Building bridges of unity and progress: Inside remarkable development of Rwanda’s stadiums

By Théophile Niyitegeka
On 26 June 2023 at 02:49

In 2015, President Paul Kagame reminisced on values taught by sports, including focus, sacrifice, humility, honesty, and teamwork.

It is no brainer that this philosophy has inspired the Government of Rwanda to prioritize sports as a crucial element in fostering unity and achieving socio-economic development.

However, the realization of this vision is contingent upon the availability of proper sports infrastructure. Recognizing this, the government has allocated significant resources to develop state-of-the-art facilities, bringing joy to countless Rwandans, particularly those in Nyagatare, Ngoma, Bugesera, and Huye.

The government’s commitment to sports infrastructure development is exemplified by the ambitious expansion project of the Amahoro Stadium in Remera, Kigali City. With an expected completion date in 2024, this endeavor will require an investment exceeding Rwf160 billion.

Once finished, the stadium’s capacity will increase from 25,000 to 45,000 seats, making it the largest in the country. Moreover, the upgraded facility is designed to host not only international football matches but also concerts and public events.

The expansion of the Amahoro Stadium aims to significantly enhance the comfort and overall experience for spectators, contributing to the growth of sports and entertainment in the country. This investment in infrastructure underscores Rwanda’s commitment to providing world-class facilities for both its citizens and visitors.

While the entire facility will be roofed, FIFA regulations stipulate that the playing field must remain open to sunlight to preserve the grass. Additionally, the stadium will be equipped to host rugby matches, further diversifying the range of sporting events it can accommodate.

The Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA), responsible for the construction of public infrastructure, reports that the renovation of Amahoro Stadium has surpassed 27% completion, with an optimistic outlook for its timely conclusion next year.

Notably, the raft foundation and assembly of steel structures have been completed, and the refurbishment of the spectator seating section is currently underway.

The RHA management assures that the project is progressing smoothly, stating, "As you have seen, we have started raising steel columns on the stadium’s peripheries. These columns will hold the ceiling, and related works are expected to commence soon."

Citizens upbeat over modern stadiums

Citizens are enthusiastic about modern stadiums and recognize their positive impact on local development.

During the 2017 presidential campaigns, citizens across the country advocated for the construction of stadiums. Responding to their request, President Kagame approved the construction of stadiums in Nyagatare, Ngoma, and Bugesera, a project that commenced in 2018. These stadiums have been in use since 2020.

Nyagatare Stadium required an investment of Rwf9.5 billion, Ngoma Stadium cost Rwf9.3 billion, and Bugesera Stadium was built with an investment of Rwf9.5 billion.

Residents attest that these stadiums have had a profoundly positive effect on their communities, attracting a greater flow of people who engage in various activities.

Vestine Nyirakamana, a trader near Ngoma Stadium, emphasizes the facility’s role in boosting sporting and entertainment activities in the area.

She enthusiastically remarks, "The completion of this stadium has brought immense joy to the residents. As businesspeople, we have seen increased foot traffic, resulting in higher profits from food and beverage sales. Before the construction of the stadium, our businesses faced challenging times, but now we experience peak customer flows, particularly during matches involving top-tier teams. On such occasions, daily earnings can reach between Rwf50,000 and Rwf60,000, compared to the usual Rwf20,000."

Another trader, Aisha Munganyinka, adds, "We observe a significant surge in customers, especially when professional teams play at the stadium. She further elaborates, "In such situations, we register a high influx of customers, especially when teams from the top division are playing."

Eric Itangishaka ’Dihno’, the Team Manager of Bugesera FC, grew up in Nyamata with a passion for football. He recalls playing on poor playgrounds during his childhood.

Reflecting on the impact of having a stadium, he says, "As someone who was born here, the memories of lawnless playgrounds come to mind when I think about the development of sports.

When there is a stadium like this, children as young as five years old come to play.

But without a stadium, it would be difficult as a parent to let your child play on a soil-covered playground. You worry about the risk of injury if there are stones on the pitch. Conversely, when you know they are playing in a stadium, you can let children play freely without such concerns."

Farouk Sejuuko Ssentongo, also known as ’Ruhinda Farouk,’ has been a player for Bugesera FC since 2017. He vividly remembers the challenges of playing on lawnless playgrounds and expresses gratitude to the Government of Rwanda for building the stadium.

Ssentongo appealed for similar infrastructure to be established in other districts, stating, "It was very difficult to play on lawnless playgrounds. We used to train on such fields and occasionally visited teams with turf-covered playgrounds. We thank the Government of Rwanda for constructing this stadium and request support to create similar infrastructure in other districts.

The stadium has had a tremendous impact on the development of our district and football in general. We can now play and entertain fans without the risk of injuries. Previously, we faced restrictions, including limitations on the types of shoes we could use while playing. But now, we can enjoy the game with greater comfort and freedom."

Officials speak out

Government officials highlight the wider benefits of these stadiums beyond hosting matches.

They serve as versatile venues for campaigns, public meetings, religious gatherings, and other events, fostering economic and social development. Economists emphasize that such infrastructure plays a pivotal role in transforming the mindset of the local population.

Ange Sebutege, the Mayor of Huye District, acknowledges the significant impact of the stadium on the town’s development.

She remarks, "The stadium is one of the infrastructures that have accelerated the development of Huye town. It has created job opportunities for our people. We are grateful for this gift from the Head of State, as it brings joy to sports and propels us towards development.

Moreover, the stadium has garnered international recognition, hosting international matches. With the infrastructure in place, foreigners can easily access accommodations, witnessing that Rwanda’s development extends beyond the city of Kigali. Additionally, we have seen increased private sector investments in hotels. Undoubtedly, the stadium has stimulated investment in our district."

Richard Mutabazi, the Mayor of Bugesera District, highlights several advantages resulting from improved access to infrastructure, including enhanced professionalism and the ability to attract visitors.

He explains, "One notable advantage is that we receive visitors. In the past, when planning matches with prominent teams, we would often face complaints when our stadium didn’t meet their requirements. There were instances when we were compelled to play in Kigali, despite being the host team. During the renovation of the Kigali Stadium, Bugesera hosted many matches, generating revenue for the district. Additionally, local businesses experienced an influx of customers during these events."

The positive impact of stadiums extends to Nyagatare as well. In addition to the benefits enjoyed by the Sunrise FC team, the city of Nyagatare continues to reap the advantages of being in close proximity to the stadium. Recently, the stadium hosted a match between Kiyovu Sports and Sunrise FC, with Kiyovu emerging victorious with a score of 1-0.

In addition to hosting matches, the stadium has served as the venue for graduation ceremonies of over 10,000 graduates from the University of Rwanda and East African University Rwanda.

Mayor Stephen Gasana of Nyagatare District shares the significance of having a suitable venue, stating, "Out of those 13,000 graduates, approximately 2,000 may be from Nyagatare, while the remaining 10,000 come from different parts of the country. They chose to come here because we had a place where we could host them. Prior to their arrival, we held numerous meetings with traders and the private sector to prepare for their visit."

"Although we didn’t tally the exact numbers, the stadium was packed during the match between Sunrise and Kiyovu Sports, with a substantial number of cars parked in the vicinity. When visitors come, they explore the town, make purchases, and contribute to the local economy," he added.

Decentralized stadiums, a promise fulfilled by President Kagame to citizens, have been built in Nyagatare, Bugesera, and Ngoma districts. Each stadium has a capacity to accommodate 4,000 people in both roofed and unroofed seating areas. The football playground of Nyagatare Stadium features a turf surface and includes additional facilities such as basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts. Furthermore, athletes can utilize the stadium’s running track for training and competitions.

These stadiums are part of a larger development plan, which includes complementary projects such as hotels, roads, and electricity infrastructure. The construction of such facilities not only provides economic opportunities but also transforms the mindset of the local population. By investing in sports infrastructure, Rwanda aims to create a thriving environment that nurtures talent, fosters unity, and attracts visitors from both domestic and international spheres.

The journey towards comprehensive sports infrastructure continues in Rwanda, with the expansion of the Amahoro Stadium serving as a testament to the country’s dedication to providing world-class facilities. With the completion of these stadiums, Rwandans are empowered to pursue their sporting aspirations and embrace the transformative power of sports in their lives.

Amahoro Stadium is undergoing major renovation works

The magnificence of Huye Stadium

Ngoma Stadium

Nyagatare Stadium