An initiative that seeks to enhance consumer protection and promote responsible financing has been launched in Kigali. The second phase of the Responsible Finance through Local Leadership and Learning programme also seeks to promote financial transparency in the microfinance industry.
It is being implemented by the Association of Microfinance Institutions in Rwanda (AMIR) in partnership with the Small Enterprise Education and Promotion (SEEP) Network, and Mastercard Foundation.
The four-year programme, that runs from this year through 2020, is designed to boost access to financial services and help reduce poverty levels in the country, Eric Rwigamba, the director general for financial sector development at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, said during the launch on Monday.
It is expected to build on, and consolidate achievements of the initial phase of the programme that ran from 2012–2016.
Speaking at the launch, John Peter Rwema, the AMIR executive director, said the $3.9 million programme will help enhance efforts geared at strengthening governance and transparency in the sector. It targets to sensitise over two million microfinance institution customers and other stakeholders about consumer protection principles, he added.
Sharon D’Onofrio, the SEEP Network executive director, called for innovation in the sector, saying it is critical in driving growth of the country’s financial sector.
“It is, therefore, crucial to build the capacity of key stakeholders, as well as expand the financial service network to enhance inclusion,” she said.
She added that more needs to be done to entrench consumer protection ideals, which she said requires concerted efforts of all stakeholders.
More about the programme
The programme seeks to establish an enabling environment by facilitating collaboration among private and public sector stakeholders, as well as to expand AMIR’s role in the provision of critical support functions in consumer protection. The programme activities will include raising awareness among stakeholders and the public, capacity building, implementation and monitoring of the industry codes of conduct, and promotion of mechanisms to handle customer grievances.
It will also seek to impact other geographical markets through a strong learning component that will include facilitated knowledge exchange among organisations in Rwanda, and sub-Saharan African region, and through documentation and dissemination of lessons learned, according to Bintou Ka Niang, the SEEP Network director for association development.
Niang said the overriding objective is to encourage fair and transparent practices, reduce sector risks and strengthen its performance. SEEP and the MasterCard Foundation have worked with seven microfinance associations in sub-Saharan Africa to promote standards for responsible market conduct.
SEEP Network is a global learning network supporting strategies that create new and better opportunities for vulnerable populations, especially women and the rural poor, to participate in markets and improve the quality of their life.