For three years now, Kigali International Financial Centre (KIFC), an initiative spearheaded by Rwanda Finance Limited, is making strides in transforming Kigali into a regional financial hub capable of attracting foreign investments and creating highly-skilled jobs across sectors. This can as well be seen by the impact it has created so far in the growth of the country’s financial sector. Jean-Marie Kananura, Ag. Chief Investment Officer, Rwanda Finance Limited, said, “For the past three years, KIFC has implemented policies, passed laws, and established a solid legal framework to make it easier for funds and businesses to be domiciled in Rwanda. “Q-Lana’s decision to establish their office in Rwanda unlocks a wealth of cross-border transactions and establishes a concrete foundation in a region packed with different investment opportunities. “Having international financial institutions such as Q-Lana in our ecosystem indicates the effectiveness of the initiatives put in place to position Rwanda as a leading financial destination for investors seeking opportunities across the African continent.” He added that structuring investment through Rwanda offers a unique blend of untapped potential, sustainable growth, and a growing network of like-minded investors. “We aim to solidify KIFC’s attractiveness by transforming the investment landscape across our continent and connecting people with opportunities across Africa and beyond,” he said. In an interview with The New Times’ Alice Kagina, Christian Ruehmer, CEO and co-founder of Q-Lana—a digital open banking platform that enables its clients to become more efficient and customer-centric—tells us more about how they can benefit from the KIFC community in driving change in the financial services industry. Below are excerpts. Briefly tell us about Q-Lana and the services you offer to the Rwandan financial sector. Through the use of Q-Lana, our clients, financial institutions and asset managers can intelligently digitise their business. The appearance of fintech companies was a real wake-up call for the sector. Reacting to this threat had to go beyond just cost efficiency, our client’s strengths are long-term client relationships and Q-Lana helps them to leverage that factor for their and their client’s benefits. With the Q-Lana platform every process step and every client interaction, even the in-person contact, is supported by digital solutions. This way, information can be collected, aggregated into knowledge, and applied as wisdom. We use low-code software technology to develop and configure solutions locally. We simplified and accelerated the way our clients can develop and roll out new products and services, among others, through the drag-and-drop creation of forms. Q-Lana can also grow with its clients, allowing them to expand without the need for further investments in software solutions. One of our clients, Bank of Kigali, has significantly shortened and improved the loan application process for corporates and SMEs, becoming more reliable and offering a better customer experience. How has the existence of the KIFC ecosystem impacted Q-Lana’s activities? We joined KIFC in 2021 and we are very grateful for the existence of this initiative and our aspiration is to grow and expand to all markets. Having a base in Rwanda is perfect for us to expand across the entire African continent. Here, we have a place where we can build and expand our team and our company in a country that provides a stable environment with a modern and attractive legal framework, and where a lot of initiatives with regard to financial services are being placed. This is where the KIFC has been extremely helpful, be it in terms of rules and regulations, but also in the spirit of building something together that attracts people, attention, and talent, and we see more companies coming here, which is a result of the legal framework. For me, it’s also knowing that there is a community to promote us and usher us into different countries. We were already able to acquire clients in Kenya and South Africa, among others, thanks to those benefits. This will help us to expand further to other countries. What opportunities are you benefiting from being a KIFC club member and how do they align with Q-Lana’s goals? The community and the buzz around the KIFC is extremely helpful in promoting our company. When we pitch our business in Rwanda or elsewhere, the credibility of being part of the KIFC and from a well-organised country is a real benefit. Of course, the legal framework is useful. We have not yet fully benefited from this as we are still growing. With the foresight that we will be a larger company growing with more services and expanding into asset management, we know that we will be in the right environment. Over the next few years, we see a lot of benefits. For example, there is the Rwanda sustainable finance roadmap. This is being promoted strongly and it is very much aligned with our concept of sustainable finance. What expectations does Q-Lana have from KIFC going forward? We look forward to benefiting from events that are organised by KIFC like the Inclusive Fintech Forum slated for June. We would also love working with the centre on various initiatives that we are planning, including the idea of forming talent and financial literacy. For us, training people to get more qualified in the financial sector is essential for us. We do that with our own team already and collaborating with KIFC to expand this would be beneficial for all of us, including the local workforce. As we are looking into creating an asset management company, this is something that KIFC will help us in the licensing process. Here, we will start launching lending funds that will help growing SMEs in the country through attractive financing. What are key opportunities envisioned by Q-Lana for Rwanda’s financial sector considering your expertise and experience? Our main focus for the moment is the banking sector, that’s what we are good at. But our tools can be used in other sectors as well. We would like to expand to provide digital solutions to government and social services. We have a project underway that we will soon launch. We also look to provide solutions for the assessment of ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) risk. This is an extremely important area and the focus of the entire finance sector. The quantification of ESG risk is still in its infancy and just evolving. In addition, we are looking into training the broader public on the use of our platform so that we can drive digital transformation, we want that even small companies and organisations like hospitals, day care institutions, among others, to be able to develop their own applications tailored to their own services they offer, not just purchasing them from external providers.