There are deliberate efforts to transform Kigali into a recreational and environmentally friendly city that is full of life and opportunities for residents and visitors.
From the beautification of roundabouts, establishment of themed and amusement parks, to development of tourism projects and outdoor sporting places and scenic sites, the city of Kigali will never be the same.
The number of on-going recreational projects both by the government and private sector will define the culture and character of the city, giving dwellers a host of options to choose from.
And, with the new master plan, 6 percent of Kigali’s land has been earmarked for recreational activities. City officials are confident that the plan to create more green and recreational parks will help turn the city into a healthy and sustainable habitat for the growing urban population.
The New Times visited some of the projects that are a demonstration of a City continuing to evolve with opportunities for investors in the recreation and hospitality sector.
Kigali Cultural Village
The scenic Rebero hill in Kicukiro District is currently undergoing a massive shift that will see it host what will be the biggest cultural centre, thanks to the government’s partnership with Vivendi Group.
Last year, the two parties entered a deal in which Vivendi would take on and develop the Kigali Cultural Village, a project that will sit on 30 hectares and comprise recreational facilities.
A quick tour of the site shows that the first phase of the project has reached an advanced stage: A 300-seat modern cinema hall is receiving final touches before it opens to the public, and a 15,000-people open concert area is already complete.
The facility has relaxing wooden chairs scattered across its expansive area, an Escape games area, and tens of solar panels that will power the facility have been installed.
The supervisor who gave The New Times a guided tour disclosed that the next phase which involves building a food court and a children’s gaming area will kick off next year. The second phase is expected to also include recording studios.
Nyandungu Ecotourism Park
The Nyandungu Urban Wetland Ecotourism Park is located on the road towards the Eastern Province, just a few kilometres from the Kigali International Airport.
The government-sponsored project seeks to restore and conserve the wetland. Some 2,000 trees are planned to be planted to form a fig forest, a Pope’s Garden for worship, and a Medicinal Garden for educational purposes will be built.
The Park, which will stretch from Gikondo to Nyabugogo area will comprise a public park, seats, walkways, and cycling lanes, and in the long term modern bridges, and an artificial lake, which is subject to feasibility studies may be established.
Gikondo Recreational Park.
During the visit, there was no ongoing activity, except the portion of the public garden was already established but no people were present.
City officials say they are currently mapping different areas that can potentially be developed into recreational spaces, and the government will spearhead the development.
However, they say in the near future they plan to mobilise the private sector to invest in what will have been identified as potential areas for recreation.
This would mean, either leasing the government land to the private sector as currently privately owned lands haven’t attracted the attention of private investors.
Umusambi Village is a new sanctuary for crowned crane birds that can no longer fly, a reserve to all crane birds confiscated from private gardens and homes of individuals from across the country.
Umusambi, opened this year, is a brainchild of Olivier Nsengimana, a renowned conservationist, who has turned what was a popular wetland near Bambino Supercity into a nature reserve.
“The idea came as a conservation solution. We wanted a place where we can house all cranes that are disabled. When we got a place, we realized we were doing conservation but saw other opportunities therein,” Nsengimana says.
Because of the presence of other wildlife animals and the beauty of the place, the pioneer saw another opportunity to make it a tourism site that can give the opportunity to connect with nature.
People can enjoy the seven trails present at the facility as they connect with nature and watch grey crowned cranes, different bird species, as well as natural ponds and flowing water bodies.
The village is a 21-hectare nature reserve, the first of its kind in Kigali that allows visitors to learn about the importance of protecting natural environments.
It provides a home to over 70 endangered grey crowned cranes saved from the illegal pet trade, according to the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association.
So far, there are more than 120 species of birds at the residence, and Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association has adopted a business-driven model to sustain the conservation efforts.
Nsengimana compares the reserve to a little park that can give people a feeling of nature without necessarily leaving the city.
“We don’t have the same number of animals you could find in a large park such as Akagera, but this gives a feeling that you are away from your busy household,” he says.
Umusambi Village is home to a host of other different species living within the wetland, including small mammals, amphibians, insects, and birds such as palm nut vulture, fan-tailed widowbird, and speckled mousebird.
The Village will provide open space for the cranes with suitable and enriching habitat, as well as recreation trails, educational exhibits, viewing platforms, and a visitor center with an environmental education space, a café and a gift shop.
City Mini Garden
There are currently limited options of where city dwellers can relax, away from their offices or other activities. City authorities saw this and thought it was right to have a mini-park that can accommodate people.
The result of that was an establishment of a public garden built at a tune of Rwf226 million. The place has internet access that visitors can freely access, and everyone can access it.
The 1,072 square meter garden is complete with benches, user-friendly routes for people living with disabilities, and public toilets.
It is the latest addition to a number of recreational facilities aimed at beautifying the city and giving its residents and visitors a great experience.
In 2018, the City of Kigali approached Afrilandscapes to redesign traffic islands or roundabouts as commonly known to bring new life to the city, according to Theresa Cooke, the company’s Operations Manager.
“The story behind the redesigning was basically the beautification of the city to encourage people to come to the roundabouts,” she told The New Times.
The firm then embarked on the redesigning phase, collecting ideas from everything around Rwanda; the agricultural fields, the vegetation, as well as colour schemes and patterns commonly used across the country.
REVAMPED: The Kigali Convention Centre roundabout will add more beauty to the area.
The Sonatubes roundabout, for instance, emulates agricultural fields around Rwanda, according to Cooke.
The roundabout was not redesigned to attract people to the roundabout because of its small and busy nature, but to give a feel of Rwanda through its culture and traditions.
Already, the Sonatubes roundabout situated at the junction of the road from the Kigali International Airport and the new airport in Bugesera District has been reimagined.
The imposing statue that tells Rwanda’s unique cultural story welcomes guests. The statue shows two female dancers elegantly swaying their hands, as well as a man drumming. The two ladies wear traditional dancing attire complete with amayogi (small bells tied by traditional dancers around their ankles).
The plaque on which the statue sits is made in reinforced concrete with engraved traditional Imigongo motifs on the edge.
The other roundabout being revamped to give it a more modern face that is attractive to residents and tourists is at the City Center.
The oval-shaped structure will feature Amakoro pavements produced locally from volcanic rocks as opposed to having just flat land, with four retaining walls consisting of enough seats.
Different species of flowers will be planted across the area, and the water features will be automated.
Three terraces will give an option to those who want to jog while Public Wi-Fi will be available to those who want to spend leisure time, work, or enjoy meals from the area.
The other roundabout getting a facelift is located at the Kigali Convention Centre (KCC).
Everything from enhancement on water features, and automatic irrigation systems, to asymmetrical lawns, plantation of palm trees and flowers, and more lighting systems are being added.
A view of the Kigali Village Club at Rebero in Kicukiro District. The facility boasts a 300-seat cinema hall and a 15,000-people capacity open concert area, among others. Photos: Olivier Mugwiza.
To attract people to the roundabout, benches will be increased from four to 12.
The works, which include a renewed pavement and leveling, started in March this year and was expected to complete in October for the KCC roundabout and all the other traffic islands, according to Cooke.
For investors in outdoor activities, these projects offer immense opportunity. Post-Covid will be a time of outdoor activities after spending almost a whole year at home. The recreational projects could not have come to life at a better time.