13 January 2013

Rwanda: Huye's Muyogoro Market a Huge White Elephant

On a sunny afternoon, Adeline Mukankiko seats near her stall in Muyogoro market in Huye district waiting for her first customer of that day.

It is late afternoon but this food vendor is yet to see a single customer and there is a glaring possibility of retiring home without selling anything.

Muyogoro is a modern market built by local authorities but its locations seems detached from customers.

"I come here knowing that there are no buyers. I am here because I have no option," she said during a recent interview.

Although meant to operate the whole day, the few vendors in this market, including Mukankiko, open their businesses in the afternoon because there are no buyers in the morning.

Yet Mukankiko, who sells food commodities, would be considered lucky because she deals in items that locals can afford and consume on a daily basis. Those who sell items such as cloths tell a more depressing story.

"I would say that it's like a fun. I can come to this market and go back without a single coin," said a second-hand cloth trader who refused to reveal her name.

She says low purchasing power among the local people is to blame for absence of customers. If she had enough capital, she would relocate to the market in Huye town.

"When you bring here clothes that cost more than a thousand francs per piece, don't expect to sell any," she said.

The two women are part of a group of about 10 desperate traders who are clinging on to business in this expansive modern market that is approximately five kilometers from Huye town.

Most of stalls, built about five years ago, have never been occupied and a mountain of solid waste remains a permanent feature. Rain water is also depositing a lot of waste in the market and no one cleans it.

While Muyogoro remains abandoned, hundreds of traders line along the road between the market and Huye town to transact. Most of them used to operate their business in Matyazo market that was demolished in 2012. Despite urging by local authorities to go to Muyogoro market, the traders have refused saying the new market has no buyers.

Some opened small shops around while others chose to take their business to markets in neighboring districts.

"We can't go to Muyogoro because the area is not favorable for business," said Emmanuel Kanamugire, a cloth vendor who used to operate in the now demolished market in Matyazo.

Kanamugire rents a house in Matyazo trading center from where he carries his goods to Ndago market every Wednesday. Ndago is located in the neighboring district of Nyaruguru.

"Although Ndago market takes place once a week, I manage to sell items and get about FRW 60,000 when I go there," he said. He added that he would be getting nothing if he went to Muyogoro which is nearer to his home.

Several other traders operate like Kanamugire.

In this case, some people wonder if there had been proper consultations between local authorities and the locals, who are basically users of the market, before building this multi-million franc investment that has turned out to be a white elephant.

Cyprien Mutwarasibo, the Huye vice mayor in charge of economic affairs, explained that the district advisory council approved the relocation of Matyazo market for security reasons because it was almost in the middle of Huye-Nyaruguru road.

On the other side, he acknowledged that few people use Muyogoro market, but he is quick to say that there are plans to maximize the utilization of the market.

"I would not say that people use the market as wished," he pointed out.

According to the official, the master plan that has already been approved, some high class people looking for plots can be sent in Muyogoro neighborhood; the strategy he says will increase potential clients for the market users.

He mentioned that the area has been provided with basic infrastructure such as electricity and clean water.

He said that such infrastructure will attract more people to settle in the area and therefore increase the number of customers who would be shopping at this market.

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