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Africa

Financial Inclusion Up Close in Rwanda

Douglas Randall's picture

You don’t have to spend very long in Rwanda before you start to be impressed by the financial inclusion landscape in this country – not only by the progress made over the past several years, but by the scale of ambition for the rest of this decade and beyond.

The government has set a target of 90 percent financial inclusion by 2020 and the evidence of progress toward this goal is everywhere: Advertisements for mobile-money products are painted and plastered onto almost every available surface and, if you know what to look for, it doesn’t take long to spot an Umurenge Savings and Credit Cooperative (Umurenge SACCO) – Rwanda’s signature financial inclusion initiative.

Six years ago, the 2008 FinScope survey found that that 47 percent of Rwandan adults used some type of financial product or service, but just 21 percent were participating in the formal financial sector, which was at the time made up mostly of banks but which also included a handful of microfinance institutions and SACCOs.

Largely in response to these figures – and in particular to the large urban/rural divide illustrated by the data – and the government set out to establish a SACCO in each of the country’s 416 umurenges, or sectors. The Umurenge SACCO was born.

Oh no--not another apps challenge!

Maja Andjelkovic's picture


Wanted: Mobile apps for African agriculture (Credit: infoDev)

Today, there are close to 900 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa. Sixty-five percent of the continent’s labor force works in agriculture or related sectors and it accounts for 32% of the gross domestic product. Mobile innovations are already improving efficiencies in the agricultural value chain; research shows that grain traders with mobile application usage experienced income growth of 29% and banana farmers in Uganda saw their revenues go up with 36%.

The mAgri Challenge, a business competition, has been designed to identify and support entrepreneurs developing mobile apps for agriculture in Africa.  If you have worked with mobile tech entrepreneurs in Africa over the last few years, you might be thinking: “Not another mobile apps challenge!”  This ‘competition fatigue’ is not completely unwarranted.  Too many quick competitions for mobile apps, which at first seemed cool and generated lots of attention, have left in their wake a pool of mobile entrepreneurs confused about the next steps they can take to grow their business.

You need to be outrageously aspirational when you take on a growth pole


Growth poles can help create jobs for Africa's one billion citizens (Credit: World Bank)

We were asked the other day by our senior management to be outrageously aspirational when we engage with growth poles.  I have been reflecting on what this means for our work on this topic in Africa, especially in light of the findings of the Africa Competitiveness Report.  I think we need to be aspirational in three broad directions: (i) developing the capacity to get things done in Africa, (ii) ensuring all stakeholders benefit from growth, and (iii) mobilizing as much capital as we can, whether it be private, philanthropic or public.