ANYBODY who has ever been there will agree that Nyabugogo is one busy area. One of Kigali’s busiest suburbs, Nyabugogo is home to the biggest taxi/bus park with hundreds of people walking around and buses moving in and out of the park.
In this hectic town is the Nyabugogo Market - well known for selling second hand clothes.
On entering this market that appears to be hidden from the public, one is welcomed by sellers unfolding bed sheets and blankets in a narrow corridor while trying to persuade customers to buy their merchandise as others exiting the market are pushed around by men carrying big sacks of clothes - asking for space.
At the doorway, it takes a noticeable amount of time to squeeze your way in before getting a glance of the busy market with sellers calling buyers from corner to corner with names like “sister” for women and “chief” for men.
Mbabazi Uwayezu, a vendor at the market, used to sell clothes on the street before she got a stall in the market.
“I used to sell women’s clothes around Kisimenti in Remera last year. It was hard and we used to run from authorities every now and then as it was illegal to sell anything on the street.”
“I used to make less than what my family needed as I was taking care of my children and my late sister’s children as well.”
“I decided to get a small stall here and sell women’s clothes. My children can now go to school comfortably and come home knowing that they won’t sleep hungry,” the vendor said.
Uwayezu also added that the one thing that makes Nyabugogo market unique compared to other markets is the coordination of the sellers. They stand in for each other when one is away.
The market , which has about 750 officially registered retailers, has many more people who earn a living directly from the market.
Fred Bigira, a middle man, now has his own business thanks to his job in the market. “My job in the market is to get a customer from the entrance, ask them what they would like to purchase and show them different stalls that have what they want. Incase anything is bought, I get my commission depending on the price of the cloth,” he said.
“Two years ago, I was a conductor and had quite a number of debts. But with this job, I sometimes leave with Rwf 5000 a day. And this has helped me buy a small shop in Kimironko,” Bigira said.
The market is not only a business for clothes, jackets and bed sheets but also has salons and other businesses.
Beata Rugege, one of the tailors in the market said she has never made as much money as she makes now.
“I have been a tailor ever since I left school four years ago when I was in senior two. I used to work at my aunt’s shop in Nyamirambo but I bought my own machine and came to Nyabugogo.”
“Here, I have a number of suppliers I coordinate with and incase they are selling a cloth to a customer that needs adjusting, they come to me and I do it for them,” she said.
Rugege adds that she doesn’t need to look for buyers as the sellers she works with bring them to her and she gives the customers a discount.
However, much as the business at the market is booming and everything seems to be running smoothly, Nyabugogo market doesn’t seem to be a favourite for many.
Pascal Butare, a buyer, said the market is not a comfortable place to be in and he always carefully selects the clothes he wants.
“The paths in the market are so narrow and people are always rubbing shoulders. The hygiene of the floor and toilets is not the best. The toilets are cleaned but they are few compared to the number of users,” he said.