The minister for Trade and Industry has commended the Hanga Umurimo programme, saying it has helped reduce unemployment amongst the youth and eradicating poverty within communities.
Francois Kanimba was speaking on Friday as he concluded a two-day tour of Huye and Gisagara districts to assess the progress of the programme and challenges it faced in the two districts.
During his tour, Minister Kanimba met with people who benefited from Hanga Umurimu ever since it was initiated two years ago and those whose projects are pending or still being assessed for funding from different banks.
He also visited some established businesses that benefited from the programme and interacted with owners with the aim of assessing the impact they are having on their communities.
Hanga Umurimo was launched in 2011 to stimulate innovation, empower communities with critical business skills, and identify individuals with entrepreneurial aptitude to generate good and bankable business ideas.
Speaking in Gisagara District, Kanimba said the programme has been instrumental in stimulating new innovative business ideas, which are transforming people’s lives throughout the country.
“Hanga Umurimo is the kind of tool we needed to speed up development,” Kanimba said, noting that it is becoming clear that the programme will play a key role in the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS), an ambitious programme that seeks to turn Rwanda a middle-income economy.
He said the programme is contributing greatly to poverty reduction through creating off-farm jobs.
However, Kanimba noted that the programme is facing many challenges, including the reluctance of some financial institutions to fund projects, particularly new business ideas.
Other challenges include the lack of financial entities in some districts, especially in rural parts of the country.
In Gisagara District, for instance, only Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) operates there.
This has hampered efforts to secure loans for projects, with selected business ideas submitted to banks in the nearby Huye District, according to local officials.
Only 10 out of 44 applicants who had qualified for loans in the district during the second phase of Hanga Umurimo have so far managed to access funds, according to official statistics from the district.
Many of them (30 projects) were funded by local savings and credits cooperatives (Saccos).
Minister Kanimba, though acknowledging the limited capacity of Saccos to give long-term loans, observed that the cooperatives are proving to be reliable sources of funding especially for projects that can cost less than Rwf5 million.
“We are engaging several banks, including the Rwanda Development Bank (BRD), to see how they can offer credit lines to Saccos to fund more projects under this [Hanga Umurimo] programme,” Kanimba said, noting that discussions with BRD are at an advanced stage.
He commended residents who have “shown resilience despite the challenges facing the programme.”
Gisagara mayor Leandre Karekezi said: “Hanga Umurimo is helping to generate new off-farm jobs for our residents who have been struggling to live off agriculture.”
Over 500 jobs have so far been created in the district as a result of several projects that received funding under the Hanga Umurimo programme, official documents indicate.
Through Hanga Umurimo, the government hopes to create 200,000 off-farm jobs annually.