Rwandans in Huye are using mobile phones to boost their businesses These gadgets help them to easily negotiate with clients over a short period of time while incurring limited costs at the same time.
Rango is a small commercial center in Butare town, Huye District. Located about six kilometers from the National University Rwanda.
A crowd of villagers from various rural areas in neighboring districts of Huye and Gisagara gather at Rango to sell their well reaped harvests. Over 55 percent of the traders, for miles, ride bicycles loaded with baskets full of fruit and vegetables like bananas and avocadoes, to sell their produce.
One thing however characterises most of these small business traders—over 75 percent own mobile phones, a gadget that intrigues them, yet facilitates their profits.
While in the market place, they negotiate with their clients and take payments in one hand, while the other holds a phone. Some use the phones to call up their clients alerting them of their arrival with produce.
For others the mobile phone is a bargaining tool that provides a platform to agree on a set price of a commodity and also saves a client’s precious time so that when they meet with a trader, they make payments on an earlier agreed time.
One village trader, Didas Karangwa explains how phones have helped farmers in their trade.
“I exactly know what my customers need and what quantity to bring to the market, after we agree on prices before I leave home,” Karangwa said.
He said that this form of transaction was not the case before mobile phones became cheap.
A new Tel’imbere service now grants micro-loans to potential rural mobile phone operators, who are providing affordable telecommunication services to Rwanda’s regions that are currently offline.
The Government of Rwanda is in a drive to provide an affordable mobile phone to nearly every rural household in the near future. The programme is expected to cover 94 percent of Rwanda’s rural areas.
The cost of a mobile phone has been slashed from the initial price of Rwf28,000 (about 51USD) to Rwf13,000 (about 23USD); this was after a joint effort between the government and Rwanda’s most subscribed Mobile Telecommunications Network company (MTN).
Currently, Rwandan telecommunication societies are competing to attract subscribers. Since Tigo, the newest telecommunication provider, entered the market, Rwandans have been talking for hours on their phones thanks to the catchy price of Rwf10 on a good Tigo to Tigo connection: This is over eight times cheaper than the prices charged by the other companies (Rwandatel and MTN).
This has caused price movements between the three companies and rural traders are celebrating.
“We no longer have to only listen to radios to know what is happening far away,” he added.
\Various projects and companies are planning to supply rural residents with mobile phones. The Telecom Revolution, another new project is promising to bring infrastructure and business opportunities to local entrepreneurs will also use phones to empower Rwandans countryside.
The author is a third year Journalism Student at the National University of Rwanda/ School of Journalism and Communication.