Providing easy access to construction permits in Kigali
August 28, 2015
|Kefa Angwenyi with a box full of architectural drawings
that were needed to process a construction permit for
one commercial building. Now all these documents
can be uploaded online.
Kigali, 28 August, 2015 - Like for any business owner, time for Kefa Angwenyi is money. And wasted time means wasted money – and wasted opportunities. As the Managing Director of an architectural firm called Neocracft, the ability to plan construction projects and deliver to clients on an agreed timeframe is crucial.
The Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF) and the City of Kigali are helping businesses like Neocraft to do just that. With assistance from ICF, the City of Kigali has introduced an online system that enables businesses, and individuals, to process their construction permits online. This means they can submit applications, upload all their drawings and other required documentation, and receive their permits through one online portal called the Construction Permit Management Information System (CPMIS).
Prior to the introduction of the new system, processing and obtaining a construction permit was a long, expensive and tedious process. Architects had to print all their drawings and physically submit them to the City of Kigali district offices or the One Stop Centre for processing and approval. While the number of drawings required for residential buildings are few, commercial buildings require numerous drawings, including site analysis, structural layouts, and even layouts for building services like storm water, telecommunications and safety measures. All documents had to be submitted in four copies. Architects often had to deliver their drawings in boxes.
“It was a lot of documentation and it was expensive,” said Mr. Angwenyi. “The drawings had to be printed in large format so the details can be seen properly. You could easily spend $1,000 on the printing alone. And if you make a mistake, you have to do the printing all over again. Sometimes it was cheaper for me to fly to Kenya, spend the night there, print and fly back to Kigali.”
Once the application was submitted it was difficult to predict how long it would take to get the construction permit. “There was no turn-around time promised,” said Mr. Angwenyi. “You didn’t know whether you would be getting feedback in a year or in two months. You couldn’t plan with clients. You only hoped that you would pressure the people at the City of Kigali and they would find time to look at your work and respond to you.”
This had implications on his ability to deliver projects on time and, therefore, to get paid. “When projects delay, we get a very direct effect. Clients lose interest. When they have to wait for a long time for permits, they don’t hold their money; they get into the next best venture. So if we promise them to start building in 3 months and 2 years later we are still going in circles, they lose interest and go into other things.”
The ability to process construction permits online has changed all this, thanks to the new CPMIS. Construction permits for residential and commercial buildings can now be obtained in less than 20 days. If all documents are in order, it is possible to get a permit in 7 days. This assurance makes it easier for architects to deliver their construction projects predictably and to stay within their time limits. It also helps to boost their credibility with their clients.
Patrick Arinawe, an Urban Planner at the City of Kigali, is excited about the new CPMIS and what it means for their clients. “The system is enabling businesses to save both time and money. Applications for construction permits can now be done anytime and all necessary drawings and documentations uploaded electronically. Printing has become a thing of the past. Business also do not have to spend time following up on their applications. The system tracks the application process from submission to delivery of permits and clients can track this at any time. When issues occur, the system automatically provides feedback to the architect enabling them to do corrective measures to parts of their application even as the rest of it is being processed,” he said.
The system has an added benefit for Mr. Angwenyi because it enables him to communicate better with the people reviewing his application. “It makes us more like partners. Now you know the person looking at your project, you know his concerns, you can discuss. And if you agree with him you know that you are done with that portion of the application and you can move forward.”
Mr. Angwenyi’s firm has processed more than 50 applications between February 2013 when the new construction permit system was rolled out and February 2015. Of those, more than 80% were granted construction permits.
“We are very happy with the intervention. The system is fair, simple and easy to deal with. It’s something that we can plan with. When we tell the client seven days we tell them with confidence because if the request has not been responded to in seven days there usually is an explanation for it,” Mr. Angwenyi said.
“The City of Kigali’s vision is to become the Center of Urban Excellence in Africa,” Mr. Arinawe said. “The online construction permit system is greatly contributing to this vision by increasing investment in the construction and urbanization sectors, which are key pillars for the realization of the ultimate vision.”