Although there are many factors that have led to Kigali’s solid infrastructure and booming development, one thing stands out as the organising principle: umuganda.
I was sitting on the terrace of La Brioche, a popular bakery-cafe in Kigali’s Gacuriro neighbourhood. It was twilight – the streetlights were coming on, and the first hint of cool wafted through the air after a sweltering autumn day. As I sat with my cappuccino and demi-baguette reading a collection of short stories by celebrated Rwandan writer Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse that I’d just found at Kigali’s best literary bookshop, Ikirezi Books, I noticed my phone was running low. I asked the young man at the next table, whom I’d overheard speaking English earlier (most people do in this trilingual city, but it’s good to check), if he had a charger. He did not. He went back to his MacBook, I to my short story, and then, about a minute later, he turned back to me.
“I’m leaving in a couple of minutes for an opening at a new photo gallery nearby,” he said. “It should be fun. Do you want to come?”