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Urban Development, Youth and the Future in Kigali, Rwanda


Project description

Will Rollason

How do poor people’s projects for the future affect urban modernisation in Kigali City, Rwanda? Development projects embed powerful visions of the future, setting policy agendas, determining outcomes and supporting or silencing particular social groups.

Rwanda has experienced enormous successes in combating poverty. However, it is not clear why. In Rwanda, much development activity takes the form of 'modernising', formalising and commercialising economic activity. This is nowhere more evident than in development of Kigali City, which it is planned completely to remodelled along 'modern, progressive' lines over the next twenty to thirty years.

However, this research suggests that youth development in the motorcycle taxi sector in Kigali is mainly driven by informal economic arrangements, specifically between young men, many of them migrants without advanced education or promising backgrounds, and local entrepreneurs who invest in the young men’s futures.

In the context of Rwanda's drive to economic formalisation, the success of the moto sector, and the social systems underpinning it, has remained largely unrecognised, and in many cases are threatened by government and other programmes. This is most evident in moves to formalise and control motorcyclists’ work, transport in Kigali city, and urban design itself.

This research was supported by a Brunel Research Initiative and Enterprise Fund (BRIEF) grant and conducted in affiliation with the National University of Rwanda.