Hard efforts of street vendors in Rwanda lead to positive outcomes

9 September, 2016

Pictured are street vendors' already packed in new markets in the Kigali city. They show their contentment in front of markets and in front of their goods

Jeannette NYIRAMASENGESHO, President of Syndicat des Travailleurs Independents de l’Economie Informelle (SYTRIECI), StreetNet affiliate from Rwanda, clarifies the situation of street vendors in her country, namely after the spread of news in social media by Rwanda local government about construction of 12 mini markets for approximately 8000 former street vendors in Rwanda capital - Kigali city who will be exempted from taxes for one year which means they will not pay rent or taxes for within the whole year.

Jeannette NYIRAMASENGESHO states: “the situation of street vendors has always been our concern. The Rwandan Government, for its part, has already understood our concerns in relation to these street vendors.
After negotiation by SYTRIECI with the city of Kigali, where there is the largest part of this group of people, this last is currently concerned about the creation of new markets in their place to be able to work under more comfortable conditions.

As a reminder, the informal sector in Rwanda is composed of several categories of workers who are grouped in many organizations. In this context, SYTRIECI deals mainly with workers who are street vendors and market vendors and other informal sector workers who are struggling for life. It is in this context that SYTRIECI, as a Union that also deals with street vendors and market vendors, took charge to do advocacy for its registered members without forgetting others who are not yet registered.

Pictured are street vendors' already packed in new markets in the Kigali city. They show their contentment in front of markets and in front of their goods

At the statement of the City Hall of the city of Kigali to redevelop the procedure of these street vendors and restructure their way of street vending transactions, SYTRIECI has closely followed this policy to strengthen its strategic and technical contribution.

Indeed, our Union SYTRIECI, on its part, had sent its written opinions and proposals to the mayor of the city of Kigali in line of channeling the possible solutions in the sense that promotes these street vendors. For example, among the solutions proposed to the Mayor of the city of Kigali, there is an idea to group them into cooperatives to enable them to work in order and with objectives of maximally profit from their actions. SYTIECI had highlighted this strategy insistently in its letter to the Mayor of the city of Kigali in May 2016.

On the list of strategies were also the creation of markets, the tax exemption and the creation of unions of solidarity as well as tontines.

Recently, after many meetings discussing the problem between the authorities of the city of Kigali and the street vendors, the unanimous decision was to restructure their working methods and focus on the grouping into cooperatives to maximize the profits and strengthen the solidarity.

By closely following this decision, we have noticed that the implementation has not been easily respected. It took further discussions to strengthen the understanding of this policy. At the same time, the Mayor of the city of Kigali introduced the smaller markets built in the place of street vendors so that they can work in order and at ease. In any case, we are closely following the entire process and in some cases we also have meetings with local authorities to extend the negotiations for the street vendors to obtain some places in the public markets. In doing so, SYTRIECI find it positive. In so doing again, we continue to ensure that this good practice is implemented and lasts longer.

In short, in Rwandan context, the street vending seems not to be the best answer for the harmonious life of the downtown street vendors. Indeed, without forgetting that this work is the Foundation of their survival despite many problems they face in selling their goods on the street, any effort to improve their living conditions is the focus of interest centre for SYTRIECI.

Street vendors express their happiness to get a new working place at the mini market in Kigali city

SYTRIECI continue campaigns to explain to the members about this change. These campaigns mainly analyze the advantage which the street vendors may derive from this new procedure if at least all this is put into practice. It is worthy to highlight that the good attempt to build markets in order to solve the problem of street vendors still poses challenges that effectively still ne to be met. On the one hand, the number of street vendors is too high compared to the markets that the Government has to build to their intention. Only 12 markets are already completed. On the other hand, street vendors are usually devoid of financial means besides their other multiple difficulties amongst other, managing their households. In addition to this, there are problems related to the practicability of these new procedures. Indeed, any change requires time to achieve effective results.

Success will also require and especially putting together the efforts of different stakeholders. The education and practical training must also continue to be considered for improving the results.

However, SYTRIECI needs always the experiences of others in order to be able to carry out its actions in the place of the street vendors and other workers in the informal economy. The means, being substantially limited, the combination of efforts remains a priority for our Union, but also requires an assistance on the part of our partners.

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StreetNet International

StreetNet International is an alliance of street vendors. It was launched in Durban, South Africa, in November 2002.

Membership-based organizations (unions, co-operatives or associations) directly organizing street vendors, market vendors and/or hawkers among their members, are entitled to affiliate to StreetNet International.

The aim of StreetNet is to promote the exchange of information and ideas on critical issues facing street vendors, market vendors and hawkers (i.e. mobile vendors) and on practical organizing and advocacy strategies