Kigali, A flourishing city that said no to billboards

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Can you imagine Kigali city without billboards, business signs or posters? An urban landscape with absolutely no advertising displayed anywhere?

The question is did this ‘billboards ban’ cause widespread panic and losses to local firms? The truth is, it didn’t. Instead, experts say the move has actually encouraged many local companies to reassess their advertising campaigns and find new and creative ways to reach their clients.

For Kigali city to look more clean and safe –the city authorities have decreed the removal of almost all forms of billboards that had cluttered the city for many years.

But advertisers regard the legislation as injurious to their business and their professions. They say jobs will be lost.

This means that advertisers will have to shift to other platforms as billboard agents are struggling to adhere to strict roadside and outdoor advertising standards.

Rwandan telecos, moved to temporarily focus on mass media outlets like Radio and TV, Print mediums is expected to give mileage to local broadcasters, as advertising agents ponder on ways of creating billboards that meet the required standards

“Although this is a small setback, it should not necessarily be an issue because we still have other platforms that we use to advertise products and services to the masses such as radio, TV, Social Media, Print and web amongst others” said Teta Mpyisi, the MTN Rwanda Senior Manager, Brand and Sponsorship.

The ban comes after Kigali city last week implemented a 2013 bylaw in which over 27 billboards managed by seven advertising firms were pulled down after the local advertising companies failed to meet the six month deadline given to rectify the types of billboards.

“There was a lot of chaos caused by the billboards and they were not adding any beauty to the city. We moved to pass the bylaw as a way of pushing for standardization of the advertising” said a former member of the city council committees which passed the bylaw in 2013.

Telecoms in Rwanda inject millions of funds in billboards, Radio and TV adverts annually. For example MTN Rwanda spends about over Rwf200 millions for outdoor advertising spaces across the country.

For billboard advertisers, this is good money to tap into, with a client paying at least $900 per month for big companies and from $600-$700 per month for medium companies.

Unless advertising agents meet these requirement most of the companies are bound to make losses.

“We will continue working with the owners of these advertising spaces to ensure that they meet the new standards so we can continue fighting our ads on a long term basis” Mpyisi said in an email.

Some of them have already gone back to the drawing board to renegotiate discuss new terms with their clients.

“We are already talking to our clients and the new advertisers. We need to stay in business and we will do what is required but we also need to consider the small business who may not afford the charges of digitalized billboards” Sairam Gopala, an official of Akagera Media said.

Charles Tusubira, the vice-president of the association of advertisers in Rwanda, said that the high demand for the billboard services in 2016, cause hesitance to move to upgrade the billboards according to required standards, but sources indicate that some of agents were not willing to adopt to the digital boards which most expects consider suitable for Kigali city.

The city of Kigali has recently introduced small sized and shorter roadside advertising boards which are cemented along the major streets but also act as dumping bins at the lower part with a double-sided ad running above it.

While Kigali city is considered to be a fast growing city, there are few digitalized billboards around the city center and along the Kigali international airport which can accommodate many advertisers.





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