About 100 businesses that operated at the once booming Kisiment car-free zone commercial and entertainment hub have folded, as bad publicity, low purchasing power among consumers and economic contractions force business operators around Kigali to quit.
After the government transformed a number of streets at Kisimenti into a car-free-zone, to turn the place into an entertainment and business hub, people rushed to build commercial buildings in the area.
Some took bank loans to buy land and construct shops knowing demand for them will go up in the area, as it looked like the government had serious plans of turning the place into the entertainment center it needed to complement its MICE strategy since visitors always asked for a place to go and unwind after conferences.
In the first months, people opened businesses in the area, from restaurants and fast-foods to bars and liquor stores, clothing shops, beauty parlors, betting shops etc.
For some time the place was booming, however, things turned around for the worst beginning in the last half of last year, to the point that as we speak over 100 (around 50 percent) of the businesses have since folded.
“The situation has gone from bad to worse, the place had around 200 businesses but as we speak about 50% have closed, and many people have lost a lot of money and continue to do, help is needed to salvage the place,” said Mulisa Earnest, a PSF member and businessman in Remera.
He said the Kisimenti car-free zone suffered as a smear media campaign framed it as a place for hoodlums and sex workers. It is also a victim of a plan that was not well elaborated when the government was turning the place into a commercial and entertainment carfree zone.
“Government needs to set up infrastructures like parking, shelters, internet, it should have been benchmarked on other car-free zones elsewhere.”