A new digital system dubbed “e-Umuhinzi Platform” has been unveiled by a local microfinance bank to boost the agri-businesses sector and promote financial inclusion.
The platform was launched last week by Atlantis Microfinance in partnership with Agritech, a company that specialises in providing agri-business solutions.
While speaking at the launch of the platform in Kigali, Alfred Ndayisaba, the acting managing director of Atlantis, said though over 72 per cent of the Rwandan population is involved in agriculture in one way or another, smallholder farmers still face challenges of accessing soft loans as many banks are reluctant to give them credit.
“The agricultural sector employs the majority of Rwandans and agriculture is third biggest contributor to GDP.However, most stakeholders in the sector, especially farmers, have no access to loans. This is why we have collaborated with other stakeholders to develop the platform...what we call the ‘dynamic data driven lending’ model,” said Ndayisaba.
He added that under the new system, they collect farmers’ data and help them to easily access loans.
“Through the new platform, farmers whose details are in our database will be able to apply for loans using their smartphones and feature phones through unstructured supplementary service data (USSD). So far, 250,000 farmers from 15 districts across the country have been profiled in the database, according to the bank.
“Their information has been collected, analysed and stored in the system. Once a farmer in the database applies for a loan, it will be easier for the bank to assess the application and provide the funding,” he said.
Ndayisaba said the bank has been able to increase transactional and lending activities through group loans, associations, youth co-operatives, and women to a tune of Rwf54.3 million using new technologies. The microfinance bank has served about 5,217 borrowers.
“This system is, therefore, going to help us continue supporting Rwanda’s goals for financial inclusion and achievement of a sustainable, private sector-driven economy. We’re already working with more than eight farmers’ co-operatives using this system,” said Ndayisaba.
He added that the system will create a centralised database for farmers to enable financial institutions, markets and off-takers, supply chain and other stakeholders along the value chain to conveniently and effectively reach out to their customers.
Speaking at the event, Claudius Kurtna, the business development manager at Agritech, said banks are always reluctant to fund farmers because they cannot identify the farmers.
“Banks have been reluctant to give loans to farmers because they were not able to identify them. When you go to bank there’s always the need to “know your customer”, which is a paramount parameter that has to be achieved. So, this platform, which has been lacking in the banking industry, will go a long way in bridging this gap,” he said.
Kurtna added; “We want to be the bridge between the banks and farmers. We are giving the banking industry trusted farmer information, indicating what they are doing, who they are, where they stay, the activities they are involved in, and what more they can do.”
The two firms say to reduce the risk involved in agro-funding, they are working with insurance companies.