Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, has been shortlisted among the sixteen (16) finalists for the WellBeing City Awards. This global award aims at recognizing cities, around the globe, that place well-being at the core center of their urban design, planning, and policies. It is, therefore, the world’s first global competition recognizing city-led action on urban well-being. Being the only African city among the sixteen finalists that were shortlisted, Kigali was nominated in the Public Health category. Speaking to The New Times, Bruno Rangira, the Advisor to the Mayor of the city of Kigali disclosed that, the city’s nomination can be attributed to its Car-Free Day Initiative. Here is what he said: “In November 2018 there was a call for submission of wellbeing initiatives that cities were implementing. The city of Kigali submitted the Kigali Car-Free Day initiative in the category of public health”. This Car-free day initiative is a bi-monthly event designed to encourage a healthy lifestyle.
Actually, in the city of Kigali, every first and third Sundays of the month are dedicated to being car-free days. During these days a number of roads are closed throughout the city from 7 am to 10 am and residents are invited to leave their cars home; this is all done in order to encourage them to engage in physical exercises, and also to interact with their neighbors. People are encouraged to do various kinds of activities such as walking, running or riding bicycles. In addition to that, the residents do also have the opportunity to do health check-ups for various and different health conditions.
Many people are of the belief that Kigali was considered for such an award because of these three (3) major reasons:
- Its Car-free day Initiative.
- The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, and The Mayor of Kigali, Marie-Chantal Rwakazina, are very proactive about the health of their citizens.
- Public Health awareness in Rwanda is on the rise with more citizens establishing health initiatives and more knowledge on health and well-being circulating the country (very recently, Paul Kagame banned skin bleaching products from the country).
The WellBeing City Award was launched on September 2018, and it was initiated by NewCities, an international non-profit organization that aims to shape a better urban future as well as the most progressive and innovative ideas for driving positive change in cities through events, research, and urban innovation projects. The year 2019 is going to be its first edition. More than 100 cities from 27 countries and six continents were considered for this award before the jury shortlisted only 16 cities to make up the final list which has four categories of awards: Public health, economy and opportunity, community, and sustainable environment.
Kigali appears in the Public Health category where it will be competing with cities like Los Angeles (USA), Gothenburg (Sweden), and Vancouver (Canada). For the Community category, we have cities like: Bogotá (Colombia), Milan (Italy), New Haven (USA) and Santa Monica (USA) In the Economy and Opportunity category: Amaravati (India), Chicago (USA), Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Pune (India) are the finalists. Cities that can stand the chance to win the Sustainable Environment category award are: Avià (Catalonia) (Spain), Curridabat (Costa Rica), Lisbon (Portugal) and Moonee Valley (in Melbourne metropolitan area) (Australia).
A major award ceremony and a forum will be held in Montréal in April 2019, under the auspices of Mayor Valérie Plante. During this ceremony, one overall 2019 Wellbeing City laureate will be announced, as well as a winner in each of the four categories. The Canadian City of Montréal, Novartis Foundation, Toyota Mobility Foundation, and the US Green Building Council are also partnering with this competition event.