The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: 'Modern' Street Vending Spreads in Kigali

Hawking may have been banned on Kigali streets but a new form of hawking different merchandise, which is reportedly common in some regional capitals like Kampala, has spread to the Rwandan main city.

This form of selling includes using a car trunk as a mobile shop.

Yet some of them started small.

Emmanuel Tuyishime started by vending boiled eggs on the streets of Nyabugogo in Nyarugenge district and this was ten years back. His sojourn in Kigali started with a failed attempt to become a domestic house help.

He hails from Rusizi district in the Western Province.

From eggs, Tuyishime managed to get a bicycle on which he hawked doughnuts, commonly known as Mandazi.

After the laborious five years supplying Mandazi in several neighbourhoods, Tuyishime saved up Rwf3 million and, last year, bought a car.

He had a business plan, though. The 25-year old turned his Carina E just into a shopping cabin at the main entrance of Kimironko Market.

He says, "I chose to buy a car instead of renting a house for my business because the day I will have enough money, I will rent a house for a bigger business and use my car for other things," he said.

He still sells his Mandazi at Rwf50 a piece and these are normally in a basket that he keeps in the boot of his car.

Tuyishime entices clients to come and buy his products with the name he gave himself; Tonton Mukundabantu, literally translates to mean Uncle who loves people.

In the interview, he enthused that on a daily basis, he earns a profit of at least Rwf20, 000 and that he has more than Rwf3 million on his account.

"I can't leave this business before I buy a house of my own in Kigali," he said.

Athanase Shukuru, the owner of Testimony Bread Bakery, who sells bread around the entrance of Kimironko market, also in a car boot, arrives at 6a.m and sells the bread he bakes over night.

By 11a.m, he has run out of stock and returns home to make more bread for the evening shift.

At 6:30 pm, he parks again in his spot with hot cakes.

He says, "In the evening, people come from different corners of town, mainly shoppers from the market, to buy from me...I make good stuff".

"Retailers from the (Kimironko) market have become loyal clients. They do not need to go to the supermarket to buy bread when they can easily get it here."

Shukuru sells his bread at Rwf500 and rrw700 and says he is not complaining because he collects at least Rwf50, 000 every day and pays taxes worth Rwf1,500.

Apart from individuals, companies also have entered into this sort of business, and this increased during the festive season.

Anaclet Ntakirutimana works on behalf of Nyabisindu Dairy where he sells yoghurts at a promotional price of two cups for Rwf500. He normally parks at the strategic intersection next to the new T 2000 super market complex in downtown Kigali.

He says that like the three other cars dispatched at different points in Kigali to do the same business, he can make Rwf80, 000 every day.

Equally in this advanced hawking business is Dinapharm, a Malaysian company that sells food supplements.

You find their cars at every strategic place in Kigali with a microphone announcing their food supplements items.

But this practice is illegal, at least according to some local government officials.

Jean Claude Munara, the vice mayor in charge of economic affairs in Gasabo district, says "every business in Kigali has been allocated its specific place. It's a practice we are keen on stopping because its contagious."

Munara said they are planning a meeting with Kigali City officials to discuss the matter extensively.

"We want to establish guidelines on who can do the business, in what car, and under what conditions, before it gets out of hand."

The vice mayor added, "Selling food in a car requires authorisation and it should be done in appropriate cars".

"Inyange (Industries, the country's biggest food processor), does sometimes require that permission and it's always for promotion purposes which has a time limit," he said.

On her side, Anna Mugabo, the Director General of Labour and Employment in the Ministry of Public Service and Labour, which recently introduced "Kuremera", a programme that aims at helping people to grow business-wise, said there is need for proper regulation.

"We are encouraging start-ups but we want businesses to operate within the confines of law."

"They should be clean and secure authorisation from Rwanda Bureau of Standards because food and medicines require special care," she says .

"We are talking about quality jobs which may not harm the consumers' lives".

Mugabo says, however, that those people can qualify to benefit from the new initiative (Kuremera).

"Instead of helping someone who even doesn't know what business they want to do, we can help such people to leave the street and establish their business in a decent place."

But these retailers say they earn a lot when they use such strategic places, she added. "It would be hard to get them in another place to operate in an organised way".

The Director General of Rwanda Bureau of Standards, Dr Mark Cyubahiro Bagabe, said this was a complex matter, where first of all, it is difficult to locate these people because they are always on the move, and thus they do not pay taxes.

Another issue, Bagabe says, food and medicines require special care in transportation, storage because temperature is very important in food stuffs' degradation.

He says they cannot know if these foods are packaged properly and tracking expiry date can be tricky.

"For us, we are only able to control stable business. We make regular visits, once every three months, to check if standards are respected. But for these other people, it's difficult to trace their location."

The Ministry of Health has proposed the establishment of the Rwanda Food and Medicine Authority (RFMA) to manage the whole system, and work closely with the Rwanda Bureau of Standards and the National Drugs Purchasing Agency.

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