Rwanda real estate, traders count Covid losses

Monday August 23 2021
New Content Item (1)

Closed hardware retail shops with some products displayed outside. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA


Even as the economy reopens, many businesses across sectors did not survive the lockdowns, and have since closed shop, leaving commercial space around Kigali without tenants.

Businesses in trade, agriculture and services were the most affected, largely because the effects of the coronavirus pandemic hit them at a number of levels, which compounded the hurt disabling their continuity.

Laissa Umugwaneza and her husband took a loan, sold some of their property and topped up their savings to start a retail business, selling domestic appliances like curtilery, electronics among other things.

They identified a new prime building and paid for space beforehand to beat competition, even before their goods had been shipped into the country, however that’s when the virus intensified in China, causing shipment glitches.

The shipment was delayed for close to three months, and by the time they got to the customs, the country was on total lockdown, where only essential workers were allowed to operate, their merchandise spent more time in the stores, all that time bleeding money.

The goods finally got to the shop, but customers were few, yet by that time the first rental instalment ad elapsed, they paid one more month and that’s when another lockdown was announced.


The couple made a decision to move the goods out of the shop and keep them at home until they mobilise more financial muscle to continue the business. There are many stories like this, here some tenants have gone months without pay, and others left without pay, pushing landlords to seek legal redress.

Although some businesses have braved the storms and continued operations, cash flow is quickly dwindling, banks are reluctant to finance businesses which they see will add to their NPL stock.