Kigali is the capital and largest city in Rwanda, a country that has undergone significant transformation since the end of its brutal genocide against the Tutsi. About 25 years after the genocide, Rwanda boasts of more tourists in the region than ever before. Kigali is home to Rwanda’s government ministries and the Presidential offices. According to the World Population Review, Kigali has a population of about 745,261 people out of Rwanda’s total population of about 12.21 million people (2017). As of the 2012 census, 51.7% of residents were male and 48.3% were female. It has a relatively young population with 73% of residents being less than 30 years old and 94% under the age of 50.
Kigali has particularly hit the headlines for its development so far that was thought impossible. It has undergone significant urbanization while other sectors especially housing and infrastructure have seen tremendous development. Currently, Kigali is among the top cleanest urban towns in the world in addition to its green and safe environmental standards. This has mostly been a result of the Rwandan government’s efforts in well-managed urbanization and sustainable human settlement development.
Kigali has become one of the fastest growing cities with the fastest rate of urbanization in Africa, making it a top attraction city for both foreign and local investors.
According to the World Economic Forum, Rwanda is 9th safest country in the world ahead of countries such as Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands. The government has invested so much resources to make sure that Rwandans and their visitors feel at home during their stay in Rwanda. This has attracted foreign businesses and investors especially to Kigali to do business. It has a large expat base and has been featured among the “must see” locations of the year 2018 by a number of travel agencies and organizations such as New York Times, Huffington Post, CNN Travel, The Telegraph and the Vogue.
As Kigali is the seat of Rwanda’s government ministries, it worthy to note that significant strides have been made to reduce gender inequality. The figures show that almost 64% of parliamentarians are women, compared to just 22% worldwide. This makes Rwanda the country with the most women in parliament in the world! Women in Kigali and the country at large are now able to make economic strides, own lands and also inherit property.
Tourism and Hospitality
Kigali has been inhabited since the 11th-century and has been home to the Twas, Tutsis and Hutus people. The city sits on a series of verdant ridges and lush valleys with a bustling market. Rwanda’s capital is the site of battles that left over a million, mostly Tutsi and moderate Hutus, dead.
This is a permanent memorial to 1994’s Genocide, built on a mass grave where 250,000 are buried. Kigali City Tour Bus offers an excellent introduction to this now safe, friendly city. It honours the memory of the more than one million Rwandans killed in 1994. The Memorial is made up of three permanent exhibitions, cafe & gift shop, a 1,200 seat amphitheatre, gardens, library and activities & events that support survivors of the Genocide and engage the community in learning about mass atrocity and peace building, burial place
The Presidential Palace, residence of the former president of Rwanda, President J. Habyarimana – is near the airport on the eastern outskirts of Kigali. Habyarimana was the president whose plane was shot down on the 6th April 1994, the event that some say triggered the Rwandan Genocide. The former state house is now a museum that gives an overview of Rwanda’s history and a visit to the remains of the Falcon 60 presidential jet that are housed in a walled garden on the property.
Nyamirambo is a bustling multi-cultural commercial district in Kigali. This unique experience brings you right into the heart of the colours, noises and smells of urban Rwanda. Guided by the charming women of the Nyamirambo Women’s Center (NWC), the tour allows visitors to experience the local market, West African tailors, hair salons, a recording studio with its local rap music, butcher and the Muslim quarter with its Arab influences. A delightful traditional Rwandan lunch in a home of one of your hosts is an optional extra.
- Visit a milk bar
Cows are incredibly important to Rwandan culture, and symbolize wealth, prosperity, and identity. Cows are still used today to pay a marriage dowry, or bride price. Milk is, as a result, also very important culturally, and small shops dedicated only to milk (called milk bars) are classically Kigali. Milk bars in the Nyamirambo or Kimisagara neighborhoods of Kigali are often the best, and are designated as such with the phrase ‘Amata Meza’ (meaning fresh milk in Kinyarwanda) and a drawing of a cow on the door.
- Check out the Gaddafi Mosque
One of Rwanda’s most impressive mosques and structures, the Gaddafi Mosque was not actually constructed by Muammar Gaddafi. However, it was named as such for the road that Gaddafi did build that runs parallel to the mosque. The mosque’s official name, though no locals refer to it as such, is the Islamic Cultural Center. Located in the Nyamirambo neighborhood, the mosque also serves as school, clinic, and community center for the surrounding area.
This is a platform for all artists, arts lovers, culture professionals, activists, critics, entrepreneurs and everyone else who is passionate or just curious about traditional and/or contemporary modes of artistic expression.
Ishyo also hosts different events related to fashion, plays, music and different other aspects of culture. It usually hosts experts from different countries to train and work with Rwanda artists, encouraging cultural diversity and improving skills. It is also home to the Goethe Institut – well known for its movie night every Tuesday evening. You will find a lot more than movies as it also organises brainstorm debates every last Thursday of the month.
- Mamba Club, Rwanda’s only bowling alley
There is no way you can classify Kigali City treasures and not mention Mamba Club. It is located in Kimihurura in front of Top Security headquarters. It is a bar and restaurant and even has several health fitness facilities ranging from a swimming pool, a hot yoga facility and it is Rwanda’s only bowling alley.
Besides the bowling alley and comfortable lounge, there is an area with sand to play beach volleyball. In other words you don’t need to go to Gisenyi to enjoy beach volleyball.
Bowling is a game that is enjoyed by both children and adults. It is relaxing and fun especially if there are two teams competing.
It is a wonderful place for people of all age groups. For example during birthday parties for children, bouncing castles are set up for the children to have fun.
Living in Kigali
- Hub for Whole Foods
Kigali is essentially an organic food lover’s dream. All fruit and vegetables are organic, non-GMO and non-hormone. It is all local and natural! There’s nothing more satisfying than taking a Saturday morning trip to Kimironko market and buying the most delicious avocado, carrots, beets and ginger. For meat lovers, Germany Bakery at MTN Center always has organic ground beef, lamb sausages, and sirloin steaks at ridiculously cheap prices.
- Motorcycle Craze
Motorcycle taxis are the fastest way to get around this metropolis. Helmets are provided, but this mode of transportation – while speedy and cheap, usually costing somewhere between 220 RWF to 500 RWF – isn’t always for the faint of heart. If you’re feeling flush you can take a standard taxi from point A to point B. Those with a yellow stripe will be run by individuals, while the majority will belong to either Kigali Taxi Service (3122) or Kigali Airport Taxis (476586).
If you don’t own a motorcycle in Kigali, you might end up doing so. Most people in Kigali and Rwanda at large prefer taking motorcycles to get around instead of buses. There are mobile apps for motorcycle riders such as SafeMotos specifically designed to make Rwanda’s motorcycle taxi industry more efficient and less dangerous.
Motorcycle Taxi riders are required to wear helmets and provide one for their passengers. The taxi riders are only permitted to carry one passenger at a time.
- Job Hunting in Kigali
All job searches are easier when present in the country, but in Rwanda particularly, take up of online job postings has been low. Finding work, unless you’re limiting your search to global organizations, will be easier once you have your feet on the ground.
Kigali offers many exciting opportunities for both locals and foreigners. Rwanda appears as an earth paradise. If you look it up on a map, you will find that the country is shaped like a heart, the beating heart of Africa. Today it is not only the land of a thousand hills, but also the land of a million smiles from the friendliest people in all Africa.