By Jasmine Wing | @jasminenatashaw
The the capital city of Rwanda – Kigali has a car-free day every month to reduce pollution and has banned plastic bag use. The capital has been voted the cleanest in Africa, it has been named third greenest destination in the world and the most efficiently governed country in Africa.
“Since Rwanda introduced the law to prohibit the manufacture, importation, use and sale of polythene bags a decade ago, we have seen remarkable progress” said Vincent Biruta is the Minister of Environment for the Government of Rwanda.
Kigali was the first city in Africa to be awarded the Habitat Scroll of Honor Award in the recognition of its “cleanliness, security and urban conservation model.”
The policy has been going on for six years now. Rwanda is one of 40 countries around the world that have restricted, banned, or taxed the use of plastic bags, but has some of the most extreme approaches. Violators face heavy fines or even jail time for these offenses. Typical fines are around 50,000 francs (US$61, €67). Although many might consider this ban severe, it works. Anyone entering Rwanda can see, it’s clean. Unlike other countries there are no mounds of rubbish and some could argue it is one of the most beautiful cities in Africa.
Every last Saturday of the month they have a obligatory collective street clean up – Umuganda. The word Umuganda can be translated as ‘coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome’. In traditional Rwandan culture, members of the community would call upon their family, friends and neighbours to help them complete a difficult task. This day involves all able bodied citizens between 18 and 65 years and includes cleaning of streets, clearing of bushes and sewage systems. The people of Rwanda takes the day so seriously that even President Paul Kagame participates in the cleanup.
The country has invested heavily in having the right systems and processes to steer the economic and social development of its people.
Car Free Day
The monthly Car Free Day held on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month was introduced by the City of Kigali in May 2016. It aims to encourage citizens to exercise and engage in sports in order to reduce lifestyle disease prevalence, make people interact and reduce carbon emissions from motor vehicles. On Car Free Day, main connecting routes are closed to traffic from 7:00 am to 12:00 am. Without cars or buses, residents are encouraged to walk, jog, and ride bicycles as well as skate. Participants at the Car Free Day fitness sessions also get free check-ups and medical advice in the spirit of promoting healthy lifestyles.
National Environment Week
On 29 May 2018, Rwanda launched National Environment Week. The week concludes on 5 June, which is World Environment Day. World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated on the 5th of June every year, and is the United Nation’s principal vehicle for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of our environment.
They also want to clear its tidy streets of hawkers, (a person who travels around selling goods, typically advertising them by shouting.) They are encouraging hawkers to set up co-operatives and register businesses, both of which would pay tax.
It is pretty safe to say Rwanda and specifically its capital are doing a great job at leading by example in urban cleanliness and how to manage a clean city.