By David Himbara
President Paul Kagame envisages his capital city of Kigali as Africa’s model of urban planning and development. He sees Kigali as a city of gleaming high-rise towers, arching pedestrian walkways, green spaces, fountains and an effective public transport system. Financed by Rwanda’s pension fund – the usual victim of Kagame’s fantasies as I showed in my book – Vision City was to become the centre piece of modern Kigali.
But as with Kagame’s other projects, Vision City was unrealistic. At worst, Vision City was a work of delusion of grandeur. Vision City was doomed from the start because it failed to take into account Rwanda’s demographic and economic realities.
Vision City is truly a spectacular failure
The first sign of doom for Kagame’s Vision City was the pricing. When the complex was completed and put on the market, the prices of the units ranged from $179,000 to $560,000. There was one little problem with this – per capita income in Rwanda is $702. That is the average income for Rwandans per year. So who was to buy these units?
Now, the Auditor General gives the latest as follows:
- Completion delay: A contributing factor to why the units became too expensive was the delay in completion of Vision City. The initial phase was supposed to be completed in 2014. The project was completed in 2017.
- Cost overruns: The original construction cost was estimated at $89.6 Million. The Auditor General says that the “final project cost will increase to Frw 107,670,708,884 after considering the unpaid amounts to contractors and land cost.” The dollar amount is $125 million. In other words, the price of Vision City increased by $36 million due to cost overruns.
- Low uptake for the houses: Only 78 houses (representing only 15.5% of the total houses) out of 504 units were sold as of 29th September 2017.
When Kagame’s Vision City was initially announced, it sounded too good to be true. This was the rhetoric used:
“Once complete, Vision City will consist of a total 4,500 units in different configurations ranging from luxury villas to apartments to be built in 4 phases. The first phase is approaching completion and boasts 504 spectacular homes marked by chic, urban aesthetics and exquisite attention to detail.”
Rwanda is a grave yard of Kagame’s failed projects. His Vision City is the latest white elephant. Unfortunately for Rwandan taxpayers, especially Rwanda’s pension fund, this failure won’t be the last. In this case, Kagame’s “spectacular homes marked by chic, urban aesthetics and exquisite attention to detail” remain empty shells.