Move away for just one or two years and on return, you will be amazed at how fast the place has changed, for a person like myself, you can imagine what I found on my “return” to Kigali after five years—I have been blown away!
The Kigali I found after these years away looks all bright and new, cleaner and more vibrant—in a short time, one can conclude the city has been undergoing a spectacular transformation, it’s turning into a modern place.
It’s an open secret that Kigali is emerging as a shining example of visionary leadership under President Paul Kagame’s guidance.
The city’s newly-designed road network, soaring high-rise buildings, vibrant nightlife, and inclusive settlements for relocated citizens have all contributed to its incredible rebirth.
The road network
Imagine navigating a city where once-congested streets have been replaced with wide, impeccably designed roads that effortlessly guide you through the urban landscape.
Creation of this road network has not only eased traffic flow but also showcases the city’s commitment to sustainability.
But for me, the standout is the Kigali-Bugesera highway (maybe it should be called airport road) as well as the road at Mt. Kigali (I haven’t found out why some people refer to this road as Norvège) that goes all the way to Nyabarongo River, connecting to the Kigali-Huye highway.
For places I once knew quite well, like the back of my palm, have been transformed to a level that, if not guided, you would easily get lost—and honestly, I have gotten lost quite a number of times.
While marvelling at the new roads, another prominent feature are the new modern structures that have sprouted wherever the new road network passes.
Older and unplanned structures have either given way for new ones or have been given a face-lift and designs to match the city master plan.
Lush greenery lines the avenues, embracing pedestrians and cyclists, while smart traffic management systems ensure seamless movement of cars and pedestrians, who by the way seem to enjoy probably the most freedom on earth.
Someone needs to write a story about “Zebra Crossings” in Kigali and how much respect is afforded to roader users, especially pedestrians in the city in relation to other places where a pedestrian on the road is on their own.
And talking about traffic management, it seems, even without referring to any official statistics or data, more people are driving now than at any moment in the country’s history—the roads are busier much to the delight of ‘Sofias’ capturing every traffic offender.
I have been left in awe by the effort the government has put in to develop even the smaller roads (read panya/feeder paths) that connect people’s homes to the main tarmac roads.
In some places, drainage channels were almost close to taking people’s homes, especially during rainy seasons, but now they have all been paved and lighted.
But most importantly, work on these paths has led to the possible reduction in crime, especially in slum areas where vagabonds would take advantage of darkness and undefined paths to snatch phones and handbags from unwary victims, mostly women.
Kigali’s skyline has been transformed into a breathtaking landscape of architectural masterminds that stand tall against the city heavens.
These sleek high-rise buildings, a stark departure from the city’s previous landscape, symbolise Rwanda’s progress and match towards modernity.
Moving around Kigali, each high-rise structure seems to whisper stories of innovation and resilience, mirroring the spirit of the city itself and the residents.
You also notice that Kigalians are now more resilient, or it appears when the going gets tough, it is as though no one is taking anything for granted (anymore), and that goes with the territory (read economy).
Kigali’s transition from a sun-soaked, dusty, and at times boring city to a vibrant nightlife has been nothing short of remarkable.
Resettlement with dignity
The government’s commitment to the welfare of its citizens is evident in the creation of newly formed settlements, designed to provide safe and dignified living spaces for those who were relocated from high-risk areas.
These settlements are a blend of modern infrastructure and community values, offering residents access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities.
The transformation of lives from vulnerability to empowerment stands as a living tribute to the government’s unwavering dedication to uplifting the lives of all Rwandans.
By any measure, credit to the government for prioritising the safety and well-being of its citizens, and these new communities, are a testament to that commitment. Talk about giving agaciro to those who had no hope.
Now this one touches my heart the most—being a sportsman through and through, I will have to return to this theme many more times in the near future.
But first things first. Rwanda’s growing sports industry has not only captured the hearts of its citizens but also beckoned to sports enthusiasts around the world.
Whether it’s basketball, cycling, or cricket, it appears as though the government is committed to turning Kigali into a sports tourism hub.
At the forefront of this undertaking is the imposing BK Arena, a multi-purpose indoor arena that has hosted international events and brought the world’s attention to Rwanda’s burgeoning sports scene.
Also “Visit Rwanda” has become more than a tagline – it’s an invitation for foreigners to come experience the beauty and warmth of a nation through its sports and culture.
And with the Amahoro Stadium under renovation, Rwanda is pitching up to become a hub for sports tourism in the coming years—it could take two, three, four or even more years to attain that status.
Whether it’s Arsenal or Paris St. Germain (PSG), Rwanda has become a common feature in people’s eyes around the world thanks to the strategic partnerships that the country has struck with these two global brands/clubs.
The guiding light
At the heart of Kigali’s astonishing transformation lies the visionary leadership of the President, who is the CEO of Rwanda Inc. His steady hand and relentless pursuit of progress have shaped Kigali into a city that is modern and efficient in many ways.
President Kagame’s strategic decisions have driven economic growth, attracted international investment, and fostered an environment of innovation.
As Kigali continues to evolve, there is no denying the fact that the President’s vision remains the guiding force behind the city’s ascent to global prominence.
A blend of infrastructure development, cultural preservation, and citizen-centric policies has turned Kigali into a jewel that shines brightly on the African continent.
Kigali has built facilities and an enabling environment, hence positioning itself as a safe pair of hands when it comes to hosting international events, and indeed it is working. Guaranteed security of persons and property has also made Kigali a safe bet.
With each new road laid, each high-rise that graces the skyline, and each relocated family finding new hope, Kigali’s transformation stands as living proof of the power of good leadership.
As Kigali continues to evolve, it stands not only as a model of urban development but as an embodiment of the spirit of progress and unity that defines Rwanda at large.
Lest one forgets, Kigali, much like Rwanda as a nation, is not the finished article, very far from it, but it’s a work in progress and indeed that progress is visible, tangible, you can smell it, whether you have stepped out of the country and just returned or not.
In the next couple of years, as sports tourism takes center stage, Kigali’s allure will undoubtedly captivate the world, inviting travelers to witness firsthand the remarkable journey of a city and a nation that has risen from ashes to new heights.