27 February 2013

Rwanda: Is the City Biting More Than It Can Swallow?


A recent directive by Kigali City Council for all billboard advertisers to first seek approval for content has raised a few eyelids.

While the city is worried of indecent messages being displayed on its streets, it has jumped the gun for a few reasons.

The city already has its hands full without adding another layer of bureaucracy; it means it would need to create a new desk to handle billboard requests. Apart from the unnecessary time advertisers will lose, KCC's new measures infringe on creativity. Advertising is an art.

Good advertisers use tact or even coded messages to grab attention- the end bit is to sell, not to decorate city streets. Therefore a marketing strategy should not depend on the whims of some bureaucrat who might not even understand the message in the first place.

Another reason why censoring billboards is not good for business is that where there is competition, discretion of marketing strategies are key; an advertiser's idea could be copied or leaked while still doing the rounds of the Mayor's office and intellectual property infringed.

What the Mayor needs to do is to set guidelines for advertisers, draw the line and let businesses take it from there, if they err, they face the music.

Kigali City has, in the past, come up with many innovative ideas that have improved life in the capital, but this latest one does more to clog the administration than being a moral policeman.

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