Lending in rural communities surged over the last five years, reflecting growing demand appetite for credit among farmers.
The latest survey by FinScope Rwanda dubbed “Financial Inclusion in Rwanda 2008-2012” shows that the percentage of borrowing among the rural adult population stands at 57.6 per cent, compared to 45.6 per cent in Kigali City
While there was a general increase in terms of usage of all borrowing sources, the increase in informal borrowing represents the most significant shift since 2008.
Although the report does not provide hard statistics on total lending, it shows a steep increase in informal borrowing, which is the biggest source of credit to most adults, especially in rural areas.
Informal sources of credit form 48.4 per cent, of the loans, banks 3.3 per cent, microfinance institutions 1.8 per cent, Umurenge Sacco 3.9 per cent, other formal loans 6.5 per cent while borrowing from friends and family stands at 27.5 per cent.
The report, which was released last week, also indicates that 72 per cent of Rwandan adults (about 3.2 million) have or use financial products, with 57.5 per cent informally served while 1.3 million Rwandans are financially excluded.
It shows a steady rise in saving levels.
Ignace Nkundimana, a farmer said that through his cooperative, he managed to save enough money, which facilitated him to purchase fertilisers, thus improving agricultural yields.
“Savings have significantly improved our lives,” said Nkundimana.
With increased access to financial services, more Rwandans have access to saving avenues, hence enabling the poor to gradually build financial security, manage financial shocks and invest.
“The cumulative effect being poverty reduction through greater participation in economic activities,” the study cites.
To achieve this, the report said that products and services must be made accessible to more Rwandan adults.
“In order to provide such products and services, financial service providers need to have a clear understanding of who the consumer is and how financial products and services fit into their lives,” said Irma Grundling, from Yakini Development Consulting, who headed the study.
The report shows that over the last 12 months, some people borrowed money from banks in order to repay loans acquired from informal lenders, while others were borrowing to pay school fees.
Statistics show that this year alone, about 2.2 million adults borrowed informally.
However, most of the adults did not borrow because they were concerned they would be unable to repay.
Grundling said the findings will help commercial banks, microfinance institutions and other financial institutions to design products that suit rural and poor community if they are to tap into the market.
“In attempting to identify new opportunities for further formal financial inclusion, financial service providers and decision makers would have to look at those individuals who are not currently formally served,” she said.
“Individuals in this market segment are most likely to offer new opportunities for formal financial inclusion, and banks should move beyond salaried and stable source of incomes.”
Seventy five per cent of the excluded population is in rural areas because commercial banks mainly target individuals with consistent income, salaried employees and large business owners.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, John Rwangombwa, who launched the report in Kigali, said the findings are crucial as they will be used in the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) II whose draft is being finalised.
“The findings will guide policy decisions for planning purposes, especially in EDPRS II, now we know the key bottleneck to access financial services and this will be the focus,” Rwangombwa said.
He, however, cautioned that the level of savings is still low to achieve the country’s development agenda.
“The current savings, of 11 per cent of GDP, is still far from the 30 per cent target, if we are to achieve our development agenda,” he said.
The number of adults saving increased to 68 per cent in 2012, up from 54 per cent in 2008, while the number of people who take credit rose to 56 per cent, from 27 per cent in the last four years.