Hawkers perform a number of services for the urban population, especially for the economically weaker sections. They sell food, fresh vegetables, household goods, clothes and other articles of consumption.
Their rates are usually lower than those charged by shops and hence affordable to the urban poor. Moreover, their services are easily accessible to consumers though sometimes they exploit consumer’s ignorance to be expensive.
In most developing countries’ cities like Rwanda, the urban poor survive by working in the informal sector. Poverty and lack of gainful employment in the rural areas and smaller towns drives large numbers to the cities for work and livelihood.
These people generally have low skills and lack the education required for better paying jobs in the organized sector. For these people, work in the informal sector is the ‘only avenue’ for survival. This has led to the unfortunate rapid growth of number of hawkers and vendors in Kigali.
The activities of Rwandan hawkers inevitably brought them into conflict with the local government.
This is mainly because their disorderly remains a stabling block to the city’s plan to develop.
A programme of city beautification that involved paving the streets, providing litter bins, repainting old buildings, and requiring each landlord to plant a couple of trees in front of their buildings has been going on for a number of years.
The efforts would be rendered futile, if groups of young men and women continued to move around with their mobile businesses. It is not enough to have nice flowers and trees planted in a city when people are so disorganised in business operations.
The city authorities have had enough with hawkers and vendors who stubbornly refused to observe laws, set by local authorities to quit streets. However, to a greater extent hawkers took the heed and were slowly but steadily leaving street- mobile business. The problem was indeed subsiding.
The remaining problem was further exacerbated by ‘Tuvugane’ telephone business, which employed thousands of young boys and girls to move around the city.
For sure you do not need to move around carrying a telephone in your hands for people to use. The fact that ‘Tuvugane’ telephones are wireless does not mean that they are supposed to be carried as we do with tiny mobile phones. They are instead supposed to be placed in one strategic place so that customers can access them.
The telephones in question are not only too heavy to be used as mobile phones, but also look awkward in hands of a person. So, why should we see some people full of complaints that they should remain mobile?
I have a great conviction that if the phones were placed in some strategic areas, they would make more business than they do today. The only thing, may be, the business operators fail to understand, is that customers need to use the phones in a relatively safer environment.
But a situation where one uses the phone, when he or she is surrounded by a number of strangers, scares away a number of would be customers. It is of course opposed to a situation where one would call from a secure ‘Kiosk’.
As for the hawkers and vendors, Plans have been put in place and markets are in almost all urban areas of the country. Go beyond Kigali city to other urban areas, you will be astonished by a number of markets established. They are in fact under utilised and I do not know why people enjoy running up and down in streets of Kigali.
Well designed markets are usually the most convenient spots for consumers. Though some of these markets need to be developed and regulated, they remain the best alternative.
Let retailers and wholesalers stop confusing hawkers, so that they may go down to places designated for business and start off theirs. I say this because they are the ones who give them the merchandise to sell around streets.
Only settling in markets, shops and kiosks will give hope a young up coming business person. Otherwise, Kigali city has got to maintain order and sanity it enjoys today. There is no short cut.