Upcountry insight: Bicycles providing employment to youth

EASTERN PROVINCE RWAMAGANA — Whereas cyclists are rare in other places like the capital Kigali, it is the commonest mode of transport in Rwamagana town.

EASTERN PROVINCE

RWAMAGANA — Whereas cyclists are rare in other places like the capital Kigali, it is the commonest mode of transport in Rwamagana town.

Because of its flat landscape, one is welcomed by a fleet of bicycle riders along the streets.
During rush hours like early in the morning and late in the evening, cyclists seem to outnumber the number of pedestrians.    

The acting president of the cooperative of cyclists in Rwamagana, Jean Pierre Gakwandi, says bicycle riding is the way forward to earning a living to majority of the uneducated youths in the area. 

“There are many youths in Rwamagana who missed a chance to study. We therefore organized ourselves into a cooperative to start transport business as a possible means to earn a living,” Gakwandi told The New Times at their office on Tuesday.

In an exclusive interview, Gakwandi said their cooperative (ATRA-VERO) is composed of 337 members from 11 associations. Each association has a centre of operation managed by security personnel.   

According to Gakwandi, the cooperative has so far raised Frw3.7million through payments of a membership fee of Frw5000. It is from this pool that members can access loans to buy bicycles in case they do not have one.

He said a member who meets all the requirements can access a loan of up to Frw50.000, refundable within a period of seven months in installments of Frw8,200 per month. The loan attracts a total interest of Frw7,000. Additionally, each member is requested to pay Frw3,000 for uniform and Frw300 for an identity card.

Gakwandi revealed that cooperative members have formulated rules and regulations for smooth running of their business. Some of which include being smart, respect for their passengers and avoiding to ride in the middle of the road. Others are to dress in uniform and to avoid riding under the influence of alcohol.

Gakwandi however, laments that quite often members flout the set regulations.
He however, said that errant members are warned twice, beyond which punitive measures are taken against them, including expelling one from the cooperative. Other punishments include a fine ranging from Frw500 to Frw2,000, and or confiscating the bicycle for a period of one month.

The members who had turned up for a meeting at their office on Tuesday, appealed to responsible authorities to organise them training in traffic and road use rules.

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