Reflections: Cry, our service industry!

What is it that ails our service industry? I remember buying four pairs of identical shoes just because I was fed up with the salesgirl and the whole gobbledygook of Rwanda! After sometime here in Rwanda, I needed a new pair of shoes.

What is it that ails our service industry? I remember buying four pairs of identical shoes just because I was fed up with the salesgirl and the whole gobbledygook of Rwanda! After sometime here in Rwanda, I needed a new pair of shoes.

On enquiring about the whereabouts of the only clothes-shop that was advertised on radio, I was told that I should go “Kwa Nyiragasazi”(Nyiragasazi’s place)!

On asking for precisions about where to find “Kwa Nyiragasazi”, I was told it was “Haruguru ya Gare” (past the taxi station)! When I asked somebody where I could find “Gare” (taxi station), I was told it was “Imbere yo kwa Rubangura” (past Rubangura’s place)!

And when I enquired as to how I could trace “Kwa Rubangura”, I was told it was “Haruguru ya Rompuwe” (past Rompuwe)!

By this time I was literally dizzy, but still I was able to get the vague idea that “Rompuwe” was the French ‘rond point’, ‘roundabout’ to you and me. Unfortunately, there are all of nine roundabouts in the entire city of Kigali!

It is understandable then that I gave up on enquiring and decided to doggedly walk the streets and look for any shop that had my required footwear. Surprisingly, the only shop that had good shoes was ‘Kwa Nyiragasazi’!

In the shop, the girl, who seemed to be the salesgirl but didn’t seem to be interested in selling, came out to vigorously shake my hand but quickly turned away and busied herself with I-don’t-know-what.

I checked my hands for something filthy that had so suddenly put her off, but they looked perfectly clean! To my “Excuse me, please, how much are these shoes?” she answered: “Jya kurebera ahandi, izo ni iz’abapatoro!”

(Go and check somewhere else, those are for bosses!) Seething with anger, I calmly selected four pairs and walked out as she shouted after me: “You man! Those are fifty times four!”

Outside in the street, I stopped and checked my pockets. Luckily, I had enough money and I counted out Rwf 200,000 and threw it into her shop.

That, then, is Rwanda for you: no directions in the streets; lackadaisical service; incessant handshakes; unnecessary spitting; name the ill, and it is here. It is only thanks to our president’s protestations that things are beginning to look up.

And yet, how slow, as I found out recently when I visited this bank. If you are a client of Banque Commerciale du Rwanda (BCR), you know how quickly the service improved when it changed hands. Overnight, there were no long queues and any service was rendered not only free but within the blink of an eye.

Today, you’d think the purpose of the machines they installed was to help them go back to the ‘good old’ days! When you go to cash your cheque, you’ll be lucky to wait for two hours. In fact, you can’t make withdrawals in some branches of the bank.

You’d sympathise if you were told that the problems were due to the global crisis, but nobody is in a hurry to apologise. And, poor you, you have nowhere to run to: the other banks are almost as immovable as in their old days.

Maybe you’ve ever been behind in servicing your loan with Baque de l’Habitat du Rwanda (BHR). If you have, then you know how quickly they placed you in category 3 of non-serviced loans. If anybody had bothered to inform you, you’d have paid up but nobody did.

It’s only when you seek a service in your bank that it is explained that you are in a category of non-payers and, therefore, can’t enjoy such facility. You quickly go back to BHR and pay up and go home, happy that you’ve settled everything.

A year later, your bank says it can’t extend the same service because you are still in a category of non-payers. When you ask BHR, they explain that your fault was that you never reminded them to inform your bank!

A year after reminding BHR, your bank still can’t extend the service because you are still in a category of non-payers. Back at BHR, they explain that the fault was with Banque Nationale du Rwanda (BNR), the only bank with powers to clear you.

When you storm BNR to demand why they have not cleared you two years after you paid up, you are told: “It is not possible!” You are incredulous and you ask: “Excuse me?”

The in-charge in BNR, with a straight face, unabashedly repeats: “It’s not possible to clear you. The system is not working!” For two long years! And yet our Rwanda is craving for investors! We won’t give up though.

ingina2@yahoo.co.uk

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