Taxi drivers decry lose of income in war against covid-19

Tuesday April 7 2020

taxi

Buses at Nyabugogo taxi main park. PHOTO | FILE 

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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Over 1000 taxicab operators are counting losses after being forced to ground their fleet when police heightened enforcement of the lockdown measures imposed on March 21.

This is in addition to over 30,000 licensed motorcyclists nationwide who are currently not allowed to operate.

The operators have raised concerns how they will feed their families and repay loans from their association of transporters.

“We are not allowed to carry anyone even if a client goes to the market, visits the pharmacy or a hospital.

We were told that those doing it must have special authorisation and it’s not clear to us where to get such authorisation,” said Jean Muhigira, a Kigali-based taxicab operator.

Mr Muhigira has been paying Rwf200,000 a month to the association that financed him to acquire vehicles. He parked his vehicle on Wednesday after notifying his association.

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According to taxicab co-operatives, the lockdown had already sent many of their members into a crisis considering that most run fleet obtained on loans and have several obligations with respective associations, the taxman and the regulator.

“We are not sure if the government will consider ways to support our industry like everyone else who is affected by this pandemic because those who may have some savings, the primary concern now is feeding their families during these tough times, and not using it to pay the loans,” said Yotamu Ndayisaba, head of Kicukiro taxicab operators’ association.

The National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) recently announced Rwf50 billion extended lending Facility to banks, which they can borrow from in the next six months to mitigate their liquidity challenges during the coronavirus epidemic.

However, it is not yet clear to the business players whether the move could see their lenders agree to restructure outstanding debts to allow them to keep business going should things soon return to normal.

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