Kigali residents face arrest for buying from hawkers

Saturday August 6 2016

Street vendors carry out their business in Kigali City. PHOTO | FILE

Street vendors carry out their business in Kigali City. In a bid to eliminate street vendors, the Kigali City Authority has come up with new directives which will see people buying goods from street vendors fined. PHOTO | FILE 

By Edmund Kagire

In a bid to eliminate street vendors, the Kigali City authority has come up with new directives which will see people buying goods from street vendors fined.

The new guidelines, published in the official gazette on July 18, have set provisions for fines for both the vendors and buyers in a move aimed at getting street vendors out of the streets.

The development follows years of run-ins between hawkers and the city's law enforcement agents, which in recent months had turned into street battles between vendors and operatives, in some instances with fatal outcomes.

The directives stipulate the fines for those caught buying or selling will pay.

“In accordance with the law and other penalties stipulated in other laws, anyone caught in the act illegal act of selling goods on the streets will be fined Rwf10,000 [$13] and asked to return the money to the person buying. Similarly the person buying will be reprimanded and fined Rwf10,000 [$13] for buying goods in areas not designated as markets,” the directives said.

The goods in question will be confiscated and fines deposited in district accounts.

The new directives also indicate that the city will put in place “free markets” where street vendors and those caught hawking will be asked to sell their goods.

According to Pascal Busabizwa, Kigali’s vice mayor in charge of Economic Affairs, the new directives were put in place to address the growing concern of illegal businesses popping up unplanned on city streets.

“This has been a growing concern because despite our efforts to curb street vending, the number of people involved in this kind of business has been growing, mainly because they have ready customers,” he said.

“These illegal vendors operate in front of markets and shops of people who are formally licensed and pay taxes. The vendors also present a security concern and create congestion,” he added.

The city also maintains that this decision is also driven by the need to eliminate substandard goods because most of the goods sold on the streets are of poor quality and people get ripped off since most of them have no time to check the quality of what is being bought.

The City of Kigali says it will set up free markets where vendors will be encouraged to do their business. Under the new guidelines, hawkers will form co-operatives which according to city authorities will make it easy to support them or assist them to access credit.

The free markets will be built in areas that street vendors prefer to operate from and are also accessible to motorists and pedestrians. The hawkers are required to form groups of 30 to be assisted, and will be advanced small loans paid at an interest of 5 per cent.

The free markets are expected to sell fruits, vegetables, clothes, shoes and beverages among other items.

The government through Umurengo Sacco will extend loans of up to Rwf200,000 ($253) to those who don’t have starting capital upon assessment by local government authorities.

The move, according to city authorities will help deal with street hawking menace. The move is also partly to ensure hygiene of goods and sanitation in the city.

Some of the vendors who spoke to Rwanda Today said that they would be willing to work in the markets if given start-up capital.