High density housing in an informal settlement, Kigali, Rwanda. Credit: Ya Ping Wang, University of Glasgow

This article was originally published by MDPI publications in the journal ‘Sustainability’. Please visit the link below to view and download the full article.


Though the relevance of the concept of neighbourhood in both research and policy oriented circles is unquestionable, the concept remains contested and fluid, making its operationalisation a daunting task, particularly in practice. This study explores how the concept of neighbourhood has been operationalised in Kigali city and how the neighbourhood boundaries and typologies are defined. The paper dwells on the review of relevant literature, interviews with 25 practitioners and field observations.

It is argued that neighbourhood conceptualisation in Kigali is both theory – it bears the common aspects of neighbourhood definitions – and practice driven, reflecting modernity and context. On the one hand, modernity suggests the desire of planning authorities to follow contemporary planning practices. Context, on the other hand, reflects the desire to tailor local policies to country specific challenges. While boundaries follow subjective, administrative and physical models, typologies tend to be overly physical, focusing mainly on housing structures.

The study identified three conventional neighbourhood typologies planned, informal and mixed types. Given the predominance of informal and mixed neighbourhoods, this study further argues that such areas form the ‘bedroom’ and ‘transit point’ for most lower and middle-class workers, in addition to serving as a ‘laboratory’ for testing various social interventions.

The study recommends a well-serviced mixed classification typology to foster a strong sense of belongingness.

Baffoe, G.; Malonza, J.; Manirakiza, V.; Mugabe, L. Understanding the Concept of Neighbourhood in Kigali City, Rwanda. Sustainability 2020, 12, 1555. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12041555