From flower pots to billboards; next is city dress code!

The City of Kigali is in the news once again, as usual, attracting widespread outcry from the public. In its Sunday publication, this newspaper detailed a number of policies making the city less business friendly, leaving business persons to count their losses.
Paul Ntambara
Paul Ntambara

The City of Kigali is in the news once again, as usual, attracting widespread outcry from the public. In its Sunday publication, this newspaper detailed a number of policies making the city less business friendly, leaving business persons to count their losses.

One reader, while reacting to the flower vase policy that requires businesses to position flower vases at the entrances of their premises, said, “if it is a matter of uniformity, then KCC should also require all businesses to buy uniforms for their staff.” And let me add; at this rate soon ‘Kigalians’ will be issued with a dress code. People, you will be required to dress in a particular way to be allowed to hit the city streets!

First, let us give credit where it is due; the city is impeccably clean, the world and his wife has acknowledged this. The city is secure; you don’t have to always check for your wallet while walking on Kigali streets. This is the strength that current city authorities should be building on but going by current events, a self destructing button has been pressed at City Hall.

Take, for example, the incessant threats to close business premises over failure to meet certain standards. While public safety is paramount, the way the situation has been handled by overzealous city officials makes a potential investor in Kigali have to think twice. The repercussions of a closed business are clear to all and sundry; lost revenues, loss of employment, loss of revenues on the part of government to mention but a few.

There has been public outcry against some of these policies and, on some occasions, city authorities have bowed down to public pressure and rescinded their decisions. But just like the bourbon monarchy, authorities seem to have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing.

Just recently the city mayor issued a notice indicating that all billboard advertisements will have to be vetted by the City Council. The question many are asking, including yours truly is: why create unnecessary bureaucracy? How serious is the problem of illicit outdoor advertising? While this may not be an entirely bad idea, one wonders if this is the most pressing problem Kigali residents are faced with.

There is another rather ridiculous requirement for businesses to have flower vases in front of their premises all in the name of beautifying the city. Everyone would love to work in a clean environment and beautiful environment at that but the manner in which some of these policies are being implemented leaves a sour taste. Why should any sane official close down a business because of lack of a flower vase? What has a flower vase got to do with the normal operation of a business? It is a whole enchilada of things gone wrong.

What is more disturbing is that city authorities fail to see that the city has far bigger problems than flower vases and billboards. The city’s public transport system is dysfunctional. The city  centre lacks a taxi park, the sight of the elderly, pregnant women and children fighting to get on a bus, on a crowded street makes the heart bleed.

The city is choking under the weight of sewage, the stench that covers some parts of the city. Even in the mayor’s own neighbourhood in Kimihurura it is strong enough for anyone with a sense of smell. There is neither enough water nor electricity, I could go on.

The resistance with which these policies have been met is a clear indication that city authorities have not worked on consensus building which would normally lead to cheerful cooperation as opposed to malicious obedience. A clear example of the latter is the requirement for taxi moto operators to provide a smart head cover to their clients. It has died a natural death.

City Hall needs to rebrand itself for it to remain relevant to the people it is mandated to serve. The city needs business friendly policies. Without thriving businesses, which pay taxes, the city council will not function; it is a win-win situation.

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