SMEs hardest hit in restrictions to contain spread of Covid-19

Wednesday July 21 2021
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Most businesses have scaled down operations, opting for home deliveries. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA


Small businesses are feeling the pinch almost two weeks after the government tightened restrictions including reducing working hours and forcing restaurants to offer only take away services.

Many are struggling to pay rent and other operational costs under the current restrictions.

“Many shop owners who did not quit had either scaled down or transitioned into other things as a coping strategy, but now despite coming everyday we end up not getting money to pay for transport and meals.... This time more are closing...,” Said Protais Mitari who runs a wholesale clothes shop in Matheus and Nyamirambo.

“...Due to reduced working hours and growing concerns around likely tougher preventive measures like a full lockdown, they have diverted their savings towards feeding the families,” he added.

At a visit at popular shopping centres around the central business District and Nyabugogo main taxi park, one is met with deserted stalls, shops and rental space following successive months of tenants operating at a loss.

With trade bottlenecks linked to the recent ban of movements between Kigali and other districts, and the order for businesses to close by 5pm, among other restrictions, many cannot afford to keep renting and accruing more debts when they are not certain of possible return to normalcy soon.


There are hundreds of businesses with similar stories, but the closure has affected mostly restaurants, cafes and canteens across Kigali following a recent directive to serve only takeaway.

At least five restaurants visited by Rwanda Today around the busy Nyabugogo taxi park have closed operations after attempts to offer takeaway service sproved too costly and impractical.

The closure of eateries means loss of jobs for a lot of people they employed, and business for scores of men and women who were into the supply of foodstuff whose contracts have since been suspended.

According to Daphrose Itangishaka, one of the area restaurant operators, the effects are felt all the way to the producers who are mainly individual farmers and cooperatives across different parts of the country.

“You will find a few restaurants that are still open doing not even a quarter of their existing operations. So it doesn’t make sense to retain staff in addition to accruing debts in terms of rent and other costs unless there is a clear vision of when the crisis could end,” she said.