Kigali City Council authorities say mobile public pay phone vendors usually referred to as Tuvugane, the name of the brand of the product they sell, have been directed off the streets to create an orderly business environment.
The vendors who used to crowd strategic places in the city, bus stops and taxi parks have parked their bags, with some going back to their ancestral homes.
Many people interviewed claim that Kigali, a city that was slowly being swallowed up by boys in yellow—the aprons the vendors used to wear is now more orderly.
"We have seized all the activities of hawkers in Kigali City. So we could not leave the Tuvugane dealers to operate in a disorganised way," Reuben Ahimbisibwe, a Kigali City Council (KCC) Inspector said.
The move has left hundreds who used to vend airtime coupons and operate the per-second billing phones jobless for a while.
"For weeks I have been sitting at home. I have no work," Peter who used to deal in MTN airtime at Kisementi in Remera said.
"The police asked us to operate in booths saying our growing numbers on the streets and public places in the city may be a security threat. And, KCC claims we have been littering the clean city with airtime coupons," he adds.
The move comes after Business Communication Solution (BCS), MTN and Kigali City Council (KCC) agreed that the vendors be stationed in one place.
"It was an understanding among MTN, BCS and KCC to have the vendors stationed’" said Jack Gasana Tuvugane Division Manager.
Telecommunication companies may be losing revenues as the move to have the vendors stationed in one place has broken the flexibility of accessing airtime and making phone calls through public means.
"Revenues have declined because of limited access to clients. Getting Frw1500 daily is by luck," said one of the vendors in Giporoso, Remera a city suburb.
Innocent Nsanzumwami, a vendor says sales have declined but he is optimistic that in future he might build a good customer relationship which might shift the turnover upwards.
Nsanzimana who used to sale an MTN card of Frw16,000 at Frw20, 000 for four days now takes a week to buy another.
This implies that, this dealer who has been earning an average of Frw1000 daily is now getting Frw666.6 daily. This translates into a daily 33.34 per cent decline in the profits of the Tuvugane vendor.
On the air time cards, MTN allows the dealer a commission of Frw27 for every Frw500 airtime voucher sold and Nsanzimana says he sales around 5 airtime vouchers daily on average.
Public laud decision
Some members of the public claim they have been falling victims to people pretending to be Tuvugane public pay phones operators and MTN airtime vendors. Some say they have lost telephone sets, side mirrors, vehicle indicators and other valuables. "Let the vendors have a permanent place. There is time I bought airtime of Frw500. I gave the vendor Frw5,000 but the boy disappeared with my money," one John Ngarambe, a civil servant in Kigali said.
The introduction of Tuvugane was aimed at expanding network coverage in rural areas, which had been underserved so far in terms of communication.