"I have been waiting here for over forty minutes," a client lamented as I joined the queue to withdraw money from my account in Rwanda Commercial Bank (BCR).
He urgently needed that money to save life, but he could not access it in time. The banking hall was packed to capacity.
His mother was admitted at King Faisal Hospital, after she was diagnosed—malaria++.
Worse still he did not have an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card. He applied for one, but he has never been given.
The hustle and bustle in banking halls in the country may soon end. Francois Kanimba, governor of the National Nank of Rwanda (BNR) said to ensure steady and timely supply of ATM cards, government plans to start making them in Rwanda. How soon? It is only Kanimba who knows.
The move comes at a time Simtel, contracted by National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) to provide automated teller machines (ATM) and cards has failed to sustain the growing demand.
The firm used to source the ATMs from South Africa, but it takes months before acquisition.
"I applied for the ATM card in November last year but my bank has not yet given it to me," says Allan Karemera.
Denis Manzi, from Kabeza is even reluctant to apply for one saying that the ATMs machines are not evenly distributed which could even increase the costs.
He is right, if one stays in Kabuga and wanted to withdraw money using the ATM card, it would require him to drive back to Kigali City to get the service.
To him it’s better to carry a cheque book as per now. In other countries ATMs are found everywhere, usually outside banks, at airports, grocery and shopping malls.
BCR, the second largest commercial bank in the country after Banque de Kigali has ATM services in Kigali only. Two are at the head office and the other one at Novetel in Kacyiru.
BCR plans to increase ATMs to at least twenty, by the end of this year.
David Kuwana, the BCR managing director squarely blames Simitel for the slow distribution of cards.
He says though they have been trying to give support to Simitel to increase supply of ATM cards, the company is not delivering the cards in time. In May 2006, there were about 12,000 card users making Frw260 million in transactions. By March last year, card users had doubled, transacting Frw536 million. Financial experts say this is still a small number compared to people who qualify to have the cards.
Roger Munyampenda, the chief executive officer Simitel declined to comment saying he is on leave.
Banks wish they are given permission to print the cards. "We have the capacity to print the cards. The money to import the machines and install them at all strategic places and branches but Central Bank, our supervisor cannot allow us," Hannington Namara BCR marketing manager said.
Will microfinance institutions adopt ATMs?
Microfinance institution with the largest number of depositors are not about to adapt to this technology.
Celestine Kayitare, postmaster general, Rwanda Post Office—an institution that acts as micro credit to a certain extent says they have left ATM services to commercial banks.
How ATMs work
After inserting the ATM card in the machine, it will ask for your PIN (personal identification number); once your PIN has been confirmed, you will need to select a transaction (usually deposit, withdrawal, or account balance inquiry), and the type of account you would like to access (checking, savings, or money market).
You are then asked to confirm the transaction. You get a receipt and your cash, if you make a withdrawal. If it’s a deposit, you will need to put the money in an envelope, and place it in the deposit slot.
You are then issued a receipt. Finally, you will be asked if you would like to make another transaction. When you are done, don’t forget to take your card! The machine will "beep" to remind you.
Since demand for banking services is on a high increase, there is need for banks to adjust their services in relation to customer demands.