The New Times (Kigali)

5 April 2013

Rwanda: Poor People Are Better Money Managers - Survey

Rwandans with less access to finance, especially the poor, are better money managers, a study by Visa and Access to Finance Rwanda has indicated.

Focused on uncovering the financial lives of the underserved Rwandans, the survey noted that this segment of society has been able to improve their livelihood through small commercial transactions.

Portfolios of Rwanda, which was released on Tuesday in Kigali, also showed the financial behaviour of Rwandans and highlighted ways banks can design better products to attract more people into the banking system.

"On average, the underserved masses use six financial instruments, through which 100 per cent of their income is cycled informally in regular and small transactions," the report stated.

"When banks, savings and credit co-operative organisations, micro-finance institutions and telecoms try to attract customers, their primary competition may not be each other, but the mattress where consumers keep cash or shopkeepers from whom they borrow to buy household necessities."

The report indicated that understanding these informal instruments could help formal financial providers become relevant to consumers.

According to Finscope Rwanda 2012, a nationwide survey on financial inclusion sponsored by Access to Finance Rwanda, 79 per cent of the adult population are financially "underserved" and, thus, often use informal instruments such as family saving boxes or taking credit from the local shopkeeper.

"Rwanda has come a long way in enhancing access to financial services, but there's more to be done.

"It is good that Portfolios of Rwanda shows financial service providers, policy-makers and other stakeholders where opportunities are," said Eric Rwigamba, the Access to Finance Rwanda acting technical director.

Mark Pickens, the director of emerging market solutions at Visa, said the study would help financial institutions design products that solve unmet needs of the underserved masses.

Portfolios of Rwanda can help banks uncover new revenue opportunities and push the frontier of financial inclusion," he said.

The survey results were welcomed by experts, who credited it for shedding light on a challenge that offers more opportunities for investment.

"Since 2009, financial institutions have been trying to increase customer base... We have increased our branch networks, set up more ATM machines, but we are still serving only 23 per cent of the population. I believe that more can be done," Lawson Naibo, the Bank of Kigali chief operations officer, said.

"The lack of inter-operability among banks and telecoms, as well as the lack of liquidity by mobile money agents, is slowing down the mobile banking sector, which is supposed to drive the country towards a cashless economy. This study offers us the insight we need to scale up these channels."

Bridgette Sayinzoga, the finance ministry permanent secretary, challenged banks to developed more products tailored to meet the needs of the informal sector.

The study, conducted between November and December last year, was commissioned by Visa as part of the company's contribution to the charter of collaboration with the government.

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