Over 200,000 savings accounts have been opened by primary school pupils across the country, a landmark hailed as ‘an incredible step into a bright future’ by banking experts.
The 210,337 savings accounts, worth Rwf61.9m, were opened by the young savers in the past three years. This is the outcome of the financial literacy initiative that urges school-going children to save early, which was launched in 2010 by the Association of Microfinance Institutions in Rwanda (AMIR) and the Savings Banks Foundation for International Co-operation (SBFIC) as part of the Financial Education Project.
Operating across 30 sectors, the project convinced students to open savings accounts and linked them to 35 micro-finance institutions.
“Through these young people, we foresee a bright future of micro-finance sector, with educated and responsible clients,” said Claudien Nsengimana, the manager of COOPEC Inkunga, a micro-finance institution in Karongi District.
Ferdinand Feldgen, the deputy managing director of SBFIC, was satisfied with the financial literacy initiatives and pledged more support from his institution towards creating a generation accustomed to financial literacy in Rwanda.
He was echoed by Peter Rwema, the director of research and development at AMIR, who believes that savings at early age will break down the high cost of financial ignorance among Rwandans, which he said has hindered the growth of micro-finance institutions in Rwanda.
“A child who saves early will always save in his adult age. This is the discipline that we emphasise. We are also eager to uphold these initiatives of financial education as it taps into its mission of energising the micro-finance sector in Rwanda,” Rwema said.
“Saving is not for the rich only. Everyone can save as long as you are focused. I save because I want to have financial independence at school, and during my holidays, I can start a business,” Sarah Tuyisenge, a primary five student at Rubagabaga Primary School in Karangazi, Nyagatare District, said.
Information from AMIR indicates that some of the students who graduated from primary began using their savings, especially by starting up small joint businesses.
Rwanda’s overall National Saving Strategy under the Ministry of Finance seeks to mainly alleviate poverty and meet the country’s Vision 2020 that targets an annual growth rate of 8 per cent over the next 12 years.
Findings by the FinScope Rwanda 2012 survey indicate that 23 per cent Rwandans are served by commercial banks, 33 per cent by non-bank formal institutions and 58 per cent use informal financial mechanisms.