14 January 2013

Rwanda: Banks Release More Cash for Northern Province Residents As Bad Loans Drop

Responsible borrowing and local leaders' involvement in promoting access to funding has improved the earnings and livelihoods of residents in the Northern Province.

The success is a result of an initiative started in 2007 dubbed: "Access to Finance Forum," which saw 18 per cent of the population move above the poverty line by 2011.

"The forum was formed to bridge the gap between the people and the banks after the financial institutions had lost a lot of money to bad loans and stopped lending to the population.

"So, we stepped in as leaders to build confidence between partners in access to finance and the residents," explained Aime Bosenibamwe, the Northern Province governor.

"We encouraged the defaulters to start servicing the bad loans, which convinced the banks to rethink their earlier stand as they were sure the money would be repaid," he said.

Asked on the impact of the initiative, the governor said: "Hanga Umurimo" is on the rise and the language of the community has changed from counter-accusation to self performance assessment. The residents are happy with the economic strategies that have enhanced growth and boosted their income over the past few years," he said. He added that people were now engaged in income generating activities and their livelihoods had changed for the better.

Bosenibamwe said as a result, the people in the province accessing finance grew from 20 per cent in 2009 to 60 per cent in 2011.

The governor, however, noted that the problem of high population in the region was hurting their efforts. The Northern Province has about 800 people per square metre according to 2011 national census figures.

"There is also lack of professionalism in service delivery, and an over dependence on tilling the land. However, this may soon end as we expect 80 per cent of the residents to shift from on farm activities in the near future for professional and industrial roles," he noted.

Bosenibamwe said the opening of a regional technical and vocational integrated school at Nyakinama, which was nearing completion, would facilitate this shift.

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Francois Kanimba, recognised the Northern Province as the leading in access to finance while officiating at an Access to Finance Forum meeting in November 2012 in Musanze town.

Meanwhile, the province's success story has attracted other regions to learn from it. The Eastern Province has, for example, sought expertise on how to equip its population with financial management skills. The experts will also teach the technocrats the intricacies of accessing finance.

According to the arrangement, the Northern Province will send three of its experts, who handle access to finance issues, to share best practices with the Eastern Province's team.

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