Agents selling SIM Cards for telecom giant Airtel Rwanda in the western region have been demanding for arrears going back month – a plea they took to the company’s headquarters in Kigali but couldn’t be allowed to go beyond the reception desk.
Airtel Rwanda, one of two telephone providers in the country, operates armies of agents that it uses to flood Airtel SIM Cards on the market. In each district, it has several ‘Team Leaders’, who in term also each control between 30-50 others called ‘Freelancers’.
As payment, the Team Leaders have verbal understanding to be paid a monthly fee of Rwf 102,000 which is payable when they sell SIM Cards set in a specific target. For the Freelancers, they get the SIM cards from the Team Leaders at Rwf 200 and sell it on to clients at Rwf 500 – making an income of Rwf 300 on each SIM card.
In Ngororero district, rural western Rwanda, the nine (9) Team Leaders there, who all say they have been performing beyond the set targets of SIM cards sold, have different unpaid arrears. Some said they had not been paid ever since they were hired. We found out that there are some who had left when their pay didn’t come, and were simply replaced.
Jean Damascene Niyonkuru, 33, began working as Team Leader in July 2020. He had not been paid his monthly paycheck to date. While he was willing to speak out, and be identified as well, others affected couldn’t agree to be interviewed unless we promised them anonymity.
“Our bosses set specific number of SIM cards you have to sell within the coming month. The targets are always changing. For my case, I have met the targets throughout but have not been paid yet,” said Niyonkuru. “I raised my issue with my [superior] since December telling him I was struggling and needed that money. I have a lot of problems to solve. How do they expect me to go to the field everyday when I have not eaten, with unwashed cloths. Clients will think I’m a bandit.”
The Chronicles also found out that there are separate other cases of Airtel Rwanda Agents with other issues against the company in different areas.
In Kigali, there are cases of Agents working in Airtel Money, who claim they received unbalanced payments – less money than they were expected to get.
In Rulindo district, we encountered Jean Chrysostom Nisingizwe, 30. He spent four months working in Ngororero, but wasn’t paid and decided to leave to return to his village. He is now unemployed.
For the case of Jacques Nzabonimpa, who is still working, he didn’t get payment for two months.
Asked why they agree to work without written contracts, the Airtel agents also posed back a rhetorical question; ‘What option do you think we have?’.
The affected agents shared data which showed they had met the required monthly targets, which is a rule to be paid.
When contacted, Airtel head office in Kigali said we write email detailing the issue. By press time, the company had not responded.
Airtel Rwanda is owned by Indian global telecoms giant Bharti Airtel. In 2017, Bharti acquired Tigo Rwanda. Then Airtel Rwanda was merged with Tigo, reducing telecoms in the country from 3 to 2.
Since then Airtel has been struggling to eat away at fierce competitor MTN Rwanda’s market share.