Members of two cooperatives are counting huge losses after a fire, for the second time, gutted their timber businesses – leaving them with nothing.
Gisozi Agakiriro, is one of the business centers dotted across Rwanda, where government provided free space for cooperatives engaged in timber and furniture business. They make a variety of industrial, household and office products, often sold at low rates.
For the Agakiriro at Gisozi, a suburb of Kigali, it housed 338 members organised into two cooperatives – ADARWA (Association pour le Développement de l’Artisanat au Rwanda)and APARWA (Association pour la Promotion des Artisans du Rwanda).
On Saturday around 6pm, fire erupted from one of the warehouses and spread quickly – engulfing the whole area in less than an hour.
By the time fire brigade arrived, only minutes later as the area is very easily accessible, there was only much they could do. The fire was so intense.
The owners of the businesses, many of whom had left and there was mainly few workers still around. Few people could be seen trying to retrieve some of the timber products.
According to APARWA General Secretary, Emmanuel Benegusenga, they lost all timber stored in warehouses and under tents, as well as completed or unfinished furnitures. All machines used in their business were completely destroyed.
He told reporters at the scene the next day on Sunday morning that their whole business center was worth Rwf 7.7billion ($8.5m).
However, he said that while other members had insurance, those who were specialised in selling timber did not have cover – yet they consituted the biggest number of the cooperative.
Central and local officials have yet to come out publicly to indicate how they will support these affected cooperatives.
On June 3, the same businesses caught fire, but was put out before it could spread.
By Sunday, the members were seated at what was once their place of work, and now in ashes. The cooperatives employed over 6,000 people who were engaged in different things, including food sellers.
Just opposite from this Agakiriro (literally translated as “Wealth Joint”), is a large ADARWA shopping complex owned by four cooperatives including the two which lost their businesses in the Saturday fire.
The cooperatives hosted President Paul Kagame in February 2015 to open the Rwf 2.5billion complex.
It houses hundreds of small private businesses, which pay rent to the cooperatives. The businesses working from the complex employ more than 10,000 people.
By virtual of the complex being located in a thriving Kigali neighborhood, it has been enjoying a huge ready market from the residents.
After this complex was completed, it opened the door for several others which now dot the area – making it one of the fast developing areas of Kigali.