Rwanda has surpassed its financial inclusion targets with more than 89 per cent of adult population accessing financial services, a new FinScope survey 2016 shows.
This is against 80 per cent government's target set for 2017 and up from 72 per cent when the last survey was conducted back in 2012.
It, therefore, means that another 5.2 million Rwandans have been financially included since 2012.
Rwanda now ranks second in sub-Saharan Africa after Mauritius in terms of financial inclusion echoing other international indexes such as the World Bank Doing Business Report.
FinScope survey 2016 launched yesterday in Kigali highlights the landscape of access to financial services in the country.
It also provides a benchmark under which policymakers and regulators can intervene and make evidence based decisions to help extend the reach of financial services in the country.
And, according to the latest survey, the number of those financially excluded has equally reduced from 28 per cent in 2012 to only 11 per cent in 2016.
This means that only 700,000 adult Rwandans remain without access to financial services compared to 1.3million people in 2012.
The rise in financial inclusion was as a result of increased up take of innovative products courtesy of mobile money, credit and saving institutions such as SACCOs and non banking institutions, including the insurance sector.
For example, Rwanda's banked population increased to 26 percent in 2016 up from 23 per cent in 2012.
The informal inclusion has also increased from 57 per cent in 2012 to currently 72 per cent thanks to the more innovative products and technologies that have revolutionarised the financial industry across the country.
Those accessing financial services through non banking institutions have increased to 42 per cent up from 19 per cent in 2012.
According to the survey, government's gender and rural population based interventions have paid off with more than 28 percent rural population accessing financial services.
Nyarugenge, Kicukiro, Gasabo, Rwamagana, Ruhango, Muhanga, and Rusizi were cited as the districts with high levels of financial inclusion so far, while Ngororero, Kirehe, Ngoma, Nyanza, Rustiro, and Nyamasheke districts lag with low level of access to financial services.
Speaking at the report launch, Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi said the findings of the survey is a true reflection of both government and private sector's efforts to improve standards of living in Rwanda.
"It also means a substantial stepping stone toward achieving sustainable and inclusive growth," Premier Murekezi said.
The country's financial sector has continued to grow which confirms a correlation between poverty reduction and economic stability, he added.
However, he urged sector players to bring to the market more innovative products that are relevant and affordable to help bring on board the 11 per cent that is still excluded.
Finance and Economic Planning minister Claver Gatete said the insights of the survey will help guide policy-makers and regulators to come up with more interventions to boost financial inclusion in the country.
The role of the financial sector is very vital in savings mobilisation; therefore, this survey contains critical information that can help drive the financial sector and its contribution towards economic development.
According to central bank, the increasing competition in the banking industry has brought innovation in terms of products and services.
And as banks strive to increase their client base, they have introduced products that meet the needs of many Rwandans.
For example, agency banking has been rapidly growing with the number of bank agents rising from 844 in December 2012 to 2,555 in December 2015.
This growth of bank agents has partly contributed to increasing number of accounts.
The number of clients' accounts increased from 1,782,949 in December 2011 to 2,355,008 in December 2015.
The banking sector assets expanded significantly in 2015 with total assets of the industry registering an annual growth rate of 18.3 per cent in December 2015 from (Rwf1.80 trillion in December 2014 to 2.13 trillion).
Premier Murekezi said Financial Sector Development has always been at the heart of our Economic Development Strategy.
"The 2nd Financial Sector Development Programme (FSDP II) has been fully aligned to EDPRS 2 by focusing on access, products development and stability."
"The FinScope survey results show that reforms undertaken in promoting financial literacy, SACCOs, electronic payments, and savings schemes have paid off. It is now clear that Rwanda has a sound platform on which to lay the next building blocks required for financial sector deepening and to become a financial hub," Murekezi added.
To achieve this, the Premier added, a wider range of products will need to be offered to Rwandans; and it is the responsibility of Private Financial Agents to ensure that these products are relevant and affordable.
Meanwhile, sector players have pledged to continue banking the unbanked by availing more affordable and affordable products.
However, they say more needs to be done to digitize infrastructure so as to boost connectivity.
Alex Kanyankole, the BRD chief executive officer, said that going digital will drive efficiency and boost financial inclusion.