Rwanda’s political settlement and the urban transition: expropriation, construction and taxation in Kigali


Although still predominantly rural, Rwanda is one of the world’s fastest-urbanizing countries. This paper considers the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s (RPF) approach to urban development in the context of intense pressure on land and a stated long-term agenda of moving towards a future that is ‘100% urban’. The RPF government has won plaudits for its transformation of Kigali, and its Land Tenure Regularisation programme is proceeding at a pace few anticipated. Its approach to the urban question remains, however, both highly controversial abroad and contested within the country. There is widespread acknowledgement that aspects of the government’s urban agenda have been disadvantageous to the poor, but it is also unclear whether the implementation of this agenda is furthering or hindering their overarching drive for economic growth, structural transformation and political stability. In particular, the expropriation of urban land and the political–economic interests embedded in the real estate sector have critical impacts on Rwanda’s development trajectory. Utilizing a ‘political settlements’ approach but introducing a spatial perspective focused on the transformation of Kigali, this paper explores the governance of land reform, urban planning, expropriation and property taxation, analyses how these illuminate the broader settlement in place, and considers the implications for Rwanda’s future.

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Publication Type Journal article
Publisher Journal of Eastern African Studies
Year 2014
Author(s) Goodfellow T
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