Kigali businesses feel the heat from virus containment rules

Monday September 14 2020

shops

Shops in Remera Bus station are suffering from customer shortage since the recent suspension of public transport. PHOTO | Cyril NDEGEYA 

MOSES K. GAHIGI
By MOSES K. GAHIGI
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Businesses in Kigali are counting losses following suspension of public transport on upcountry routes, and bringing down of curfew time to 7pm.

The measures to contain spread of Covid-19, which prohibit large gatherings, limited number of people working in a public institution at any given time have yielded results, if reduced number of infections is anything to go by.

However, new restrictions have dampened business in Kigali as for instance the biggest segment of customers for consumer products like clothes, electrical appliances and fast moving goods come from up country using public means.

“Kigali only has two million people which is unreliable market, 10 million people are in villages, and these constitute our stable market base, now they can’t come to Kigali to buy goods,” said Jean Bosco Uwiringiyimana, a trader in Kigali.

He said contrary to other customers especially in Kigali who can even be fine with sending them goods without first seeing them, customers up country prefer physical interaction with goods, before buying.

Few customers, who traders in Kigali send photos of the goods on WhatsApp and agree to merchandise being sent to them in the village, also end up facing a challenge of early closure of banks due to the 7 pm curfew, hence not being able to send money on time.

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“The past six months have been hell for our business, first we were sidelined and priority given to dealers in essential goods. We incurred untold losses, now we still can’t sell yet costs haven’t paused, some of us have already eaten into our capital,” he said.

Transporters who plied up country routes have parked their buses as they wait with bated breath if the next Cabinet meeting will restore up country routes for public transporters.

Although some business owners acknowledge the containment measures are meant to save lives, the government should also look into economic cost of the restrictions and relax some restrictions.

Hotels, bars and restaurants have also been hit hard by the restrictions,. Although they survived what would have easily been a full-blown lockdown, many say the current restrictions are not much.

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