Kigali eases construction permit procedures

Six months ago, obtaining a construction permit in Rwanda’s capital Kigali was a lengthy and costly process and builders were agitating for quicker services and approvals.

The service was marred by bureaucracy to the extent that obtaining construction approvals could take up to 30 days or even more.  Developers ended up making countless trips to the Kigali City construction one-stop-center offices—a facility put in place to reduce the applicant’s burden by cutting the procedures.

However, accessing the service still required architects to physically visit the center which was obviously costly in terms of money and time spent on the visits.


The lengthy process used to cause blame games where city authorities blamed builders that they submitted applications without the proper documentation and then could not be reached when follow -ups was needed.   The City of Kigali (CoK) authorities appear to have got round to tackling the issue through adapting an online system designed to ease construction permit approvals.

A construction permit is a government-issued document that authorises business to construct a new building, add on to an existing structure or undertake major renovations to an existing building.

Fidele Ndayisaba, the mayor of Kigali says under the new the online construction permit Management Information System (MIS) system, developers wishing to obtain construction permits will be required to apply online and get an electronically generated permit upon satisfying all the requirements within the shortest time possible.

“Those who are applying and those expecting to do so in the near future will have to submit their application online; the system allows clients to upload construction projects and also interact with our technicians from their offices or home comfort without driving across town,” Ndayisaba says.

The online system lowers the days it takes to obtain a permit from the previous 30 days to at least 10 days. The mayor says the duration is because his leadership is striking a balance when it comes to the sensitive issue of construction permits.

He said that the launch of construction permits MIS is a sign that Kigali is expected to have good regulations that ensure the safety standards and protect the interests of the public while making permitting more efficient, transparent and affordable for building authorities and the private professionals who use it.  The construction permit MIS project implements a web-based system for the full construction permit process cycle from submission to delivery.

The system supports the entire process of client relations, assessment, and construction administration and other related permits (renovation, change of use, transformation and permit to construct a fence) issued by district offices and one stop centers.

Ndayisaba also noted that for the last few years, the city has been involved in streamlining the system of issuing construction permits, reducing days for acquiring a construction permit, reducing procedures, and putting in place a clients’ charter.

Previously, the city had twelve procedures for obtaining construction permits.

Also, the cost of acquiring a permit for construction of a residential house has been slashed to between Rwf20, 000 and Rwf60, 000 from Rwf100, 000 while that of commercial buildings has been reduced from Rwf625, 000 to between Rwf20, 000 and Rwf60, 000.

Construction one-stop centers

The Kigali construction one-stop-center handles all property development and approvals except for single family residences, which are handled at the district level.

To prevent overlap and ensure efficiency, the CoK opted to put the agencies in one location.  “The online construction permit management information system has simplified the procedures as today there is no need to either visit the multiple offices or fill out numerous forms. All the former permitting processes have been merged to ensure that everything is carried out under one roof at city one stop centre,’ the mayor said.

With introduction of new online application system, manual applications will be phased out.

The Minister of Infrastructure, Prof. Silas Lwakabamba, said that the new system aims at making services more accessible in a fitting and transparent manner.

“Kigali, as an entrance to Rwanda, is important that we keep up with the latest standards and fortunately we are fully committed to that,” Lwakabamba said.

Lillian Mupende, the coordinator of Kigali construction one-stop centre says technicians and laptops will be available in customer care centers for those seeking assistance and that local and out –of country investors will also all have similar access to these services. An e –payment facility is also availed on the portal.  “These services are simpler, faster and more reliable,” Mupende says.

Improving doing business ranking

Rwanda is one of the economies surveyed during a joint World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC) Doing Business survey which ranks countries on the way they make it easier to businesses to operate.

Dealing with construction permits is one of the indicators used in the survey which Rwanda continues to dominate in terms of reforming its business environment.

To measure the ease of dealing with construction permits, the survey records the number of procedures, time and cost required to complete the process.

Karim Tushabe, the coordinator of the Doing Business unit at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), says the new system will be a tool that will facilitate to progress Rwanda’s rankings in the World Bank’s Doing Business indicators.

“This is a milestone, an important indicator and as RDB we expect this online facility to improve our World Bank rankings and attract more investors come next year,” Tushabe said.   The project has been implemented with support from the government, CoK, Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF), and WB/IFC.