Advertising firms in Rwanda are counting losses after the City of Kigali expedited impromptu orders to bring down billboards along the road leading to the Kigali International Airport (KIA).
The order, given on Thursday afternoon, required that the firms bring down their billboards by the end of the day, a move which the companies say will affect their revenues.
The stretch between the junctions to Nyandungu-Eastern Province road and Airport road had numerous billboards welcoming tourists entering the country. The advertising firms say this was one of the most strategic routes and was generating good revenue for them.
The firms noted that the directive, given on a short notice, will likely lead them to losses, with clients, including banks, hotels and tech companies, having booked the advertising spaces for more than six months.
“Our clients had paid for six months and others for a year. We will now have to refund the money if we won’t find an alternative location which they will like,” a representative of one of the affected firms told The EastAfrican on condition of anonymity.
Advertising firms had been invited to an urgent meeting where they were informed of the directive.
“This is to inform all billboard owners whose billboards are located within new airport boundaries to come for a briefing meeting ongoing at the site regarding the relocation of those billboards,” a short notice message sent to the companies read.
Upon arrival, the companies were asked to bring down the billboards by the end of the day failure to which the Kigali City authorities would remove them.
Efforts to negotiate with city officials on the deadline did not bear fruit, with officials maintaining that the orders should be implemented with immediate effect.
“Our concern was that the order was on short notice. We were not given time to explain the issue to our clients. We were told we will be given alternative locations to put the billboards but we were not told where,” an advertiser who sought anonymity said.
“We were informed that we need to replace the current billboards with digital ones, much smaller in size,” the advertiser added.
Most of the billboards are rented for a cost ranging from $900 to $1,200 a month, generating about $12,000 per year.
Some of the affected firms include Akagera Business Group, Pan African Advertising and Alliance Media, among others.
Part of new guidelines
The City of Kigali spokesperson Bruno Rangira told The EastAfrican that the move was part of the changes at the airport and the surrounding areas as well as a result of new by-laws concerning outdoor advertising.
“Since last year, we started implementing the new guidelines on outdoor advertising and the airport is one of the areas where we started it, in line with the renovations that have been ongoing,” he said.
“The directives started within the airport, where billboards were replaced by one big digital screen and following the construction of the new roads, the area where most billboards were standing is now considered to be inside the airport,” Mr Rangira said.
He said the airport has security regulations which are currently being implemented, hence the new decision.
But City authorities say that the development was part of an ongoing exercise to streamline outdoor advertising to make more orderly and digital.
Mr Rangira said that new locations to erect billboards will be identified and given to the affected advertising companies.