City vendors to get ‘free markets’ in June

City roads will soon be free of street vendors, thanks to an initiative by the City of Kigali to create ‘free markets’ for vendors in all the three districts of Kigali.
Street vendors at 'Kwa Rubangura' in Kigali. City authorities are working on an initiative where street vendors will be provided space to work in organised places effective next month. (File photo.)
Street vendors at 'Kwa Rubangura' in Kigali. City authorities are working on an initiative where street vendors will be provided space to work in organised places effective next month. (File photo.)

City roads will soon be free of street vendors, thanks to an initiative by the City of Kigali to create ‘free markets’ for vendors in all the three districts of  Kigali.

According  to Hope Tumukunde, the City of Kigali vice-mayor in charge of social affairs, the markets, worth Rwf700 million, aim at creating order in the city, as well as promoting the culture of conducting business in an organised way.

Tumukunde said the initiative, that will start next month, also seeks to reduce unemployment among the women and youth by supporting them to create sustainable jobs.

She added that the initiative is in line with National Employment Programme, noting that it will ensure security and hygiene in the city.

“Some vendors sell stolen products, besides,  wandering all over the city disrupts other businesses and traffic flow,” Tumukunde told The New Times recently.

She said the out-door markets will benefit about 3,000 street vendors in the first phase and a similar figure next year.

“We have already assessed 11 places for the markets; four for Gasabo and Kicukiro districts each, while Nyarugenge will get three out-door markets.

“The city authorities are hopeful that the markets will solve the problem of vendors traversing the whole city and suburbs searching for clients. This causes disorder in the city and exposes residents to various risks,” she said.

Tumukunde noted that the beneficiaries will be organised under  co-operatives,  “and we will also ensure that they save with SACCOs in their localities,” she added.

The outdoor markets will be set up in strategic areas, where vendors can get customers to support their businesses, according to city authorities.

“We are also negotiating with the Police so that they can allow us to close one road temporarily, say in a specific afternoon, evening or over the weekend to conduct “weekend free markets” and reopen the road later.

“We are sure this will benefit more vendors and ensure they carry out their business in an organised manner,” she said.

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City of Kigali’s Tumukunde

Florence Uwayisaba, the Kicukiro District vice-mayor in-charge of social affairs, said 3,000 street vendors, targeted in the first phase, were selected by sector and village leaders.

Startup capital

According to Tumukunde, the city will provide startup capital for the vendors through their co-operatives for the first six months. They will also be exempted from taxes, except paying dues for hygiene, among others.

Tumukunde said 2,200 street vendors have already benefited from another Rwf580 million National Employment Programme, while 720 women who run small-and-medium businesses will be supported under the Rwf180 million economic empowerment project that will implemented by the National Women Council and One UN, a United Nations programme aimed at making the UN system more efficient.

What city vendors say

“I think the markets should be in places that are easily accessed by customers so that vendors are not tempted to return to the streets. Otherwise, district leaders should always give us information on such good programmes, especially for poor people who do not have money to start big businesses,” said Gratian Uwitonze, a street trader.

Claudine Uwimana, who vends mangoes across the city, said she cannot afford rent.

“So, I think the six-month startup support from city authorities would be a huge boost for my business,” she said. She added that the programme should target the most vulnerable vendors.

Jean Claude Niyonzima, who sells women items along Downtown Kigali streets, was not aware of the ‘free market’ initiative, but said he supports the idea.

“The city should conduct a sensitisation campaign to inform us about the programme… most vendors who need support might not benefit,” he said.

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