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On the morning of Friday February 17, 2012 pomp and enthusiasm filled the new insurance plaza, nicely decorated in chocolate brown, yellow and black—to reflect the corporate identity of Equity Bank, now the largest bank in East and Central Africa.

It was the official launch of Equity Bank Rwanda. The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Hon John Rwangombwa presided, accompanied by the Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda Ambassador Clever Gatete.
Hope Magazine was on ground and covered the event closely.

At about 10:30am, Dr James Mwanji, the Equity Group CEO and Chairman of the Equity Foundation led a team of top management and some members of the Board and staff to welcome the guest of honor, amidst traditional (Kinyarwanda) welcoming drumming, dances and sings.
Following a short inaugural prayer, the Minister and Governor were ushered in to cut the ribbon and unveil the engraved foundation at the Bank headquarters’ main entrance—in a gesture to officiate operations of Equity Bank in Rwanda. A guided tour around different departments followed, which ended with the signing of visitors’ book.

The Guest of Honor, Hon Rwangombwa wrote, parts:
“….looking forward to a close working relationship to develop our financial sector and country at large. Karibu Sana”
Then the Governor, Amb. Gatete wrote:
“….Congratulations! for putting up first class infrastructure, services and choosing Rwanda for such appreciated investment. We believe Equity Bank presence in Rwanda adds incredible value to achieving a vision of creating Rwanda as a financial hub and to contribute to achieving our national vision 2020”
Next was the Equity Bank Rwanda inaugural press conference.

Dr Mwanji broke the floor with a media briefing about Equity Group and the bank’s perspectives in Rwanda.
Equity Bank is proudly a major regional player; East and Central Africa with its origins rooted in Nairobi Kenya. With its catchy slogan”Your Listening, Caring Partner” , the bank has positioned itself as a champion of socioeconomic prosperity of the people of the region, and Africa in general; by offering inclusive, customer-focused financial services that socially and economically empower its clients and other stakeholders.

With now strong presence in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Southern Sudan, Equity bank has become the engine or catalyst of economic integration. Dr Mwanji said that efforts to elaborate Equity Bank Rwanda business plan, will be strongly supported by the big balance sheet of Equity Bank Kenya.

With a clientele base of 7.5million, and total net worth of US$2.5billion, he confirmed it is now the biggest bank in Africa. In East and central Africa, Equity is the biggest in terms of market capitalization
Equity Bank Rwanda Plan
Equity’s total investment in Rwanda stands at US Dollars 12million, and is eying constructing Equity group offices in Rwanda—to relocate disaster recovery component from Nairobi to Kigali, Rwanda. This will push the bank’s total investment further up in excess of US Dollars 10million.
The growth of Equity Bank Rwanda will determine the capital outlay. And, resources will be generated from within; meaning that total capital accumulation will be dependent on the growth of business.

Dr Mwanji said Equity Bank may consider cross listing on Rwanda Stock Exchange (RSE) to allow EAC citizens own shares in the bank. But, this will heavily be driven by the appetite that Equity sees among Rwandese in investing in Equity bank. Equity bank is the biggest bank in East and Central Africa in terms of market capitalization on the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE).

With seven Equity branches, 3 in Kigali and the four upcountry, Equity has already opened 30, 000 accounts. The bank projects to close 2012 with 12 branches and 200, 000 accounts. This is achievable considering unique business partnerships, relevance the bank’s products, the delivery channels, the mechanisms and the whole catch up of adding dignity to financial services.
The bank projects to break-even within 2 years (in Rwanda). And in 3 years, Equity will surely  be among the top players in the financial sector.

Unique Value Proposition
Drawing lessons from elsewhere where Equity has been operating for years, Rwanda’s banking platform is surely headed for something new, bigger and unique. “we hope our entry will create the competitiveness we have seen in other economies of East Africa where the customers become the beneficiaries from the range of (banking) products and services”, said Dr Mwanji in his own words.

Equity’s competitive edge will be built on human capital—enhancing the skills and competencies of staff to empower them offer quality services, but also complimented with investment in its customers, especially the SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises). Capacity building that is based on financial literacy programs blended with entrepreneurship training. “It is not merely rolling out banking products, but banking supported by a capacity building component”.

This, Minister Rwangombwa calls it a suitable Rwanda’s socioeconomic development of Rwanda: “Equity’s model of doing business fits very well in vision 2020. For instance, the fact that Equity Bank took young Rwandans from across the country and trained them on banking before they even started operations here, signified the seriousness the bank had with investment in Rwanda economy”.
Equity’s approach to rural banking is something the government believes will have a big impact on the population.

Equity comes in at the right opportune moment when the Government is elaborating Umurenge Saccos programme across the country—at sector level, aimed at bringing most Rwandans in the financial net as quickly as possible.
“The fact that Equity is committed to working with Saccos and rural population is an indication that you’ll be a major contributor to rural development”, the minister commended.

Drawing from experience in rural development in Kenya, Government hopes that Equity will be able to replicate it in Rwanda.
On his part, the Governor Amb. Gatete said the reason why central bank is excited about the coming of Equity Bank is because they cater for the corporate, retail and ordinary citizens through their exciting Agent Banking Product.

Dr Mwanji explained that besides the official branches, Equity will appointment of 100 agents across the country—a new type of business banking being introduced, and these will be business establishments like shops where any Rwandan can open account, make withdraws, deposit and also apply for loans. In Kenya over 75,000 transactions are done through such Equity Agents in a day compared to 100, 000 transactions on ATMs.

To the Governor, Equity’s unique model “will contribute to Rwanda becoming a financial hub, because they are reaching everybody”. Rwanda, in her seven year programme aims at achieving financial inclusion of 80% (by 2017.
Socially & Economically Responsible
Equity is combining two things which are very crucial; capacity building of staff, partners and customers. And of course technology; to be able to reach out to a big majority of people, easily. Leveraging on technology and capacity building makes them competitive, not only in the region but also globally.

Equity Bank took young Rwandans from across the country and trained them on banking before the even started operations in Rwanda, something that the Minister observed as: “signifying the seriousness the bank has with investment in Rwanda economy”.

Equity Bank Innovation
Innovation will be a major driver of financial access, inclusion in Rwanda. Equity is combining two things which are very crucial; capacity building of staff, partners and customers. And, technology to be able to reach out to a big majority of people, easily. Leveraging on technology and capacity building makes them competitive, not only in the region but also globally.
In a very short period; only 3months in full operations, Equity has surpassed most of the banks (that have been in existence longer) in establishing modern electronic payment systems.

Before end of this year, Dr Mwanji said Equity will have installed of 13 ATM Machines to support the 10 branches, and 200 POS (Points of Sales) in places like hotels, supermarkets, restaurants etc—to ease cash payment processing and payment in the country. This will be easy to achieve, throughout the country due to fibre optic roll out.
Perfect Investment Climate
The financial sector in Rwanda has recorded significant growth, and is perhaps the most competitive sector. The sector continues to register attract major continental banks. Minister Rwangombwa believes three factors attract investments across all sectors, namely; the long term vision (2020), macroeconomic stability and efficient implementation of government policies and strategies. True, the stability of the economy attracts investors, especially in the financial sector. The stability of an economy is an assurance to investors of the stability their financial assets.

Dr Mwanji attests Rwanda’s investment climate is “very predictable regulations”. “When you apply to invest here, you know exactly which dates you will get the process completed. There are two countries we applied simultaneously, but we got the Rwanda license 8 months before the other.  That pushes the ease of doing business in Rwanda”

He added: “Support from government is pro-investment. For instance, within just a few days in a week we managed to see the President, all the ministers we needed and the Governor of Central Bank. This is incredible and unique to Rwanda”.
Rwanda’s GDP growth rate tops in the region, averaging 8%, which makes businesses to grow at well over 50%. As the region battles to tame inflation which has averaged 20% over the last year, Rwanda maintained hers at single digit; 8.2%.

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