Traders make a 'killing' from selling political party paraphernalia

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Uwamahoro (left) attends to a customer. The crafts dealer has added RPF paraphernalia to boost her earnings. / Joan Mbabazi

It is a hot Friday afternoon and many enthusiastic supporters of parties vying for the August 3-4 presidential election are busy checking out different products with their party colours. Products in Rwanda Patriot Front (RPF) colours outnumber the rest on a 99:1 ratio, and it looks like buyers are RPF party support.

Pacifique Uwifashije, a youthful supporter of the party, is however yet to get himself a T-shirt designed in party colours. He moves from vendor to vendor hoping to get a fair price for the T-shirt and finally, his face beams up as he pays Rwf9,500 for the T-shirts after one of the tens of vendors agree to give him a discount. The other vendors were selling the T-shirts at Rwf13,000 each. Like Uwifashije, many other party faithfuls are busy bargaining for T-shirts or other paraphernalia, including key holders, car stickers, scarves, caps and many other items with RPF party colours.

“I wonder why the T-shirts and stickers are so expensive yet these sellers are not reducing the prices but for the love I have for my party, I have to buy because I need to be smart throughout the campaigns, said Uwifashije.

Emmanuel Bucyana, ones of the traders, said he will take full advantage of the campaign period to make money he would have ordinarily earned in two or three months “since there are many buyers”. The T-shirts are made by his fashion firm called Tex Print, that manufactures clothes.

“We have to fully “milk” this opportunity and make money. Since I make these items myself, I can afford to give customers discounts compared to other traders. I prefer to sell at a bargain and get more buyers,” said Bucyana, adding that sales are promising so far. I will open up new trading centres during the campaigns so that I can maximise this windfall opportunity, he added.

For Jane Mutesi, who is vending RPF T-shirts and car stickers, the two items are like ‘hot cakes’ because of the President’s picture printed thereon. T-shirts cost a high of Rwf13,000 and car stickers are at Rwf20,000, which Mutesi attributes to the fact that they bear the President’s portrait. People have been buying them in big numbers, and business will get better as campaigns spread across the country, she added.

Mashon, a young entrepreneur, believes that it is important to rally RPF’s effort in any possible way. The youth sells T-shirts, pens, clocks, car stickers, shopping bags, caps, flash disks and cups with party colours and presidential candidate portrait. “This is the only way I can best support my candidate,” he said, adding that “response is at it best”.

Jocelyn Uwamahoro runs a crafts shop that deals in African-themed items like jewelry and attires. With the onset of the presidential campaigns, she decided to add paraphernalia of the dominant political party like key holders and bracelets.

“The gamble worked since some of the customers who come for other products end up buying party bracelets and key holders, too. This will boost my earnings for the coming weeks,” she said.

She sells bracelets at Rwf2,000 and key holders go for Rwf1,000.

“The main motive of selling party items is because I want to make more money and also support the party,” explained Uwamahoro.

“Presently, customers are not aware that I am selling party products, but I am hoping to get more buyers by the end of the week,” she said over the weekend.