Savings Banks Foundation for International Cooperation (SBFIC) and the Association of Microfinance Institutions in Rwanda (AMIR) are celebrating 11 years of successful partnership that has professionalized the microfinance sector. Speaking at the ceremony on Friday, Maria Knappstein, the Country Director of Sparkassen Foundation said that the partnership has been so fruitful. “Over the eleven years, our collaboration and also our institutions have grown a lot. We started with interventions in the field of financial education. Another component was capacity development, especially training of members and staff from the microfinance institutions which are members of AMIR,” she said. She said that one of the biggest success stories of their collaboration is the established training institute dubbed “Rwanda Institute of Cooperatives, Entrepreneurship, and Microfinance (RICEM)”. “We have also implemented a dual apprenticeship system for the microfinance sector and one week ago we celebrated the successful graduation of 23 graduates,” she noted. Knappstein remarked thousands of women have also received training and benefitted from a specially designed product which allows them to grow financially and economically. Among the projects, she added; also include mystery shopping which its methodology is to find out about weaknesses in the MFIs in order to really to develop major trainings based on the needs that are there. She said that world-saving week celebration was also part of the partnership. Knappstein added that the projects have changed the lives of people indirectly and directly. “As direct impact, we have worked with thousands of students and adults in financial education campaigns. They saved money for something bigger such as chickens and pigs. Under women savings product, we trained women and became financially independent. Indirect impact is for strengthened microfinance institutions that contribute a lot to people development who are members,” she said. Aimable Nkuranga, the Executive Director of AMIR said that the capacity of MFIs increased and will improve service delivery in the sector. “We have gained a lot from the partnership. We have obtained tools to use and different products. We used to import training exports from abroad which was costly to MFIs. We had no experts who can train others, but the 11 years partnership has produced a list of local experts in different products who can train others in MFIs, SACCOs and others across the country,” he emphasized. He said that with support from the partnership, microfinance institutions will be at a good stage in the next four years by embracing automation. A glance at the programmes The financial education programme creating a saving culture among children and youth run from 2011 to 2020. Some managed to attain assets like livestock as a source of income. Over 100,000 children saving accounts were opened as a result of the programme. Celebrating world-saving week programme started from 2011 to 2019 and over 400 world-saving week activities with over 300 MFIs branches and SACCOs were conducted. It educated over 500,000 people while Rwf2.2 billion youth and children savings were mobilized. Shared audit services programme ran from 2016 to 2018 to improve annual financial statements in MFIs to lower costs of audit for MFIs. This has developed a broad understanding of external audit, data cleaning and due diligence. The Savings game programme started from 2016 to 2020 as interactive financial literacy training for private households, young adults and small family-run businesses. At least 17 trainers were trained, 10 Savings Game trainings were conducted while 100 microfinance clients and 150 individuals from other organizations benefited from the training. AMIR meeting formats programme started from 2013 to 2020 as a management tool of AMIR to stay in direct communication contact with its members. Tinyuka Wigire Munyarwandakazi is a financial product for women that started in 2016 combining both saving and loan components of financial services. Over 5,000 women have been trained and more than 7,000 new accounts opened. The programme created awareness to over 10,000 women and over Rwf180 million women savings were achieved while more than 2,000 women got bank loans without physical collateral. More than Rwf400 million have been disbursed as financial loans. Dual apprenticeship system programme started from 2015 to 2020. It is 12-month training with 20 per cent in theory and 80 per cent in practical skills application for microfinance apprentices where it has issued 23 highly qualified graduates. Simulations/Micro Business Game started in 2012 to 2020 as a tailor-made training solution for micro-entrepreneurs which teaches management skills. Mystery shopping programme started in 2015 to 2017 to assess and enhance the level of services quality in MFIs. It trained 10 staff from AMIR as mystery shoppers while 415 staff from five MFIs and 12 Musanze SACCOs underwent customer care training. Farmers’ business game programme started in 2018 to 2020 to raise business literacy of small-scale farmers to increase profitability of their farms. Coaching of big MFIs programme started in 2016 to 2020 to develop capacities of staff members.