implemented in other district towns.

Also preventing creation of new informal settlement is at the forefront of the Division’s mandates and activities including availing detailed physical plans of new residential zones in Karongi, Rubavu and CoK, Plot servicing (sites and servicing) of new residential zones countrywide have been done. This is coupled with resettling expropriated individuals in a well serviced neighborhood rather than compensating them with cash that could result in creation of new informal settlements in the periphery and controlling peri-urban growth.  

3. Secondary cities development

In order to ease pressure on the City of Kigali and help achieve the urbanization growth rate of 35%, secondary cities the government of Rwanda selected the cities of Muhanga, Rubavu, Huye, Rusizi, Musanze and Nyagatare to be poles of economic growth and development. To this effect, many pool factors are being created in this cities to attract as many people as possible from rural areas to urban centres, among them include;

RUDP; The Rwanda Urban Development Project funded by the World Bank is being implemented in the secondary cities and City of Kigali under the component of Agatare upgrading. Phase I of this project is about construction of tarmac roads and drainages in all six secondary cities while in Agatare emphasis is placed on construction of tarmac roads, drainages, and footpaths to ease mobility and promote better living standards in the neighbourhood. Phase II of the project in secondary cities will emphasise informal settlement upgrading and infrastructure development all aimed at attraction of people from rural areas to urban areas. 

Road construction in urban areas of secondary cities

4. Elaboration and implementation of simplified street addressing plans in the structured zones of cities and towns: 

Rwanda Housing Authority launched a new street address system, which will enhance easier tracing of various residences in cities, ease service delivery, and tourism. This program includes new street names and house numbers. 

What’s more, the street naming system has been designed to global standards. Street names for instance are coded as follows, KN for Nyarugenge, KK for Kicukiro and KG representing Gasabo, SH representing Southern Province Huye district, NM for Northern province Musanze District, EN for Eastern Province Nyagatare district. Other abbreviations include RD for road, AV for avenue, and ST for street.