Latest Ridiculously Huge Project: Creating a Map of Kigali

Kigali Map Creation

I’m not sure what it is with me and big projects that I never finish (my backpacking Africa site being a prime example) but I’m currently working on one more pretty ambitious idea. Kigali is a city without a decent road map… and this city is bloody confusing! There are very few straight roads and it takes a new arrival a long time to get orientated here. Add crazy neighbourhood names to the wiggly streets and you have a lot of very confused expats and tourists.

I’ve been through Thailand a bunch of times and I remember coming across a really amazing map when I was there back in 2008. The Nancy Chandler tourist-oriented maps of Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Khao San Road are packed with information and organised in a really fun and creative way. When the idea to come up with a map for Kigali popped into my head, I immediately thought of her maps. I picked up a couple when I was in Bangkok in December and I’m using them as inspiration for my Kigali project. I’ve emailed them too and they’ve provided me with a bit of advice… I just need to be careful that the maps don’t look too much alike so I can avoid having to pay royalties.

So the idea is simple… create a colourful, fun map packed with advice from people who know the city well. I have a good grasp on a few areas of town and have other friends keen to help who can fill me in on the rest. Plus I’m just going to hit the streets and look out for interesting things. The idea is to list hotels, restaurants, and places of interest along with things like where to pay your water bill, the embassies, the place my housemate bought his bike from, where to get decent passport photos taken, where to have furniture made etc. Everything an expat in Kigali would want to know.

Kigali’s not a city aimed at tourists and, besides a visit to the Genocide Memorial, there’s not much to do in the city. It’ll be helpful for tourists too (listing hotels and giving them an insight into expat life here and where to hang out) but the target market will be the expat community.

There will be two major parts to the project: creating the map and filling it with content. Creating the map will be tough since I have no idea how to use Illustrator. The Nancy Chandler maps are hand-drawn and I had considered doing this since my art skills are a lot better with pen and paper than they are on the computer. But then I’d have to worry about scanning it and I don’t know if there’s anywhere here to do that.

Instead, I’ve opted to use Illustrator and to trace each street using Google maps as the background. This alone took me ages as I had to figure out which tool to use and how to do it. Online tutorials have been a big help, as has just fiddling around. I’m not sure my computer is cut out to handle such large files so things have been a bit slow going. But I’m learning a lot as I stumble through this and figuring out Illustrator has been on my to-do list for awhile, so killing two birds with one stone, I guess.

As for adding the content, my friend and I have done a lot of research for the website so we have a bit of a stockpile of tips and info for the map already. Nothing is written specifically for the map, but we have some good information to start with and then we can fill in the gaps from there. Filling in the gaps will mean walking the streets of Kigali (which fortunately is fine since the city is so beautiful and the weather is great) and this will take a long time. Plus it’ll be tricky to know what sorts of things to add and what to leave off. I plan to filter everything through my friend who is a really entertaining writer to give the map that extra kick of awesomeness.

Asuming this map ever gets created, we’ll need to figure out how to get it printed and how to sell the thing. Two items that are a lot more difficult to deal with in Rwanda than at home. Everything here is expensive, including printing, and an initial quote to print on the size of paper I want the map on was $5. This was for one copy and for one side (the map will be double-sided). Obviously printing costs will go down the more maps we print, and I haven’t asked around at all but this initial quote is a bit concerning.

I think I might try to get the map done before I go home for Xmas on December 8th and then try to get a few printed at home and bring them back to get an idea of how interested people would be. Based on everyone I’ve spoken to, this sort of thing is needed so I think it’ll be well-received.

Another issue is that I’m in Rwanda on a tourist visa and I’m sure I’m slowly getting more an more on their radar with the Kigali website. If I want to sell this map here I’m not sure what the procedure is. I’ve had people telling me to register as a business in Rwanda (that’ll sort out my visa but if they turn me down I might get booted out) and others saying just to use my business in the UK and sell the maps to supermarkets and stores here. I’d also like to have it in cafes and things and even sell it to the guys in the streets who try to sell tourists useless crap (I’d like to give them something that people would actually want to buy) so I’m not sure what’s involved there.

So that’s what I’ve been working so hard on these past few weeks. It’s a handful! I feel like I’m making a bit of progress now with Illustrator and getting my ideas and map layout a bit more organised. I’ll worry first about making this thing and then deal with figuring out how to print and sell it later. Possibly not the best strategy, but oh well.

If I managed to pull this off it’ll give me another product (along with my ebook) that can generate passive income for me. A map is a lot different in that I have to actually print the things and then sell them, but I sort of like the idea of having an actual product that you can hold.

Wish me luck! Has anyone else ever made a physical product to sell? Anyone done it in another country? I’d be open to advice and suggestions from anyone!

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