Kigali climbing the ranks of Africa’s most liveable cities
Rwanda is steadily shedding its association with genocide and replacing it with one of progress, stability and liveability. Its capital city is at the heart of this transformation. In fact, Africa.com recently assigned Kigali tenth place in its list “The Top 10 Most Liveable Cities in Africa” (you can find the list and criteria used to compile it here).
So what makes Kigali rank among the continent’s most liveable cities, rubbing shoulders with sophisticates like Cape Town and Accra, economic powerhouses like Johannesburg and Nairobi, and bastions of stability like Windhoek and Gaborone? Below we consider some of the top reasons for the city’s growing acclaim …
Safety and stability
According to Gallup’s “Global States of Mind: New Metrics for World Leaders” report published in late 2012, people living in and visiting Rwanda feel a sense of safety higher than that of any other African nation, and higher even than that of Qatar. The metric was based on screenings of 1,000 adults in each country, and questioned their sense of safety walking about in the neighbourhoods, as well as their experiences of crime and law enforcement.
Later that same year Prof. Anastase Shyaka, Director of the Rwanda Governance Board, confirmed Gallup’s assessment by saying, “It is impressive that some findings of the worldwide research initiative, particularly in the areas of safety and security […] matched the accuracy of RGB’s own Rwanda Governance Scorecard 2012.”
The Rwandan Government has also made great strides over the past decade in establishing a functioning democracy and repressing militant groups, giving the average Rwanda a sense of greater political and social continuity.
Congestion in Kigali, a city of about one million, is notably less of a problem than it is in other East African capitals like Dar es Salaam, Kampala and Nairobi, thanks to an organised city development plan that includes a road infrastructure programme to improve roads leading in and out of the CBD.
There has also been a great deal of construction in recent years, with the BCDI Tower, Centenary House and Kigali City Tower among the most prominent new buildings added to the skyline. The latter is the city’s tallest building, a 20-storey retail and office complex.
ICT infrastructure is one of the highlights of the city, its internet connectivity being among the best on the continent. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Rwanda can boast having one of the densest optical networks in Africa.
Tourism, services and cleanliness
Centrally located, Kigali is an obvious entry point for international tourists wishing to see mountain gorillas and other of the wild animals that make up the country’s diverse wildlife. Tourism is a major contributor to the Rwandan economy – it is in fact the country’s largest foreign exchange earner. Accordingly, the hospitality, tourism and service industries have been receiving fresh investment and upping their game over recent years.
Inside Afrika, the Kigali Marriot Hotel and the Serena Hotel are some of the new and top hospitality establishments in the city, with the former being named one of the seven best boutique hotels in Africa by The Guardian in 2012.
At present the service sector accounts for 47 percent of Rwanda’s GDP, but the Government intends to help this rise to 55% by 2020. Hubert Ruzibiza, Head of Services Development at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), says the introduction of more hotels like the 5-star Serena represent “a huge opportunity for job creation, with more than 70% of jobs created in Kigali for the past 10 years in the services sector”.
Solomon Adede, Deputy CEO of New Century Development (the owner of Kigali Marriott), adds that “Improved availability of accommodation and connectivity means that Rwanda can attract more conferences it is not attracting at the moment. Kigali can be made a preferred destination by making accommodation affordable and available.”
Kigali’s other notable boast is its cleanliness. While still a relatively poor nation, top-down education efforts have had an impact on levels of hygiene and cleanliness, making Kigali a comparatively neat and attractive city to locals and foreigners alike.