As nation reconciles with itself, a successful transition helps Rwanda recover from past wounds

Mr. Georges Andriamiseza

Compagnie Générale de Banque
Mr. Georges Andriamiseza
General Manager

Contact details:
Tel: +250-86875 / 82542 / 86881


Cogebanque was created in July 1999, 5 years after the war that left other banks with an average of 49.5% of non-performing loans. That was certainly a competitive advantage. What was your main development strategy when entering the market?

The creation the Cogebanque was initiated by a group of 42 Rwandan investors. Among them, the COGEAR (Compagnie Générale d'Assurance et de Reassurance ) holds 34% and has the largest share. The main advantage was to have a business network through those investors, their suppliers, their clients and second not to be burden with the weight of the past.
The start was hard and it basically took two years for the bank to be really operational and to start making profit. First because the management policy was not efficient and unclear. Secondly there was also a lack of enough finance and trained staff. Now, we are taking up market shares: we are currently at 6 or 7% and hope to be at 10% in 2003.

What is the profile of your portfolio?

We mainly deal with SME in the industry, agriculture, services. We are still very cautious due to the difficult times those sectors have been through but our strategy is to keep on supporting SME as well as importers and exporters.

To enlighten us on the size of your institution, can you give us some figures such as your total deposits for example?

Currently, we have a total amount of deposits of around 12 millions dollars. We have 11 millions in loans without cautions and letters of credit.

In 1998, the National Bank introduced a new banking law and some measures related to banking supervision. How did your shareholders react to those measures that were not taken into account at the time Cogebanque was to be created?

The main problem at the time was the increase of the minimum capital that had to be doubled up to Frw1.5bn. And, considering the negative results of the first two years, our shareholder were extremely reluctant to make more financial effort to comply with the law. Finally, step by step the new management showed that there was potential for growth and the shareholders accepted to inject more capital and comply with the law by July 2001.
Today, I would say that the bank has made a significant leap forward, the management is well structured, we have a clear development strategy, our balance sheet is healthy, our clients trust Cogebanque and I am very optimist as far the future growth of the institution is concerned.
Actually, we are today facing a growth crisis. The bank has been enjoying a 400% growth over the past few months; we are growing too fast and it is important at this stage to find new financial resources to maintain a sustainable growth.
Is this growth mainly related to new management methods or the implementation of new products?

Even if this is in our plans, we have not yet introduced any new product so far. We have mainly focused on improving existing products such as "Banking at Home", using internet services. We have worked on improving the quality the rapidity of our services and a better management of our commissions and interest rates. Since we are a small bank, we can adapt easily to the market and provide the most adequate rates. Our interest rates on loans are currently around 17%.

To maintain a sustainable growth, the Cogebanque is looking for new financial resources. Where would the latter be invested in the first place?

We would invest them in medium and long-term loans. We currently have resources but mainly for short terms loans. Today, we feel we are missing out so many opportunities in the industrial and construction sectors; you know that buildings and houses in Kigali are flourishing and unfortunately we are limited in financing such projects. We are currently in negotiation with the SFI that is interested in becoming a shareholder of the bank. Also, we are in contact the BIO, a Belgium investment fund. I recently met with bankers from Kenya as well as the Deputy Director of the Nairobi stock exchange. They assured us they could find new investors and financial resources for 10 to 15 years.
So, considering the good results achieved over the past year and the good prospects for development, we remain very optimistic for the future of the Cogebanque.

Do you have investment projects related to upgrading your infrastructure?

We are planning to move our head office to the city center during the first quarter of 2003. We are currently financing the construction of the building, which will be used as a business center and Cogebanque will operate on the two first floors. Besides the three agencies we have in Kigali, we plan to open a fourth agency outside Kigali at the end of 2002. And in 2003, we will open a fifth agency to the East of Kigali so that the town becomes well covered.

As a foreign banker, coming from Madagascar, how do you perceive Rwanda as a potential investment destination as compared to the rest of the region?

First, I would stress the fact that there is a lot to do in the tourism sector. I am receiving many proposal for the financing of hotel constructions but we are facing a lack of resources for those projects.
There is definitely a will from the government to boost the economy. We can observe it through the introduction of initiatives related to the liberalization of foreign exchange, the ease of capital, goods and people movements. The government has also made a lot of efforts in supporting all sectors, agriculture, industry, tourism… and the international community acknowledges those initiatives. After all, many things still need to be done. Rwanda cannot rely only on its basic resources such Coffee, tea. Of course, a few laws need to be amended or created but it is on the right track. A lot has been achieved in terms of the strategies implemented to increase transparency, to gather the necessary finances for a sustainable national budget. The new constitution should be implemented in 2003. Definitely, Rwanda is implementing all the necessary measures and tools to develop steadily. The uncertainty remaining the political climate in the great lakes' region. However, with the recent peace treaty, the situation will become stable and favorable for development and economic growth.

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