Life In Inyarurembo ‘Village’, Rwanda’s Commercial Hub

CHIC building and its parking yard

Kigali keeps growing, semi retailers from across the country continue to flock into the capital city to shop for their home towns according to demand in new fashions, equipment, industrial food and name it.

Everything grows from the hub, Inyarurembo administrative village, a neighborhood of downtown from the main roundabout to the line of new commercial buildings of MIC, CHIC, and all the way to Gakiriro’s Manumetal, and Albert Supply.

This village will proceed up to former Ecole Belge and then Car free zone before reconnecting to the round about via the former Union Trade Center (UTC) road.

No wonder, Inyarurembo village is by far the biggest Rwanda’s commercial hub despite expansion of the city which has now got more stores in Kigali Industrial zone, Nyabugogo among others.

It is home to the biggest shopping malls and multipurpose buildings like Muhima Investment Company (MIC), Champion Investment Company (CHIC), Kigali Downtown which is the hub of city transport, the newly built Tropical Plazza near Rubangura House, Kigali City Tower, the Chinese T2000, Makuza Peace Plazza and the Catholic’s tower Centenery House which hosts Kigali’s biggest supermarket in terms of branches – Simba Supermarket.

Makuza Peace Plazza(L) and in the back view KCT and centenery House in Inyarurembo village and opposite Grand Pension Plazza and Kigali City Hall in Ishema village

Inyarurembo which means the gate further hosts the first and famous commercial neighborhoods of Quartier Matheus and Quartier Commercial which feed one of country’s biggest market, Kigali City market.

Name any garment style and footwear, Matheus and Quartier commercial has it. What about medical supplies? Pharmaceutic’s depots found home here and so do electronics.

Moreover, their Kazi ni Kazi section of electronics repair is the last resort before you decide to throw away a gadget and call it trash.  

The village further takes the merit of a financial hub with Rwanda’s biggest commercial bank in term of assets, Bank of Kigali and then Kenya Commercial Bank.

No need to say that all the ten commercial banks of the country have an important branch or headquarter here and so do Insurance companies and with all this, biggest parkings – both indoor and outdoor are in Inyarurembo.

Such setup brings in plenty of other services like mobile banking, restaurants, casual work, and cleaning services. Street vending cannot keep away from a similar setup.

On a very unfortunate note, some begging, and some robberies find room in Inyarurembo, too.

In other words, this complexity brings into Inyarurembo people from all works of life, all day long, which imposes a unique style of management as far as local leadership is concerned.

Home to Expatriates, No Poor household

Inyarurembo being the gate of the city means, everyone who wants to try their luck in business is welcome, provided financial “confidence” because every space whatever small, is commercial either for rent or for sale.

Bobette Rutagarama, Inyarurembo Village leader

However, all those who seek space in  Inyarurembo are only interested in business, not residential house.

Bobette Rutagarama is the village chief who volunteers to manage a complex but interesting village where most of the challenges are caused by thousands of visitors, not permanent residents.

“We are 70 households, including 25 Rwandans and 45 foreigners,” says Rutagarama.

With this kind of settlement, Inyarurembo was obliged to forego some institutions because there may not be enough candidates for them.

“Youth council and women’s council and similar other institutions that have a structure from village level cannot work here. We have a community of people who move quite a lot for business,” Rutagarama said without necessarily reminding that majority of the habitants in Inyarurembo are foreign residents.

However, the village is organized like the rest of other villages of the country.
In terms of security, the common organization of security guards ‘irondo’ exists in Inyarurembo even though several other security organs carry patrols 24/7.

“Irondo is our culture. It’s volunteering for our security. We have the youth, even parents who volunteer for this vital work. Residents and all those that own either residential or commercial buildings contribute some money for their motivation,” said Madame Rutagarama.

While one may contribute some Rwf 2000-5000 or probably Rwf 10,000 elsewhere, in Inyarurembo, irondo contribution varies largely from business to another, depending on how big.

Thus, according to Rutagarama, irondo monthly payment varies between Rwf 2000 to Rwf 200,000.

Security and safety is the biggest concern of Rutagarama who handles several cases of robberies and other crimes.

“You know, like in other villages, several cases have to go through the village leader before proceeding to other security officials. So, we handle quite many cases every day,” said the lady who, however, is committed “because when you accept responsibilities, you have to serve.”

Luckily enough, Rutagarama is at least motivated her permanent citizens and hundreds of property owners who have interests in Inyarurembo.

“When I have a security issue, like asking them to install more lights on a property, I deal directly with property owners, not middlemen. You know, some of them do not reside here. In many cases, I deal will property owners, not tenants,” she said.

“Some of them are big enough to an extent that I have to write to them officially when there is something I want them to do, and they obey.”

This follows the same procedure for example when she wants some buildings to be repainted to keep the beauty of the city or when she wants to convene a meeting.

Despite having many foreign nationals, meetings are conducted in Kinyarwanda.

“The same way we make an effort to understand a foreign language to fit in a new society where we have interest, they also make an effort to follow us in Kinyarwanda,” said Madame Rutagarama.

Meanwhile, no household is a social case in Inyarurembo.

Emmanuel Safari, a casual laborer whose job is car washing is one of those citizens. He told KT Press, that he was registered under the category of the well-to-do households and he does not mind about that.

“I don’t mind being registered under the same category like the well-to-do families around me. It’s all about mindset,” said the man who stays with his wife.

Rutagarama feels that it is time she has an office, because it is hard for her to receive cases where some people have to find her at home.

In the meantime, when she has to handle a kind of complex issue, she borrows space in her Kiyovu cell located in the premises of the newly facelifted Nyarugenge sector.




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