Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

Rwanda: Saccos On Course to Self-Reliance, Says BNR

Savings and Credit Cooperatives schemes - Umurenge Saccos are expected to become self-reliant by 2014 following steady progress that has seen most of them break even.

Monique Nsanzabaganwa, the vice governor National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) said recently that the target is to strengthen the current achievements and build strong that scheme can stand on its own without financial subsidies from the government.

In order to achieve this, BNR plans to set up an electronic infrastructure that will automate the accounting and reporting functions of all Saccos to ensure easy monitoring.

Saccos are a creation of the 2009 National Dialogue that called for increased access to finance services especially in rural areas. Since inception, they have benefited from government funding and have registered success in taking services to millions of Rwandans.

According to Nsanzabaganwa, more than half of the 416 sectors in the country that were not serviced by financial institutions now access services through Saccos.

Until the end of November, 406 out of 416 Umurenge Saccos - representing 97.6%- were licensed by the BNR. And by September, 290 of them had made profit--meaning they can operate without subsidies.

Saccos have reduced the number of Rwandans without access to financial services from 52% in 2008 to 28% in 2012. "Many of these people from remote areas would not be accessing financial services if there were no Saccos," she said.

She called for building more capacity to empower Saccos to do more than just disbursing loans.

As of the end of September, there were 1.26 million account holders in Saccos with total deposits of Frw 29.8 billion. At the same time, total outstanding loans rose to Frw 13.5 billion--borrowed by 52,147 members.

"Indicators increase fast in assets, cash and loans delivery" Nsanzabaganwa said.

She said Saccos were performing even better in loan recovery with non-performing loans currently below 5%-several points under the BNR benchmark 7% for the banking sector.

"Although the indication of non-performing loans is still low, but I'm worried that it can increase if nothing is done," she warned.

She called for action to keep non-performing loans even lower.

Despite progress, fewer women are borrowing from Saccos. For example, out 52,147 members with outstanding loans, only 25.5% of them are women.

Yet recent statistics indicate that women comprise about 52% of the country's population--which makes their participation very significance in the country's development.

For Nsanzabaganwa, the big gap between males and females getting loans need to be addressed in order to include women into development activities through financial services.

"You see that there is a need for strong sensitization so that women can embrace that culture," she urged.

Challenges faced by Saccos include some managers who use deposits to invest in some infrastructure such as building offices. But the central bank vice governor says they are intensifying efforts to deal with such challenges.

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