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

Mrs. Spéciose Ayinkamiye
Interview with Mrs. Spéciose Ayinkamiye


Union des Banques Populaires du Rwanda
Mrs. Spéciose Ayinkamiye
General Manager

Contact details
P.O. Box 1348 KIGALI:
Tel: +250-573563
Fax: +250-573579

The 'Banques Populaires' of Rwanda which can be considered as savings and loans' cooperatives started carrying out activities promoting savings and loans in 1975. The activities started as a government project with the financial and technical support of the Swiss Federal Government, a project that enjoyed Government exoneration from duties and taxes. From the time they were created, the Banque Nationale du Rwanda (Central Bank) authorised these savings and loans cooperatives to bear the name "Bank". This project that was entitled 'Bureau d'Orientation des Banques Populaires du Rwanda acted as a coordination centre for the creation of 'Banques Populaires' in various parts of the country. It later provided monitoring and support for the 'Banques Populaires'.

Headquarters in Kigali

The desired objective is to develop mass savings and loans, to promote the economic and social well being of shareholders, their families and the community at large through mutual aid and solidarity. These banks seek to attain this objective in the following ways:

· By giving members the opportunity to invest their savings with interest;
· By granting loans to members so as to enable them to fulfil their economic requirements; the loans being reimbursable according to pre-determined terms that can be adapted to each different case;
· By enabling people who lack financial means but are nevertheless honest and hardworking to have access to small loans with which to fund small income generating projects;
· By encouraging the spirit of local initiative as well as agricultural and non-agricultural activities, through careful utilisation of the savings generated, within the mandate of the 'Banque Populaire';
· By teaching people to respect commitments, the practice of saving, and foresight;
· By discouraging usurious rates of interest, and speculation;
· By creating mutual confidence among members;
· By building up an indivisible and inalienable cooperative fortune.

In 1986, the 80 'Banques Populaires' already created grouped themselves into a national federation known as the Union of 'Banques Populaires' of Rwanda (UBPR) that took over the role and functions of the Bureau d'Orientation des Banques Populaires du Rwanda. However, two aspects remained the same: Firstly, the Swiss continued to fund the activities of the UBPR in the same manner in which they had funded those of the 'Bureau d'Orientation'. Secondly, expatriates managed the UBPR until 1992 as was the case for the 'Bureau d'Orientation'.

The number of 'Banques Populaires' increased so steadily that by the time of the War and Genocide of 1994, there were 131 'Banques Populaires' located throughout the country, comprising 380,000 members.

After the end of the 1994 War, the Rwandan-Swiss Accords by virtue of which the Swiss provided grants to the 'Banques Populaires' and through which the Rwandan Government exonerated the 'Banques Populaires' from paying duties and taxes were not renewed.

Some statistics of the 'Banques Populaires' as at 31st December 2001 and as at 30th June 2002


The 'Banques Populaires' are savings and loans cooperatives. They carry out their activities in keeping with universal cooperative principles, and are subject to the Cooperative Law of Rwanda of 1988. In their capacity as financial institutions, the 'Banques Populaires' are also subject to the law of 1999 governing the regulation of banks and other financial establishments.

Each 'Banque Populaire' is an autonomous cooperative governed by a Board of Directors and controlled by a Monitoring Council elected by and from among members of the Bank, who are themselves the sole owners. The Board of Directors recruits a Manager who oversees the daily operations of the Bank, in particular the reception of deposits, as well as withdrawals. However, the Board of Directors retains the important responsibility of authorising expenditure and approving loans.

All the 'Banques Populaires' are members of a Union which is also a cooperative whose members are the 'Banques Populaires'.

The Union is managed by a Board of Directors and controlled by a Monitoring Council elected by, and from within the General Assembly of Delegates from the 'Banques Populaires', in which each bank is represented by one member. The Union has the task of ensuring the proper functioning of 'Banques Populaires' and plays three major roles: the management of liquid assets, technical support and the monitoring'of 'Banques Populaires'. In keeping with the statutes of the Union and those of the 'Banque Populaires', the latter receive instructions from the Union. The Union's Board of Directors appoints a Managing Director who is henceforth responsible for the daily management of the Union.

The 1994 War and Genocide resulted in the theft of liquid assets of the 'Banque Populaires' amounting to 700 million Rwandan Francs, and also resulted in irrecoverable loans amounting to 1.5 billion Rwandan Francs, either because the debtors have since died or because they no longer have the means to repay their debts and the guaranties have since been destroyed.


a) External auditing

In mid-2000, the Central Bank sent two auditing companies to the UBPR. One was to carry out the financial auditing and the other was to perform the strategic and organisational auditing. The final reports played a large role in the elaboration of the 2001 - 2004 action plan that the UBPR drew up under the supervision of the Central Bank.

b) The technical assistance program of the World Council of Credit Unions, WOCCU (Conseil Mondial des Coopératives d'Epargne et de Crédit)

With the financial assistance of USAID, the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is implementing a program to render technical assistance to the 'Banques Populaires' for a period of four years. This program started in October 2000. It aims at improving financial operations within the 'Banques Populaires', as well as spreading the banks' activities so that the greater majority of the Rwandan population may have access to them.

c) Financial assistance from the World Bank

The 'Banques Populaires' benefited from a recapitalisation grant from the Rwandan Government amounting to US$ 5,000,000. These funds are included among funds granted by the World Bank to the Rwandan Government in order to help the 'Banque Populaires' to reconstitute its capital. This capital was lost during the theft of liquid assets from the 'Banques Populaires' during the 1994 War and Genocide, amounting to Frw 700,000,000 as well as irrecoverable loans amounting to Frw 1.5 billion before the 1994 War and Genocide caused by the death of debtors, or inability of debtors to pay and destroying of guarantees.


· Management of sight deposits and short-term investments by members using special account/savings books;
· Management of current accounts;
· Management of home-loan accounts, loans for solar energy equipment, retirement-fund and other accounts;
· The granting of various types of loans: housing loans, working advances to senior staff, loans for agricultural, crafts, livestock rearing and commercial activities, etc.;
· Management of external credit lines granted by the World Bank, the African Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and other international Donors to facilitate the granting of small loans in the framework of poverty alleviation programs;
· Payment of salaries to civil servants and employees of private companies in return for a special fee;
· The awarding of pensions as well as social security payments from the Caisse Social du Rwanda (Social Security Fund) in return for payment of a fee;
· Countrywide money transfers on behalf of public and private companies in return for payment of a transfer fee;
· Other banking activities.


The 'Banques Populaires' of Rwanda received funding from USAID to carry out computerisation of the Union and the 20 largest 'Banques Populaires'. This was in answer to the malfunctioning of the integrated banking software GLOBUS which had been installed in 1993.

The Union of 'Banques Populaires' received permission from VISA INTERNATIONAL to issue credit cards in the near future in collaboration with other commercial banks in Rwanda through the Société Interbancaire de Monétique et de Télé (interbank society for electronic money funds), in which the UBPR is a shareholder.

The 'Banques Populaires' of Rwanda are interested in furthering their collaboration with WESTERN UNION. The former have a large network based on an ever-increasing membership and a soaring rate of deposits, which makes the 'Banques Populaires' the only financial institution that is capable of serving a wide majority of the Rwandan population. Attached to this document is a list of the 'Banques Populaires', the number of members, the amount of deposits, loans granted and location of loans throughout the country, and telephone contacts of those who have already received loans (as at 30th June 2002). For those banks that do not have telephones, the Union of 'Banques Populaires' has in each province of the country a Regional Accountant equipped with a telephone and fax for receiving information, as well as a Regional Delegate who circulates using a motor-cycle in order to distribute postal orders to the 'Banques Populaires' and any other information sent by the Union. In addition, the UBPR has a collaboration contract with the National Post Office to utilise the EMS speedpost. The National Post Office has just established a postal service at each 'Banque Populaire'.


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