It is a criticism often made and a criticism often justified. It is as simple as this: Rwanda’s banks have not responded to the country’s velocity of development. Rwanda is a country entangled in numerous regional and multilateral relationships. It is a country where investment is bubbling and where its future lies directly to its east with an imminent confederation with four other states.
Yet every bank in Rwanda operates only in Rwanda. While larger international corporations such as Hong Kong Singapore Banking Corporates – HSBC, Citibank, or the UK’s Barclays, have yet to penetrate the country’s borders, its own banks, including Bank of Kigali, BCR and Bancor have equally refused to build the bridge from its own end. Why wait for stronger competitors to come into your space when you can grow by going into theirs?
And if bank expansion—and thus expansion of their customer’s financial horizons—is not in the plans, banks in Rwanda should be doing their absolute most to connect their clients to the markets of the still-outside world.
We want internationally-accepted credit cards.
Some banks are starting to come around. Bancor offers international visa cards on request, and other banks have been initiating their own programmes, but the reality on the ground today is one where those physically in Rwanda are effectively cut off from other markets. We are a landlocked island.
We can only wonder what outside investors think when they come and tour the beautiful physical awesomeness of the country and are met later with disappointment over the logistical lack of the country.
Everyday many planes fly into the country, carrying travellers from all corners of the globe. With them they bring the iconography of the rest of the world, gadgets and equipment readily available everywhere but here. Are we to assume that Rwandans, when they look and see these others and the electronic offspring they carry in their pockets, do not want these things of their own? Who doesn’t want a nice new digital camera, or one of Apple’s signature iPod MP3 players?
Yet by making these things inaccessible even to wealthy Rwandans because they don’t have the means to, for instance, purchase things online using credit cards, Rwanda’s leading financial institutions are saying yes, for some reasons Rwandans are different.