Rwanda Settlement structures

Rwanda Population


The images of the atrocities committed by Hutu militias among the Tutsi minority in April 1994 went around the world. Today, Rwanda is seen as a role model in terms of economic modernization. Despite the upswing, the country continues to face enormous challenges. Feeding the population remains the greatest challenge in Africa’s most densely populated country, where over 75% of the approximately 12 million residents live from agriculture on steep slopes in the “land of a thousand hills”.

Official name: Republic of Rwanda

Area: 26,338 km²

Residents: 12.6 million (2020, estimated)

Growth of population: 2.4% per year (2016)

Seat of government: Kigali

Official languages: Kinyarwanda, English

Regional languages: None


With a population of around 12.1 million people (2019, estimated) Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. In some regions, the population density is already up to 1000 residents per square kilometer. According to aristmarketing, the annual population growth has remained high for decades and is currently 2.4%. In order to contain the population explosion, the government is trying to enforce birth control through drastic measures, such as a three-child family policy. In general, a problem awareness can be observed within the Rwandan society, caused by family planning targeted government policy.

The urban population in Rwanda in the last 15 years dramatically from less than five to about 30% increased. The capital Kigali has over 1 million residents. The need for living space and other urban infrastructure (water and waste disposal, etc.) has risen enormously and is an urgent problem despite the ongoing construction boom. With the development and resolution of an ambitious master plan, the city administration is trying to achieve a growing, orderly urbanization To influence.

The other larger cities are the remaining 27 district capitals, including Muhanga (Guitarama), Huye (Butare), Musanze (Ruhengeri) and Rubavu (Gisenyi), whose population is only around 100,000. The majority of the population still lives in the countryside.

The high birth rates observed in most developing countries result in “a young population “. Regarding Rwanda, approximately 45% of the population is under 15 years old. If you add people up to 25 years of age, almost 70% of the total population is in the age group from 0 to 25 years. This age structure exacerbates the existing problems of providing adequate training and jobs.

Settlement structures

Villages as social and cultural units, such as in Europe, are basically unknown in Rwanda. Rather, there is a scattered settlement style. The rural population lives in individual farmsteads. The farmsteads of a hill are connected by a dense network of footpaths and slopes.

The traditional dwelling originally consisted of a round hut made of arched wickerwork, which was covered with grass, reeds or papyrus. As a further development, the hut was given a vertical wall made of wood and wattle, which was sealed with clay, with the same basic building materials. Until a few years ago (the end of the 1990’s), a conical thatched roof was the usual covering.

Today, houses with a rectangular floor plan that are built from air-dried bricks and covered with a roof made of corrugated iron or fired roof tiles predominate.

The residential complex, also called Urugo, mostly consisted of a residential house, stable, storage and storage building and was often surrounded by a high hedge. Construction materials and design vary depending on the region.

Dispersed settlements have prevailed for practical reasons. These are definitely beneficial for everyday work: People live close to their fields to be cultivated and at the same time can better monitor and care for their small livestock. On the other hand, this form of settlement has major disadvantages. It leads to a high degree of urban sprawl in the landscape and complicates the supply of water and electricity as well as the basic construction of any infrastructure.

After 1994, the Rwandan government promoted housing in settlements, also known as Imidugudu. This happened within the framework of a new housing policy, which aimed at access to basic services, more security and the creation of employment opportunities besides agriculture. During implementation, the changed way of living led to acceptance problems among the population. In particular, the controversial government initiative to abolish straw huts from 2008, known under the slogan “ Bye-Bye Nyakatsi“, Especially in 2011, led to the dubious handling of civil rights. At that time around 120,000 straw huts were demolished, partly under time pressure. From the government’s point of view, this action was integrated into the measures to fight poverty and improve living conditions for the poorest sections of the population.

With the growing number of settlements (regionally different), a long-term structural change can be seen to some extent.

Rwanda Settlement structures

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