Umurenge Savings and Credit Cooperatives still lag behind in the use of information and communication technology (ICT), which is partly responsible for rampant mismanagement and poor service delivery, Trade and Industry minister François Kanimba has said.
The trend, the minister added, would only be averted when ICT use is adopted.
Speaking to journalists, last week, Kanimba said while plans to have cooperative banks to help centralise operations of SACCOs are underway, this would not be possible if nothing is done to enhance ICT among cooperatives.
Plans to group all the country’s 416 Umurenge Saccos under one bank would improve services offered by the grassroots savings and credit unions.
Clients would be able to access financial services from any Sacco agency in the country, work more with other banks, expand the financial power of the cooperatives, and ensure safer management of the funds under Saccos.
It was slated to start before this year ends but the minister said the process was delayed due activities to design the bank’s model of operation and how ICT would be used, maintaining that the cooperative bank would not be functional without the use of ICT.
Cooperatives, especially the sector-based ones known as Umurenge SACCO, have been experiencing a surge in theft and mismanagement, which officials attribute to lack of ICT facilities.
“Studies on how to use ICT in SACCOs have been completed. SACCOs are very important and that is why we embarked on boosting ICT in all SACCOs as we know that they are crucial in national development,” Minister Kanimba said.
He said once the credit and savings cooperatives adopt use of ICT, it would minimise mismanagement and laxity in service delivery while ensuring interbank interconnectivity to ease money transaction and payments among clients.
“We want to help the cooperatives adopt modern ways to improve their working system by strengthening technologies to help them in proper management and other services delivered, we also want to ease transactions so that clients can access their accounts whenever they are and work closely with other banks,” the minister said.
How far to start ICT
The Trade and Industry ministry is working in collaboration with the National Cooperatives Confederation of Rwanda (NCCR), according to Kanimba, and they have engaged a technology company to explore ways of making financial services more efficient.
Gilbert Habyarimana, the cooperatives inspection division manager at NCCR, said they had hired the company that would help in setting up ICT in SACCOS and what was needed was to start training of trainers on how ICT will be used.
“We are in trial phase with a target of having 16 SACCOs using ICT by September and more than 70 SACCOs by February next year. The plan is to have all of them using ICT by June next year,” he said.
The company, FinTech, deals in financial technologies to make financial services more efficient through ICT across the globe.
There are more than 416 registered SACCOs and other cooperative banks in the country and officials say all cooperatives will have access to ICT in the three year project that is being implemented by the confederation.