Refugees living in Rwanda are set to benefit from a two-year project that will enhance access to digital financial services for over 3,000 refugees by 2020.
The services include financial education on how refugees will use digital financial services in saving, acquiring and managing loans so as to start their own enterprises towards self-reliance.
Rwf337m ($366,905) that will be used for the pilot project in Mahama and Kigeme camps is the result of a joint initiative between the Ministry of Emergency Management and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Also involved is Access to Finance Rwanda, Financial Sector Deepening Africa, and other partners.
Richard Gasana, the Livelihoods Specialist at the Ministry in charge of Emergency Management, said financial inclusion through the provision of loans is a prerequisite for refugees and host communities to become self-reliant.
At the end of 2018, Rwanda hosted 152,580 refugees, among them 73,300 refugees from the DRC and 68,280 from Burundi.
"We are targeting about 3,700 refugees but few of them have so far opened bank accounts in this pilot phase in the two camps.
Through the innovation competition, MTN Rwanda, Umutanguha Finance, Equity Bank and MFS Africa have been selected to implement the pilot phase which will later be scaled up to Mugombwa and Gihembe refugee camps.
This initiative is an opportunity for job creation in refugee camps as part of a government strategy to create off-farm jobs according to officials.
At least 20 refugees have undergone a Training of Trainers in financial education and so far 300 refugees have been trained of whom 120 have opened bank accounts.
Kizito Habimana, the Executive Secretary of Eastern Province urged the refugees, especially the youth, to save the lowest amount of money they can afford instead of spending it on drugs.
Waringa Kibe, the Country Director of Access to Finance Rwanda said that more financial institutions are needed to seize the opportunity to provide formal financial services that are appropriate for refugees in Rwanda.
Jules TheonesteNdahayo, the Chief Executive Officer of Umutanguha Finance said that those primarily targeted are refugees carrying out business activities in camps and host communities.
"We want more of them to create income-generating activities through using the product dubbed 'Twigire (Let's be self-reliant)'. We will be able to deposit and withdraw using mobile banking," he said.
He added that those trained will design projects and get approved for loans to implement them adding that loans will not exceed Rwf500,000.
"Among the requirements include having 20 percent of the loan a person is requesting," he said.
The beneficiaries will be able to expand their businesses and this is a great step to creating jobs.
Since 2015 when Jeannette Nduwimana, a Burundian refugee arrived in Mahama camp, she realized that the food aid they get does not satisfy her whole family, she decided she decided to open a small shop with Rw 200,000 she had saved.
"If I manage to get a loan, my business will expand and develop more projects," she said.
The mother of five children said she has managed to buy a plot of land worth Rwf500,000 in Rwanda thanks to the business.