A few years ago, the government of Rwanda made a deliberate move to support and facilitate 24-hour business operation.
On its part, the City of Kigali fixed street lighting, built roads and tightened night security to ensure that businesses can operate more conveniently at night.
Some Rwandan borders started operating 24/7. Many companies invested more into their businesses to increase their ability to operate 24 hours.
Indeed, a vibrant nightlife could significantly improve Kigali’s economic potential not only by boosting employment but also its attractiveness as an investment destination.
However, for this to happen, businesses need reassure that they will be allowed to operate with little interference from law enforcement agencies.
While Rwanda consistently scored impressively in the ease of doing business by the World Bank doing business index, as a top reformer in business regulation that makes it easy for anyone to start and run a business, but the recent strict municipality regulations coupled with actions from security agencies, are spoiling it for businesses.
There is unease and panic within the business community over the recent pronouncements by law enforcement agencies about drunk driving and selling alcohol to minors.
While there is no policy prohibiting businesses from working 24 hours, the prevailing panic means some businesses are closing as early as 9:00pm to avoid the risk of closure by law enforcement agencies.
Perhaps, it is high time Kigali city considered setting up a separate office in charge of Night Life whose sole responsibility would be to ensure that Kigali City has a vibrant nightlife.
Research shows over 30 big cities around the world including New York have an office in charge of Night life, according to Business Magazine Forbes.
This office serves as an intermediary between city agencies, law enforcement, residents and the nightlife industry. The office also assists businesses with permitting and licensing matters and will promote an economically and culturally vibrant nightlife industry.
Government can support the emergence of a vibrant nightlife beyond providing security by ensuring that members of the private sector involved are consulted extensively before any drastic measures are taken.
And perhaps, more importantly, for the private sector to thrive in a 24/7 environment, a predictable regulatory environment is a necessity.
There is need to change the approach, prioritise constant engagement and education of the private sector about the existing policies or in case of a policy change to ensure that they are fully aware of their responsibilities and understand their provisions before enforcing closures.
Kigali City council needs to consider providing experts that can work closely and advise businesses on how to comply to ease the burden of compliance.
And perhaps more importantly, law enforcement agencies need to be trained to understand how to manage and enforce their mandate to minimise cases of interruptions or sending alarm bells that dampen the prospects for Kigali’s nightlife.