Rwanda: Report - 9% of Persons With Disabilities Are Financially Excluded

2 December 2021

Persons with disabilities have expressed their concerns and challenges that limit them to accessing financial services like loans, effective customer care and information on financial products among others.

These issues were highlighted in a FinScope 2020 thematic report on persons with disabilities, which was published by Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) in partnership with the National Union of Disability Organisations of Rwanda (NUDOR).

According to the report 9 per cent of persons with disabilities do not have access to any financial services, 49 per cent of them have mobile money accounts but only 46 per cent actively use it.

For savings, only 15 per cent of people with disabilities have savings in banks, 4 per cent save with family and friends and 19 per cent do not have savings, according to the report.

According to the report 9 per cent of people with disabilities do not have access to any financial services. Photo by Craish Bahizi

The report further shows that when it comes to borrowing and credit only 15 per cent of people with disabilities have access to formal credit, and 15 per cent of them have insurance and risk mitigation.

Jean Bosco Iyacu, the CEO of Access to Finance Rwanda which commissioned this report, highlighted that Financial Service Providers need to scale up services and products that address the financial needs of persons with disabilities.

"It's commendable that 91 per cent of persons with disabilities have access to both formal and informal financial services. But as actors in the financial sector, we need to ensure the remaining 9% are also served." Iyacu said.

Eric Niyoyita, who has a hearing and speech impairment, said that it is very hard to even ask for information at the bank because no one understands sign language.

Niyoyita added that another challenge is lack of information, adding that some people with disabilities have the means and really need financial services but due to the fact that they have no one to direct them and clearly explain to them then they miss out.

Liliane Akadata, who has a physical disability highlighted the key challenge to be physical inaccessibility in some financial infrastructures.

"People who are visually impaired need braille to read, and it is not available in banks and they have to bring someone to explain or sign for them which might result into fraud, like them signing for more money they do not know or simply accessing an ATM,"

She added: "Some financial institutions also refuse to give credit to their clients because they believe that people with disabilities will not be able to pay them back in time, yet they are financially independent."

Christine Mukamihigo, who has a physical disability said that as an individual she cannot access any loan and they have to put themselves together in a group of 15 or 20 in order to access any credit, which she thinks is discriminatory.

Jean Damascene Nsengiyumva, the Executive Secretary of NUDOR said that these challenges can be addressed by changing the "mindset".

"When people who operate these financial institutions understand that people with disabilities have rights to also access financial services then that is the first step to address the issue,

"By incorporating guidelines, and making sure that they are followed, like training their staff and establishing ways to make sure that physical and mindset barriers are removed from the way" he said.

Nsengiyumva added that through NUDOR they will conduct discussions with financial institutions and provide them with the help they need like staff training and others in order to support PWDs scrap these issues.

Moise Bigirimana, Financial Inclusion and Education Manager at National Bank of Rwanda (BNR), said that they are committed to address these issues in different banks.

"For instance by digitalizing bank services and educating people with disabilities then we can be able to financially include them, which can be one step among other solutions we are planning to implement." He said.

Huss Monique, Director General of Community and Social Affairs at the Ministry of the Local Government said that the government is committed to solving these issues.

"We are aware that these problems do exist in communities and by working closely with these people from the local level then we can be able to help them solve their challenges," she added.

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