Born in the early 90s, just before Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, Ms Esther Ndacyayisenga lived through a tough period in Rwanda’s history when around one million lives were taken in just 100 days, which greatly destroyed families and communities. Though Ms Ndacyayisenga could have moved to another country, she feels her home country, Rwanda is still the best for opportunities.
And as an urban planner for SMEC Africa, a member of the Surbana Jurong Group, which is reviewing master plans for the Rwandan capital city of Kigali and Six secondary cities, she is a living embodiment of the group’s mission of “Building Cities, Shaping Lives.”
The Surbana Jurong Group is contributing to the transformation of Rwandan cities into better places to live and work in, through the revision of Kigali Master Plan and Six Secondary Cities Master Plans. Kigali will be positioned as a commercial hub of east-central Africa to attract investments and create employment. Kigali’s development will also be characterised by a rejuvenation of the existing urban areas, transit-oriented growth, greater focus on affordable housing development in the suburban areas and the implementation of an attractive green network system.
SMEC Africa’s infrastructure and transport projects in Rwanda include the design and engineering of the largest hydropower installation project ever undertaken in Rwanda; an environmental assessment for a power line connecting Tanzania and Rwanda; and the preparation of sanitation master plans for the three districts on behalf of the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority; technical axle road and weighbridge studies, construction supervision of two major rural roads in Rwanda, Design and Supervision of Irrigation Dams and Pressurized irrigation system for about 2400ha in several areas in Rwanda, Development of Kigali Wetland Masterplan project. More recently, SMEC is also involved in improving the agricultural system in Rwanda with design of two multipurpose irrigation projects and rehabilitation of a large water treatment plant.
Rising from the ashes
In a recent interview, Ms Ndacyayisenga said: “I grew up in a country where there was no hope for tomorrow,” Everything was messed up; security was not assured, society was divided, there was extreme poverty and lots of negative anger amongst people.”
As there is a dire need for local city planners, designers and management professionals to deal with the current urbanisation challenges in her home country, she chose to study her master’s degree so that she can contribute.
Ms Ndacyayisenga earned a government scholarship that supported her through high school and undergraduate university studies. She then received an Equity and Merit Scholarship* at University of Manchester, which meant that she could study a master’s in Global Urban Development and Planning in Manchester in 2018.
Why she stayed in Rwanda
Said the highly motivated young woman, who is also a public engagement assistant for SMEC, in an email interview: “I want to contribute towards Rwanda’s growth. Not only through my profession as an urban planner, but also on a personal level through simple steps with the aim to build a better society.”
This sense of urgency is loud and clear in her blog post on Medium, where she seeks to inspire a whole generation to make a difference, writing: “We are the country’s strongest asset. We will be the generation to define the next fifteen years of development in our country. We have to stop running away.”
Focused on the future
Ms Ndacyayisenga’s daily work includes coordinating with the Project Manager in Kigali along the review process of Kigali Master Plan and Secondary Cities Master Plans, as well as assisting and supporting the project Communication and Public Engagement activities.
She loves how Rwanda has been changing. As she writes in her post: “When you walk around in the city of Kigali, you see many newly completed buildings, numerous structures under construction, and a few others under demolition. Rwanda has been steadily experiencing changes for the past decade, and to me, it is simply a sign that the country needs us, its citizens, now more than ever.”
“I believe that I was created for a life of service to others,” Ms Ndacyayisenga tells SJ Connects, “Wherever I can I try to use my gifts/talent, skills and different opportunities to help another human being. It’s an everyday lifelong learning!”
* Esther’s Equity & Merit Scholarship was funded by The Allan and Nesta Ferguson Trust. Drawn from across Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, Manchester’s Equity and Merit scholars represent the best and the brightest of their communities. These exceptional students come to The University of Manchester to study a Master’s degree in a subject not available in their home country. After they graduate, they share their newfound knowledge and skills with their communities back home. While the University covers all tuition fees, generous donors cover the students’ living expenses, flights, and visa costs. Parts of Ms Esther Ndacyayisenga’s interview are reproduced with permission from Manchester University’s Divison of Development and Alumni Engagement