BY THOMAS KAGERA
From the low-cost Batsinda dwelling units; to the high-end elevated estate with tiered teak seating of the Vision City that is dotted with entertainment centers and parklands that grace Gaculiro landscape; to the pension administration that guarantees every Rwandan retires with dignity; to the almost ubiquitous medical insurance in the country that allows universal access to medical services; to mega-investments that are sunk across different sectors in the country that provide jobs and taxes, the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) is an epitome of liberating a people from poverty, misery, joblessness and implementing a coherent system of social protection programmes.
Well-designed social security policies in Rwanda have contributed to better livelihoods, providing protection, engendering confidence and commitment at work, spurring community and economic growth in the process.
At low income levels there are substantial market imperfections that prevent people from dealing adequately with risks, and this determines the type of activities they undertake and the efficiency of their investment. But it would also seem unjustifiable not to take into account the restrictions that the level of income imposes on the ability of government to offer social security across groups. As income increases, it is easier for governments to tax and transfer resources to help the less fortunate deal with the results of economic uncertainty.
In Rwanda, the RSSB administers social security through medical insurance, pension administration and occupational risks and health insurance. The Board also offers social security through affordable housing. “There are several benefits offered under the different units ranging from old age, invalidity, survivorship, work injuries and work related diseases and health insurance,” says Erick Nkuranga, Branch Manager, RSSB Karongi district.
RSSB offers social security to different beneficiaries depending on the nature of scheme-as mandatory insurance (those compulsorily subjected to Rwandan social security protection as salaried workers regardless of their nationalities and active political representatives), voluntary insurance (where people are not subjected to social security by the law but opt to join the scheme as an individual. In this case, one applies to the scheme and after becoming a member he/she is required to contribute 6% of the salary that he or she has fixed), and the pension scheme branch which aims at helping workers who become old and incapable of working for a salary or become invalid and incapable of living by working and helping the survivors of the deceased worker.
The Social Security benefits offered by the pension scheme are divided into two categories as those given to the insured person himself and those given to the eligible survivors of the pensioner. However, enrolling for pension benefits is compulsory for all the salaried workers regardless of nationality, and active political representatives. This goes with contribution rates of 3% paid by the employer and 3% by the employee.
“It is common for individuals to enroll as voluntary members after applying to join the scheme and paying the required contribution rate of 6% of salary,” Nkuranga explains. He adds that for an individual to be accepted to join this voluntary membership, he or she has to be less than 45 years of age. The salary acknowledged under voluntary insurance must be at least the minimum monthly salary, subject to a ceiling of 104,000 RWF
Types of pension benefits include; Old Age pension (Retirement), the anticipated pension (Early Retirement), Invalidity pension, Survivors’ pension, Survivors’ lump-sum benefits and Old age lump-sum benefits.
Mukabazatoha Gorretti , 69, a retired teacher says she has reaped from RSSB services from the time she accessed her pension. “I loved teaching as a profession and I was doing pretty well as a teacher until finally I felt my aging could no longer cope with the classroom stress,” she says.
Today Gorretti receives retirement benefits of Rfw 21,000 which she says been of much help. "The unique thing about RSSB, you can start collecting your pension once you hit 55-60 years of age," she says. At this age one is able to use the pension and do some small investments.
Gorretti is able to acquire small loans. “With such money, I added on my pension and started a bar and restaurant in Kibuye town where I earn a net profit of Rfw40,000 every week. I live with four grand children whom I ably support. I am proud to say that a bulk of our living expenses come from my pension plus the profits I make from the restaurant,” she says.
Gorretti’s story is a reflection of many other pensioners’ tales that have accessed their pension money and so enjoying retirement with dignity.
From the 1st July, 2015 the management of the Medical Insurance Scheme, Community- Based Health Insurance (CBHI) was moved from the Ministry of Health to Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB). The move was aimed at improving the fund’s financial accountability and ensure quality health care for subscribers.
Universal access to medical insurance and consumption of medical services has increased in the recent past with the advent of Mutuelle de santé. This is a system in which citizens pay insurance fees to secure timely treatment in case of illness. It is meant to enable all Rwandans, even the poorest, access health services. In order to improve management of the scheme, this service was moved to Rwanda Social Security Board, effective July 1st 2015. By the end of 2015, subscription stood at 63%. Thus, there is need for renewed effort in order for the service to meet the expectations of beneficiaries.
RSSB has carried out a number of mobilizations to enable subscribers fully appreciate the service and are benefiting from easy access to health services in the whole country; in 368 health posts, 502 health centers, 42 district hospitals and 5 referral hospitals.
Besides, subscription has been eased where members can pay through SACCOs and banks and soon mobile money transfer and e-payment will be introduced. In case a member is not satisfied with a service, they call a toll-free number 4044.
Real estate and social housing
Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB), the main supplier of housing in the formal market, has accentuated investments in real estate and property development that spans across and benefiting high-end and middle income tenants and is in the process of introducing social housing that is bound to benefit low income earners.
RSSB efforts are in tandem with meeting EDPRS II housing targets where affordable housing development to support urbanization, expected to reach 35% by 2020, is a high-level priority.
Social Housing in equation
Social housing has therefore been launched in Batsinda where construction of 520 units has started.
Social housing units are let out at low rents on a secure basis to the low income earners or affordable for them to buy. Rwanda is faced with the challenge of expensive building materials, most of which are imported, having a direct bearing on the cost of housing units.
“The government and agencies like RSSB are encouraging the use of local materials to a greater extent, limit importation and lower the costs of completed houses. It’s also important to enhance local capacities of local producers and satisfy the local demand,” advises Eric Gasana the RSSB Director of Investments adding that the Board’s commitment towards delivering affordable quality houses is unwavering. Several technologies are being considered to provide cost effective, but efficient modular solutions, which can be replicated at other sites in order to solve the problem of low cost housing in Rwanda.
In Gahanga, Kicukiro district, RSSB is working with local government to acquire 100ha of land where 300 housing units will be built, subject to more houses since there is ample space for expansion.
In Nyarugenge district, 100ha of land have been secured where 3000 units have been planned, pending implementation. Expropriation process is however underway.
Housing for middle-income bracket
RSSB has embarked on the Kinyinya Housing Project in Gasabo district where an estate is being established for middle income population with a total of 3700 dwelling units on 130 ha.
The project is being implemented under a public private partnership. The RSSB Director of Investment, Eric Gasana, says much of the prior paperwork for partnership in equity and detailed terms of reference have been completed.
The sizes will vary from 4, 3 and 2 bedroom units set out in four storey apartments’ building blocks. This layout will maximize the available 100 hectares marked out for development of the estate, resulting in a housing density of approximately 60 units per hectare.
Kinyinya will have commercial, entertainment, recreational and public transport amenities for use by its residents. It will be built in three phases of over 7-8 years. The units will cater mostly for middle income buyers. The total expected cost of phase 1 of Kinyinya is $ 57 million financed through equity.
A Real Estate Investment Trust is in preparation, with the shareholders being Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD), Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB), City of Kigali (CoK), Private national and international investors. One PPP is currently operating under a MOU for the development of the Batsinda II. It is in detailed design stage.
RSSB is financing the implementation of Batsinda II and has issued 2 more tenders for affordable housing development, to work with Horizon Group works on establishing a production unit of prefabricated concrete building elements. Other investments in the local production of affordable construction materials are being made, and shall further be encouraged.
Beyond Low Cost Housing
It’s not only in Batsinda that RSSB has directed efforts for providing affordable housing to Rwandans. Other housing programs, that include high-end commercial and residential houses, have, too, been given a good amount of consideration.
RSSB is one of the major investment institutions in the real estate sector in Rwanda today, having been in the trade since 2002—from the Gaculiro estate, the Kagugu and Batsinda. Several commercial plazas around the country have been built while the planned Gaculiro Vision City which is under development, seated on 157 ha of land, with 4500 units, attracting an investment of about $400m will also be a big plus to meeting the housing needs of Kigali.
Geographically RSSB investments cover the whole country, in almost all the districts in especially real estate sector .
RSSB is looking forward to putting contributors’ interests at the forefront when it comes to pricing the houses; have invested in real estate in the last twenty years in a number of projects including; Estate Umucyo: 122 units, 2020 Vision Estate: 300 units, 7 pension plazas in Districts and Grand Pension plaza in the city not forgetting 50 Kacyiru Executive Apartments, Kacyiru Estates and on-going Vision City construction at Kagugu.
The Kagugu Housing Project has 121 units that have been completed with plans underway to build 168 units of 2-bedroomed apartments within the same locality.