Finally it is happening! Kigali city traders and shop keepers are being encouraged to remain open for business 24 hours each day. A twenty four hour city, an East African version of the Las Vegas strip, can hold positives for all living in the city. Business Rwanda discusses the issue. Under the aegis of Kigali City Council, a ceremony was held on 26th October at the city’s busiest shopping street, ‘Quartier Mateus’, with the city mayor, Ms. Aisha Kirabo, presiding over the event. Also in attendance were the Minister of Economic Planning and Finance as well as the Minister of Commerce and the mayors of the three districts that make up the city of Kigali; Kicukiro, Gasabo and Nyarugenge.
A 24 hour service will increase employment and tax revenues from increased trading volume. Shoppers will not have to worry about beating the impossible rush hour at 5pm to make it to the markets and shops. The question is whether a Kigali that works for 24 hours will actually come into being within the foreseeable future.
Judging by the alacrity with which the shopkeepers at ‘Quartier Mateus’ closed shop a mere five minutes after the dignitaries left, this is still something that will happen in the future. In most cities in Africa, the central business district becomes a ghost town after 8pm. The city dwellers appear to owe the place no allegiance at night. Different cities have different reasons for this, but in Kigali’s case part of the reason lies in the fact that unless you live in Nyamirambo or Gikondo-Nyenyeri, you cannot make any bets on your public bus transport home. This makes it expensive to stay in town late.
Unless something is done to improve the reliability of public transportation, shops might remain open all night without any customers. This, however, can also be argued the other way around. If the shops keep people in town longer then public buses will hang around town longer to transport the people who remain in town.
Another obstacle will be customer care. Too many shop keepers and business people run their concerns like the civil service. It is almost impossible to believe that some shops will keep open all night and day when the earliest that shop is open is 9am and at 4pm sharp, nothing can convince the attendants to serve you. Over the years, things have improved in the customer service department and the excesses of the past have nearly been eradicated. But every now and then one can observe that old habits have not completely died. In fact they have survived long enough to still be a concern today.
All being said, the idea to encourage service all day by the city council is an inspired one. Whether it will be taken up is another matter altogether. It’s one of those ideas that is good for all concerned from whichever side you look at it.