There is something therapeutic and pleasant about visiting Kigali. It is the sheer orderliness, cleanliness and a strong feeling of safety and security that welcomes a visitor to the city.
There is an apparent commitment by the Rwandese to do things correctly by willingly following their own policies, laws and rules. In Rwanda, there is a cross-cutting evidence of a general culture of compliance, very rare in many African countries.
For instance, I had always wondered why Kigali is so spotlessly clean, until on my last trip to the city I visited a supermarket and found that they use bio-degradable paper bags and not plastic bags.
And this explains why the streets, estates and even streams in Kigali are free of plastic clutter, unlike in many towns and cities in Africa.
In Kenya, several efforts to get rid of plastic bags have always encountered resistance from vested interests to the detriment of our environment and urban wetlands.
Plastic bags make management of solid waste in Kenya’s urban areas a nightmare, yet this does not seem to put the environmental authorities in any form of urgency to redress the situation.
Another key attraction in Kigali is the aesthetic design of the urban roads and streets which incorporate paved pedestrian walkways, sufficient lighting, and well manicured grass and flower beds. Walkways make walking and jogging a pleasure even at night as insecurity is not a major issue.
In Nairobi, many want to walk or jog from one area of the city to another, but the general absence of safe walkways (and lighting) makes walking a risky adventure to be avoided.
Many tourists in Nairobi feel compelled by the awkwardness and insecurity of our streets and roads to take taxis even for short distances that do not warrant it. And this erodes the brand value of our city.
The motor bikes in Kigali are safety compliant and blend quite well with the rest of traffic without much nuisance or obstructions. Safety helmets and reflectors are worn by all bike drivers and passengers, including women.
Unlike in Kenya, motor bikes in Kigali are a respected and accepted mode of urban public transport with the owners and users complying with the traffic law.
Another good example of Rwanda walking a policy is the replacement of 14-seater vans with larger commuter buses. The policy driver was to reduce traffic clutter and improve public transport management and efficiency.
This now appears to have been fully implemented. In Nairobi, policies for larger buses have been issued and then retracted when vested interests prevailed over the authorities.
Sometimes I wonder whether our National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) officials have ever paid a courtesy visit to their road safety counterparts in Kigali to seek some explanations as to why it works in Rwanda and not in Kenya.
One explanation they are sure to get is that corruption and bribes are unacceptable tools-of-trade in Rwanda’s road safety enforcement.