The Rwanda Association of Pensioners (ARR) intends to promote the welfare of pensioners through the establishment of a Savings and Credit Cooperative (Sacco) for pensioners.
The cooperative started this year by pensioners in Nyarugenge District in partnership with ARR seeks to expand its operations countrywide.
“The project will help pensioners lead decent lives because they can save money, and get credit at low interest rates to start up income-generating projects,” Modest Munyuzangabo, the association’s president and legal representative told The New Times.
The cooperative so far has about 100 members. For one to become a member, they are required to pay Rwf30,000. Munyuzangabo called upon the government and other stakeholders to support the cooperative.
“For the cooperative to formally operate under the National Bank of Rwanda’s accreditation, it needs at least Rwf30 million social capital,” he said.
The cooperative aims at addressing the plight of pensioners.
Recent research carried out by Solidarité Mondiale, a Belgium based non-governmental organisation, indicates that getting a balanced diet for most pensioners was a major problem yet elderly people are prone to ailments and need special care and good diet to remain healthy.
The research recommended that a pensioner who gets Rwf5,600 monthly benefits in social security should have their benefits increased to at least Rwf26,000.
“The money some pensioners are earning is so little it cannot enable them to get the basic necessities of life,” Munyuzangabo noted.
He, however, said they are optimistic about the likely increase of pension benefits as the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) recently contracted a UK government firm–Government Actuarial Department– that specialises in insurance and pension matters to align pension benefits with the cost of living.
The RSSB Chief Executive Officer, Dr Daniel Ufitikirezi, said concerned institutions will meet before the end of the year and consider the recommendations of a study on the state of pension scheme in Rwanda to decide whether to increase pension or not.
Pensioners say they need funding to fully engage in development projects such as modern agriculture and food processing.
In regards to generating income to supplement their pension benefits, five pensioners who used to work at the Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (IRST), set up a factory in Mukura Sector, Huye District, known as Aroma Plant which processes lemon grass, locally known as Cyayicyayi, to avail the community with flour for tea.
They, however, said their efforts are being undermined by lack of enough funds.
Jean Marara, 72, the auditor and economist of the plant said: “We are using all our income to pay off the loan. We are now stranded.”
The pensioners secured a Rwf5 million loan from Bank of Kigali (BK) which they added to Rwf3 million they had contributed to set up the factory two years ago.
The plant envisages to process aroma for seasoning food such as meat.
Francine Tumushime, Director General for Community Development and Social Welfare at the Ministry of Local Government (Minaloc), said there was no specific policy intended to cater for pensioners.
He, however, noted that policies change depending on available circumstances.
“The government is committed to supporting all Rwandans through Girinka, the Vision Umurenge, and other programmes. Policies are dynamic and change from time to time. However, they cannot change overnight,” she said.
She challenged Rwandans to not only adopt normal contributions for social security, but also embrace additional insurance and savings culture in order to prepare adequately for the legendary rainy day.