11 December 2012

Rwanda Reaps the Benefits of Electronic Financial Services

Photo: In2EastAfrica
Rwandan Franc.

Visa's efforts to spread cashless commerce across Africa are making headway, with Rwanda in particular set to reap the benefits from the expansion of electronic payment services to local consumers, businesses, and foreign tourists.

Under a 2011 Charter of Collaboration with the Government of Rwanda, Visa agreed to lay the foundation for an electronic payment network, promote electronic payment innovation and fund and promote training programs around financial literacy in all sectors of society. One year on, the ongoing success of the Charter is expected to significantly increase economic growth, minimize risk and expand financial inclusion throughout the country.

The partnership is an alignment of the Rwandan national objective to become a middle-income nation by 2020, and Visa's plans to generate 50% of its revenue from markets outside the US by 2015. The Charter of Collaboration defines a series of initiatives structured around three key areas identified as vital to the development of a fully-inclusive financial system. Full details at:


As part of its commitment to the Charter and to spur economic growth in the country, Visa has worked with local banks, government, businesses and local consumers to rapidly advance Rwanda's electronic payment capacity.

From a handful of ATMs in 2011, all Rwandan ATMs are now on track to be connected to the Visa Network, with 80% already underway or completed. At the outset of the agreement, all Visa transactions in Rwanda were processed in US dollars through Visa's international settlement service. Now, a virtual instance of Visa's global settlement engine, VisaNet, allows relevant transactions to be settled in Rwanda - synchronized to the local Rwandan calendar and work schedule and eliminating any potential foreign currency exchange rates loss - a local solution for the benefit of Rwandan consumers and the Rwandan economy.

To cater for Rwanda's unbanked and underserved Visa launched a new local mobile phone service to meet their basic banking needs. The service, mVISA, overcomes lack of access to physical bank branches and works across different financial institutions and mobile networks. Continuing with financial education, nationwide street theaters, radio programs, video games and more have helped introduce the basics of budgeting, saving and other financial matters to over 40,000 Rwandans.

As part of our commitment to ensure Rwanda's business leaders of tomorrow have the tools to build a robust and sustainable electronic payments industry, Visa launched the Visa Rwanda Ubumenyi (Knowledge) Series - a year-long course for banks, government officials, regulators, law enforcement officials and financial institutions.

Other successes for the partnership include using Visa's global marketing expertise to create awareness of Rwanda as a tourist destination - an important driver of the Rwanda economy - and an increase in the number of merchants that accept electronic payments. Regulations introduced by the National Bank of Rwanda, the central bank, have helped encourage e-payment - most notably provisions protecting consumers from the imposition of surcharges when they pay for goods and services electronically.

Boosting e-commerce in Rwanda also continues to make progress, with key Rwandan companies such as RwandAir acquiring the capability to accept online payments. And finally, Visa is offering more electronic payment options to consumers and businesses. In December 2011, only one bank issued Visa branded cards; now five banks offer a range of payment cards, including debit and credit cards to suit peoples' varying needs.

Speaking on the success of the partnership, Elizabeth Buse Group President, Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa: "A lot has been achieved in Rwanda in a year because of cooperation at all levels and common understanding of the benefits of moving to electronification."

As a result of this year's success, the partnership has been extended for three years (2013 Charter of Collaboration found here:


"The extension of the partnership is a sign of what close and cooperative efforts can achieve and gives Visa an opportunity to continue its efforts to increase access for Rwandans to financial services and electronic banking thereby stimulating the economy," concluded Buse.

Minister of Finance and Economic Planning- Honorable John Rwangombwa, said: "PPPs such as this are a stellar example of the positive impact when there is mutual understanding on how national needs can match commercial interest in a mutually constructive way."

The Minister went on to say that there has been a tremendous improvement in financial literacy programs this year, benefitting thousands of Rwandans countrywide.

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