By Didier Champion
The answer has to do with the culture of Rwandans and their leadership.
Why do you see in this photo? You see a gardener taking care of the garden in the middle of the streets. This lady is probably an employee of one of the many private cleaning companies that the city of Kigali use to keep the city clean.
How many people will litter the streets when they see the hard work that these ladies do? Not very many. In the end, you see the work that people do and you do your best to keep the city clean. Less money for cleaning can be translated into lower taxes. Nobody knows how it works, but it works.
In the background, you see another lady sweeping the roads. These ladies do a really good job. They start early in the morning, sweeping, and cleaning our roads. The main factors that make Rwanda a clean country are the following.
- Culture. Rwandans do not eat in the streets. The fast food culture is virtually non-existent. If you want to eat, people will go and seat in restaurants to finish their meals. It is very rare to see Rwandans walking and eating. It is part of our culture. We respect the way we consume our food.
- Banned plastic bags. This is an old story. Plastic bags are banned in Rwanda. They used to cause lots of trouble, but it’s been over a decade without plastic bags in Rwanda. We use biodegradable paper bags instead.
- Initiative. If you are downtown Kigali, or other areas on the main streets, you will see trash bins where people throw their trash. Things such as gums, coffee cups, water bottles are collected that way.
- Privatize cleaning companies. The city of Kigali has contracted lots of companies to do the cleaning. This goes from lower-income and middle-income as well as upper-income neighborhoods. These companies have done a good job to collecting waste to deposit in landfills.
- Awareness about keeping the environment clean and healthy. The monthly community service has made people aware of the importance of cleaning their neighborhoods and areas. With Umuganda, many Rwandans do not litter as much. This goes beyond cleaning, they talk about air quality and environment as well. Planting trees, etc.
- Rule of Law. I have been to a few countries where people would burn trash for themselves to deal with waste. You will never see this in Kigali. Citizens will come to your house with complaints and next thing, your local officials will punish you according to the law. Rwandans take these matters very seriously.
- Pride. Kigali has been nominated as the cleanest and most environmentally friendly city over 5 years in a row. The Kigalians do not want to lose this title, so they work hard to keep it. Nobody wants to lose to Mauritius and Seychelles.