The latest entrant to the increasingly gung ho local banking sector, Equity Rwanda that officially launched its operations last week, has initiated pioneering products in the banking sector.
The unique products that will be available to customers include the agency banking service with 200 points of sale in super markets and hotels, the Bank’s Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Dr. James Mwangi told Business Times.
The bank also has 15 ATMs to support the 10 branches already in place countrywide.
A friendly investment climate and predictable regulations,k according to Mwangi, are some of the factors that attracted the bank to the country.
“It’s not usual that we have managed to meet top government officials within limited time and this shows how government is committed to investments and any investor would be willing to work with you,” Mwangi stated.
The Group Chief Executive Officer noted that the country has demonstrated high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) averaging at eight percent in last five years.
Macroeconomic stability, prospects guided by the national policy of vision 2020 are the other factors that drove the Equity bank Group to invest in the country.
“We hope to create a very competitive environment in the banking sector in terms of pricing, customer services and human capital development,” Mwangi promised.
A 178-strong workforce from Rwanda was trained in Nairobi, Kenya and shared experiences with their Equity bank Kenya counterparts.
The bank announced that it was ready to compete through unique products.
“We leverage on robust IT system of Equity bank and innovation will be a major driver of financial sector in Rwanda,” Mwangi emphasised.
Agency banking is expected to play a key role to bring the unbanked population into the system, thus facilitating the government strategy to have 80 percent of the population financially included by 2017.
“We have made a conscious decision to invest in Rwanda and we’ll seek opportunities to partner with the government in playing our role of deepening and broadening financial inclusions,” Mwangi asserted.
Recently, through a working paper dubbed ‘Assessing Bank Competition within the East African Community’ that aims at estimating the degree of competition in the EAC banking systems, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) challenged new entrants to take advantage of the large number of the unbanked population.
Despite large numbers of financial exclusions, the IMF says that new entrants into the market in recent years show there are no regulatory barriers per se to competition in the banking sector within the East African Community member states.
“The relationship we have had with Equity Bank is comforting to us (Rwanda) that they are going to play a big role in our endeavour to develop our country to greater heights and in the shortest time possible,” commented Finance Minister, John Rwangombwa during the official launch of Equity Bank group last Friday.
He added that the fact that Equity Bank took young Rwandans to Kenya for training showed their seriousness in investing in Rwanda and that the bank’s mode of business fits well into the country’s vision 2020.
“The fact that you are interested in working with SACCOs, the approach to rural community is an indication that you are committed to rural development,” he noted.
Rwangombwa is optimistic that Kenya’s success in rural development would be replicated in Rwanda.
The Finance Minister mentioned that the bank today had surpassed many banks in terms of electronic payment systems.
“We see you as strong partners in our development,” he mentioned.
National Bank of Rwanda Governor, Amb. Claver Gatete, stated that the bank’s mode of business is crucial for development.
The Governor observed that in most developed countries, there were specialised banks for corporate and ordinary citizens, as well as investment banks that cater for huge investments.
“It is so impressive; they cater for corporate, retail and ordinary citizens. The agency banking service combined with technology and capacity building is crucial instruments in the sector,” Amb.Gatete said.
The Central Bank boss is optimistic that the linkage with SACCOs through their shops is a great way to reach almost everybody in the entire country.
Gatete added that the combination of capacity and technology makes them remain competitive not only in Rwanda but globally and facilitates Rwanda to becoming a regional financial hub.
Equity Bank comes into the market when the local banking sector net profit shot up by 42.2 percent to Rwf22.8 billion in 2011 from Rwf15 billion the previous year, due to new entrants and improved risk management.
Total assets for commercial banks and other specialised banks indicate that commercial banks recorded the largest share of 82 percent of the total banking sector assets.
“What is more significant is that they (banks) are doing it with less risk because their capital adequacy ratio increased to 27.2 percent from 24.4 percent in 2010,” Gatete said recently.
He added; “This is compared to regulatory required capital of 15 percent that banks are supposed to use as a benchmark.”
Equity Bank has so far registered 30,000 customers since October last year with more than Rwf5.2 billion as customer deposits and Rwf1billion disbursed as loans and advances. They have invested US $12m out of the total budget of S$2.5billion.
According to the monetary policy statement, macro-prudential assessment and stress testing indicate that the banking sector is well capitalized and profitable with improved asset quality and strong liquidity.
Currently, Rwanda’s banking sector is composed of nine commercial banks, one development bank, three microfinance institutions and one cooperative bank.