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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Central bank rewarded for promoting financial inclusion

The National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) has been awarded the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) Policy Award for 2014 in recognition of its “innovative and impactful financial inclusion policies”.

John Rwangombwa, the central bank governor tweeted after receiving the award that the accolade was in “recognition of Rwanda’s visionary leadership”, to which he attributed the success of the Umurenge Savings and Credit Cooperatives (Saccos) programme”.

The governor received the award on behalf of the central bank during the 2014 AFI Global Policy Forum in Port of Spain, in the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Umurenge Saccos have been a financial inclusion successstory, which have in just three years attracted over 1.6 million customers.

Saccos and other microfinance institutions in the country currently serve almost the same number of customers as those of commercial banks, according to AFI.

Today, more than 90 per cent of Rwandans live within a five kilometre radius of the nearest Umurenge Sacco.

Commenting on the award, Gilbert Habyarimana, head of Umurenge Saccos at the Rwanda Co-operative Agency, said microfinance institutions serve a segment of the population that had been ignored by commercial banks.

“Microfinance institutions and Saccos have enabled rural people have access to financial services, save and lend to each other. This has led to the creation of jobs in the country as more people venture into different businesses with financing from Saccos,” explained Habyarimana.

The AFI forum, which ended yesterday, was held under the theme, “Global partnerships, national goals, empowering people”.

AFI members had the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experiences, and work together to move the financial inclusion agenda forward, according to Rwangombwa.

The forum was a follow up to the one held in Kigali in July on “Financial inclusion for inclusive growth and sustainable Development international”, which was organised by the central bank in partnership with the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and AFI.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Mozambique Participates in the 4th Economic Global Summit

A delegation from Mozambique participated in the 4th Economic Global Summit held at World Trade Centre in Mumbai, on September 11, 12 and 13. The three member Mozambican delegation comprising - Mr. Claire Mateus Zimba, General Manager of the Institute for Promotion of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises- IPEME, Ms Cecilia Candrinho, Executive Director at the Export Promotion Institute-IPEX both under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Government of Mozambique and, Mr. Oliveira Amimo, Economic Counsellor at the High Commission of the Republic of Mozambique in New Delhi, attended the three days summit organized by the World Trade Center in Mumbai.

The three-day event which included a conference, exhibition, industry visit and networking opportunities witnessed participants from various sectors like manufacturing, SMEs, corporate houses, public sector units, clusters, government organizations, trade promotion organizations, technocrats, educational and research institutions, academics, business service providers, exporters and importers among others.

The Mozambican team found the summit very interesting and helpful for the stage of rapid economic development in which their country is currently undergoing. Mozambique is enjoying very rapid and stable economic development at the 7.6% yearly rate during last two decades. The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises have a major contribution on the countries growth besides the political stability and the preference on investments by Foreign Direct Investment in the country –FDI, India being placed at the 7th position among the foreign investors where countries like U.S., China, UK, South Africa, Italy, and among others are on the list of investors.

At the inauguration of the 4th Global Economic Summit, The Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen. V.K. Singh (Retd) has said that strength of the economy depends on manufacturing and hence the government is taking proactive measures to revive the sector.

Gen. Singh said India offers many opportunities and has potential to emerge as a major manufacturing hub in the world. “Globalisation should not just look at integration of markets but should also look at how natural resource pools can be best utilised”, he observed. The Minister further said, “Technology rests in another part of the world while potential for growth and large markets rest in Asia including India”. The theme of the 4th Global Economic Summit is Ă„sia Powering Global Markets”. The 3-day Summit brings together Asian and global partners to discuss and deliberate on emerging prospects and challenges. Business leaders and policy makers from USA, Canada, Switzerland, Ireland, China, South Korea, Thailand and Iran are among those representing the 35 countries participating in the conference.

South Africa launches support package for troubled power supplier

The South African government announced a wide-ranging support package for troubled state-owned power supplier Eskom, that will see it receive an equity injection and raise additional debt.

Eskom, which supplies 95 percent of South Africa's electricity, has been struggling to meet growing demand, hobbled by years of underinvestment and ageing infrastructure.

"Eskom is facing significant challenges that threaten its sustainability," the finance ministry said in a statement.
"Cabinet approved a package to support a strong and sustainable Eskom to ensure that the energy security of the country is maintained, as well as supporting GDP growth."

The treasury said it would allocate funding to Eskom "to help relieve the impact on electricity consumers, as well as add additional support to Eskom's balance sheet". The size of the equity injection will be made public during budget announcements in October.

The energy supplier will also raise additional debt in the region of 50 billion rand ($4.5 billion, 3.5 billion euros), "over and above its original plan of R200 billion", the statement added.

"While it is difficult to see any alternative for the South African government other than to support Eskom, the latest announcement – although still vague on the amounts involved – may crystallise some of the rating outlook fears for the sovereign," said Razia Khan, an analyst at Standard Chartered Bank.

Eskom is currently building two mega coal power stations in a bid to boost capacity and avoid the type of widespread blackouts the country experienced in 2008.

One of the plants, Medupi, was supposed to have come on stream by the end of last year but is running behind schedule due to labour disputes.

Telecoms urged to support govt’s ICT initiatives

Telecom firms have been urged to scale up online services in government agencies to support efforts aimed at improving service delivery and efficiency.

Solange Mukasonga, the Nyarugenge District mayor, said this while receiving MTN Rwanda chief executive officer Ebenezer Asante at the district headquarters yesterday.

She applauded the firm’s cloud computing package, saying it is handy when backing up important documents like construction permits and sharing them with different government departments.

The telecom is currently conducting a two-month data festival that seeks to enhance Internet penetration across the country, which currently is at 20 per cent.

Mukasonga noted that cloud computing would work well in the education sector, allowing schools to share information faster.

She called on the firm to work with the banks to ease payment of local taxes. “You need to partner with banks and other financial institutions so residents can use the mobile money service to pay taxes instead of having to go to banks,” Mukasonga said.

Norman Munyampundu, the MTN business general manager, said the telecom’s cloud computing services give more value-for-money compared to external computer hard disks, servers or anti-viruses.

Uganda tourism set for maiden appearance at Nigeria’s AKWAABA

“AKWAABA – African Travel Market,” Nigeria’s premier tourism and travel trade show, which this year will take place from October 26-28 in Lagos, will for the first time welcome the Uganda Tourism Board and a number of Ugandan stakeholders. Arguably spurred by the success that neighboring countries had as a result of attending West Africa’s most important tourism fair, Uganda Tourism decided to throw their own hat in the ring and vie for more visitors from Nigeria and beyond.

Being at this tourism trade fair allows to reach a potential of up to 300 million people and with inter-Africa travel on the upswing, supported by airlines like Kenya Airways, RwandAir and Ethiopian all of which fly daily to Lagos, has it become easier to tap into that lucrative market place.

Present again from the Eastern African region will be Rwanda and Kenya which have made waves last year.

Also part of this year’s program is a dedicated “Hospitality Day” on the October 28 at the Eko Hotel & Suites where innovations in the hospitality business will be discussed be eminent speakers, discussants and hopefully many participants. Notably can prices be scooped at the trade fair for best stand and other categories, giving an incentive for a sharp appearance and committed exhibitors personnel if one is to trump the pack and walk away with a trophy.

Certainly good news for Uganda which has always made an impact at tourism trade shows and which many tourism attractions no doubt will appeal to many wannabe visitors who want to come and explore the Pearl of Africa.

Red Cross calls for additional funding to increase its response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa

With cases of the Ebola virus disease continuing to surface at unprecedented speed in West Africa, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is expanding its emergency operations in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to reach millions more people through increased activities. The IFRC has revised its three emergency appeals for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to a total of 30.2 million Swiss francs, an increase of 24 million Swiss francs.

 The aim is to now reach a total of 21.9 million people, more than double the number of beneficiaries originally targeted. “With dozens of new cases emerging daily, this outbreak is showing no signs of slowing down,” said Alasan Senghore, IFRC Director, Africa. 

“Affected communities are relying on us. People are dying. If we are serious about stopping Ebola, we cannot afford to delay ramping up our response. But to do that, we need additional resources, and we cannot do it alone. We must all work together to achieve this ambitious goal.”

“Education is key to halting this outbreak,” said Birte Hald, IFRC regional head of emergency operations based in Guinea.

“These revised emergency appeals will focus on communication, education, awareness raising, and social mobilization. We will expand the area of our operations to include new districts and counties, and ramp up our activities through the training of more volunteers.”

In Sierra Leone, the revised emergency appeal also covers a new 60-bed Ebola treatment centre in Kenema district, one of the worst affected districts. An extraordinary allocation of the IFRC's disaster relief emergency fund (DREF) of one million Swiss francs, also allowed for the deployment of an emergency response unit to Kenema to facilitate the start-up of the treatment centre.

Since the outbreak was first declared in Guinea in March and throughout its spread to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone, thousands of Red Cross volunteers have been trained and deployed to support the response in all three countries. Their roles include body management, contact tracing, psychosocial support, sensitization and surveillance. These activities will be scaled up under the revised emergency appeals, and more than 5,600 volunteers will be trained to ensure larger geographical areas can be reached.

“Communities have an opportunity here to assist in determining their own fate,” added Senghore. “Engaging communities through our trained volunteers will have an immediate and large pay off, as messages of prevention will be shared by community members themselves, the people who have the most interest in ensuring this outbreak is stopped.”

Following an Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, the IFRC has also launched an emergency appeal of 1.6 million Swiss francs to support the Nigerian Red Cross Society in assisting 5 million people over the next nine months. To date, there have been 17 confirmed Ebola cases in Nigeria and 6 confirmed deaths.