A view towards town, Kigali, Rwanda


This research report reviews and analyses Rwanda’s planning and urban development policy documents for the last twenty years, identifying the key ideas and policies that have shaped the delivery of public services, paying particular attention to education and healthcare.

This report also presents city profiles for two of Rwanda’s cities: Kigali and Huye.

This report is written by University of Rwanda

Key messages

Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, with 394 persons per km2 in 2008 . Rwanda is labelled ‘the land of a thousand hills’ due to the hilly topography. This means that although land is a prime resource, much of it is too steep or too wet to build on.

Rwandan land tenure has been mainly conditioned by three factors: the natural environment, population, and politics. Twenty-four years after the genocide against the Tutsi, the Government of Rwanda (GoR) has clearly embraced urbanisation, seen as a vehicle for post war reconstruction in Rwanda. Indeed, the urban development agenda is seen as a possible resource to unlock the transformative economic opportunities for growth and poverty reduction through which Rwanda could make significant progress in its national development.

Rwanda is urbanising rapidly as well as proactively planning for it. Urbanisation in Rwanda is catalysed by demographic growth, migration to urban areas and installation of returnees after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

The urban population was 4.6% in 1978, increasing to 16.5% in 2012 and is expected to reach 35% by 2020. The average urban density is 1871 inhabitants per square kilometer. The current annual growth rate of the urban population is 4.1%. Almost 80% of the city’s residents live in unplanned settlements. The capital city, Kigali, accommodated about half of the urban population in 2012.

Since 2000, steps have been taken towards restructuring and decentralizing healthcare. Now the district health offices operate as autonomous entities, providing services to well-defined populations in either urban or rural zones.

Despite many achievements recorded in education, there are still challenges that must be tackled to halt the threats to the education system. Challenges include insufficiency of school infrastructures, namely classrooms, and textbooks in various schools to meet the student’s demands.