An old Kinyarwanda proverb goes “Inkoni ivuna igufwa ntago ivuna ingeso”, loosely translated as “a cane breaks the bone, but it does not cause behaviour change”. This old adage could have influenced the City of Kigali law enforcement unit and civil organisation groups to change approach while dealing with illegal hawkers and street vendors, especially women.
The Association of Female Journalists in Rwanda is spearheading these efforts. Recently, the association organised a meeting that brought together all women vendors operating in Nyarugenge District and officials from the National Women Council, the Nyarugenge District vice-mayor, as well as officials from other municipal authorities as part of efforts to find a solution, and help the vendors to find permanent work stations.
Speaking at the event, Faith Mbabazi, the Association of Female Journalists in Rwanda chairperson, encouraged the vendors to join co-operatives in order to benefit from support given to organised groups, like training on project planning and how to write business plans.
“The association will also help you to easily access loans from financial institutions like Business Development Fund and Saccos,” Mbabazi said.
Pierre Kalisa, the Nyarugenge District vice-mayor, said the district would issue the vendors identification cards to allow them to operate from gazetted areas in the city.
“This will help you settle and work from one place..you will no longer have to carry out your activities ‘in the shadows’. The move will also safeguard against the risks associated with operating business illegally,” Kalisa said.
Vendors speak out
In parts of the city, like Nyabugogo, Matheos and Kimisagara vendors always take to their heels with their merchandise at the sight of a policeman or district law enforcement officers.
Though illegal street vending attracts jail terms, fines, as well as confiscation of the merchandise, this has not curbed their illegal operations, according to city authorities.
Speaking to Business Times Carine Uwimbabazi, a 36-year-old hawker, who operates around City Plaza and Nyarugenge market, said they are forced by hardships and obligations like paying rent and school fees for their children to operate on the streets illegally. She says vendors invest in like Rwf50,000 to start a small mobile business.
Tamalie Niyomufasha, a 42-year-old resident of Muhima in Kigali, who hawks second-hand clothes, was recently apprehended by city enforcement officers and subsequently jailed for three weeks at Gikondo Transit Centre.
She says when she was released from the transit centre, she quit her only source of livelihood “because I couldn’t risk going back to prison”.
But such incidents could soon be avoided following efforts by some organisations to raise awareness and help the vendors get market stalls and regularise the operations.