How to turn Kigali into a 24-hour city

As our great city launched celebrations to mark 100 years of Kigali’s existence, 24 hour businesses were given a green light. To be honest, this is one of the best announcements ever made as far as the development of Kigali is concerned.

As our great city launched celebrations to mark 100 years of Kigali’s existence, 24 hour businesses were given a green light. To be honest, this is one of the best announcements ever made as far as the development of Kigali is concerned.

The argument put forward by the Kigali City Council authorities was that they are aiming at promoting hard work among the business community in order for Kigali as a city to compete favourably with other cities of the East African Community.

It is quite unfortunate that many residents of Kigali perceived the pronouncements on the working hours as some sort of decree. You often hear passengers in a taxi telling the driver, “You were told to work the whole night so why are you parking your car at this time?” This implies that for “Project 24- hours” to become a success, people’s attitudes ought to be changed. 

We need to ask ourselves for instance why people fight to enter a bus to return home at 5:30 p.m. Will they be punished by someone at home for arriving late? I can lose my job for coming late but am not sure whether returning to my small house ‘late’ is also a sin. Why should you break a limb fighting for a taxi yet you can spend the same time at an internet café surfing as you wait for the people fighting for taxis to reduce? 

For the business community, it is sheer foolishness for one to hurry and close his shop at exactly 5 p.m. yet he has bills to pay. Why go to bed early and leave money behind only to complain about poverty later? I am always infuriated by the lady who always tells me to sign out and close all the websites I’m viewing simply because it’s eight o’clock and the internet café is closing.

The numerous restaurants that by 7:30 p.m. have no food to serve are simply a pain to a hungry customer.

For Kigali to become a day and night functional city, certain questions ought to be asked and thus addressed. What do people who remain in the city at night do exactly? What type of businesses can benefit from operating at night?

What is night life really supposed to mean? Does it always revolve around discotheques and bars?   To start with, a nocturnal economy must be having certain services in place so that people who remain behind are well catered for. Commercial banks should install Automatic Teller machines (ATMs) at various points of the city that have a potential night economy like in the city centre, Nyamirambo, Remera-Giporoso, Kimisagara, Gatsata etc. Night lovers need to have access to their money because they will certainly be spending.
Fuel stations are also very vital for night life to prosper. If they operate for 24-hours motorists are assured of being able to refill their tanks anytime and continue with their nocturnal trips. Since motorists will always stop to refuel then it is wise for that station to also have a 24-hour shop or supermarket and an ATM so that they can also buy groceries to take home.

Restaurants should stock enough food for the many nocturnal fellows who might succumb to hunger. Fast food restaurants survive on night customers who are dying to eat anything. They usually have foods that are easy to prepare (fast food is the name) while the customer sits and waits. 

Internet cafes should start working till late in the night. This is because sometimes a person may wish to communicate with another who is in a US or European city where it is daytime, the time night falls in Kigali. With software like Skype and various chatting services like Yahoo Messenger the internet has effectively become a pastime for many and so allowing them to indulge in their hobby till late is only justice.

Night life greatly survives on pleasant entertainment in form of theatre, live music shows and soft (not loud) music playing in bars and restaurants. It would be injustice for me to leave out discotheques. These should be ready to provide quality entertainment for all ages of people wishing to dance the night away especially during weekends.
If Ferwafa regularly organises big football matches in the late evenings then night life can get a great boost. A match between APR and Rayon Sport Football Clubs played at Amahoro Stadium from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. can pump lots of energy into the night life of the areas of Kimironko and Remera as football fans devise ways of celebrating a victory or consoling themselves after a loss. Taxis would also be compelled to stick around to transport football fans after the match.

Having the Rwanda – Uganda border (like the Kenya – Uganda border) operating 24 hours can also quickly turn Kigali into a day and night city. Travellers entering Rwanda and Kigali in particular will be in need of various services like meals, fuel and other services and thereby keep the night economy active.

Last but not least, taxis and motorcycles should be on hand to transport people from one place to another. Most of the Kigali residents who rush to leave town do so because of the impeding transport scarcity that characterises the city shortly after 8 p.m. Other cities where people are active at night are helped by the fact that revelers are sure of getting transport back home late in the night.

The whole process of turning Kigali into a 24 hour city has to be gradual like many other developments that have seen the city grow into a respectable city recognised by its sense of order and cleanliness.

 The business community and all vigilant city residents should collaborate with the various security personnel in order to keep the city safe from unscrupulous people. No city is complete without a night life and so let us all work hard to see the completion of Kigali City.

Happy centennial celebrations Kigali City.

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