The Chronicles

Serving Your Right to Know the Truth

Category: Opinions

  • How to be a SMART Rwandan: 2012

    Kezio-Musoke David takes us through a few business resolutions which could make a real change for the better in the New Year. Some could take years and a great deal of coordination to implement while others could be enacted with just the flick of a pen.

    Acquire a smart phone and probably a tablet In 2012 smart phones are definitely going to evolve into pocket-size, convergence centers that enable users take their business content with them.Smart communication, like receiving emails in real time is key to results oriented bosses.

    Tigo Rwanda and MTN Rwanda are selling (among others) three of the world’s most celebrated smartphone brands. They include the BlackBerry, the i-Phone and probably the Samsung Galaxy tabs. Tigo is also selling the i-Pad, while MTN has seriously pushed the Galaxy. Until last year smart gadgets used to be for those who can afford and probably for public servants including cabinet ministers but not anymore. In Rwanda, purchasing of smart gadgets will no longer major on strong brands simply because top-tier manufacturers have now started launching low-cost models. This will ensure that the entire market is catered for in terms of affordability and also in regard to status, age, not forgetting occupation based need..

    Move your business to a digital platform Everyone has a Facebook account, everyone is twitting, even President Paul Kagame is doing so. Brands and businesses are making their presence felt on social networks. As the social media landscape becomes more crowded in 2012, businesses will pick their battles and dig in. What used to be simply Facebook and Twitter is now Google+, LinkedIn and who knows what’s next? The New Year is definitely one for photo and video-based social interaction to grow. Given that the camera on your smartphone is almost as good as your actual camera, the multimedia-driven social networks are here to stay and will be an emerging force for brands in 2012. Brands will embrace real time. And while they move to agile marketing and real-time thinking, gone will be the days when it took six months to develop and launch a campaign or five days to answer a disgruntled customer. Brands will master the art of opportunistic marketing and the art of real-time response.

    Buy BK or Bralirwa shares By Friday last week, BK and BRALIRWA shares closed at Rwf125 and Rwf325 respectively at the Rwanda Stock Exchange. At the end of formal trading hours, there were outstanding offers of 595,200 BK shares while on the BRALIRWA counter; there were offers of 24,400 shares.

    Let’s start with why one should buy shares in these two entities. Last year, BRALIRWA announced volume growth of 26.3 percent driven by strong growth of the Primus and Mützig beer brands and higher soft drink sales. Revenue grew 26.5 percent, driven mainly by higher volumes. By the end of the year, BRALIRWA was already announcing the payment of an interim dividend of Rwf7.3 per share amounting to Rwf3.7 billion to shareholders.

    BK is, without doubt, the biggest and most profitable bank in Rwanda with total financial assets of Rwf197 billion and profits of Rwf6.179 billion. Buying shares in the country’s biggest corporations gives an immediate source of profits. Shares are the quickest and easiest asset one can own without any intricacies. It is also a way of saving money for the future. And what better way to invest in some of the most profitable companies? Probably 2012 is when you might consider buying shares from either or both.

    Register on a mobile money platform After MTN’s Mobile Money, Tigo Rwanda launched Tigo Cash and soon after came two other instant revolutionaries. Bank de Kigali launched ‘Mobiserve’ and thereafter BanquePopularie (BPR) introduced Izi Cash, another way of transferring money in Rwanda in real time. This means mobile money is no longer an exclusive product for telecoms.

    MobiServe and Izi Cash are proudly Rwandan products. One can send money using Izi Cash to a non BPR account holder and they will be able to withdraw transferred amount from BPR ATM machines anywhere in the country without an ATM card. The same goes with BK’s Mobiserve and its amazing! We all know the benefits of mobile money platforms, fast and convenient, but the question is: how much are these benefits worth? For the receiver, there is increasing security, certainty to reduce fraud and charge back risk. For the sender, all payment types are incorporated into a single device. But the main benefit is that with mobile money, one can transfer money seamlessly without expensive wire transfers or cheques. For a frequent banker, the average cost of a wire transfer is Rwf 9000.

    Become your own boss in 2012 Ever wondered how many billionaires we have in Rwanda? Or maybe, who could be the richest person in the country? Whether we have billionaires or not, it’s embarrassing that the few rich in our society are less of entrepreneurs and hardly own any of their own businesses. They are simply employed. Rwanda’s private sector is still nascent and one can only imagine what would happen, if government decided to take a few days of holiday. Simply put, the economy would stumble. 2012 is probably the year when you might want to be an entrepreneur, start your own business and make a difference to Rwanda’s economic future. It’s disturbing to imagine that up to today, most of the chicken sold in supermarkets and consumed in hotels and restaurant is packed and imported from neighbouring countries. Why not set up a poultry farm that processes and packs chicken? Developing an enterprise which is as small as a piggery or poultry farm is not about signing cheques to gain points. It’s about having a holistic approach. And since it takes only hours to register a business with Rwanda Development Board, this could be your year.

    Cut the costs Whether you are running a business or not and you have not given too much thought to what the landscape will look like in 2012, I could save you the time. Let’s start with the global trend. There is the European debt crisis and huge deficit in the US. You might be thinking this has nothing to do with you. Yes, but it’s only the foolish who believe that what is impacting most of the world will not come back to haunt us. It is simply a result of an unavoidable domino effect. With all the knowledge we now have about the global economy, it’s not hard to predict further deterioration in 2012. Therefore, it is better to take action now. Cutting costs can be painful but it reaps immediate results and is under your direct control. An owner or manager needs to eliminate or trim all but the definitively necessary costs during the course of the year.

    Open a US dollar account The trends in the global economy definitely diluted the value of the exchange rate. Those who travel regularly and have business interests in overseas must have felt the pinch. However, if one makes regular transactions in US dollars, you may benefit from a US dollar bank account. You'll also need an account in US dollars if you are paid in the currency.

    The main reason you might want to open a U.S. dollar account is to stockpile the currency while at a favourable exchange rate. While it is a question of whether the dollar will stay at parity, 2012 will certainly be a good time for Rwandans to purchase the greenback, if they intend to use them .The benefits are clear as one can avoid the exchange rates at latter times. With this account in some banks, you can apply for a dollar deferred debit card to withdraw cash or make payments anywhere a VISA sign is displayed worldwide.

    Consider cloud computing If you are a big enterprise or government institution investing in technology or upgrading might be your priority for 2012. Businesses should look to the cloud. Allowing software programmes and databases to be accessed via a remote server, cloud computing does away with the need for cumbersome and expensive computer systems. It can be adopted by government. Rather than every ministry running a separate database, a terminal and an access code could link up tax collectors to the payroll department, saving time and money. In the private sector, a cloud would allow companies to concentrate in-house on what they are good at.

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  • Why Kagame should invite Judge Bruguière

    Why Kagame should invite Judge Bruguière for a thank you cup of café after getting his heroes’ medal from Museveni As a country, we seem to live in very interesting and happier times. And President Paul Kagame must be a very happy and satisfied man these days. These two sentence statements came from an acquaintance. When I asked why, he wondered whether I know the implications of the findings in the Trévidic report and whether I was aware that President Kagame is scheduled to receive a heroes medal from President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda for his contribution to NRM/A’s five year ‘liberation’ war. Upon reflection, my acquaintance has a good point informed by historical facts. A few years ago, Rwanda was at the brink of war with Uganda following the two countries’ armies’ bitterly clashing on three different occasions in DRC’s Kisangani City between August 1999 and 2000. Just less than three years ago, Rwanda and France had severed all diplomatic relations.

    As a follow up to the Kisangani debacle in which the ICG estimates six hundred soldiers and civilians to have perished, each country, as recently as early last year, was accusing the other of supporting each other’s dissidents. Almost all major Rwandan dissidents in recent times, including Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa and Patrick Karegeya were reported by the media to have transited through Uganda with the support of senior officials in that country. Media reports also suggested that the Museveni government believed that Rwanda was financing Dr Kizza Besigye’s campaigns in the 2006 and 2011 elections to defeat their man.

    Now, all of a sudden, Presidents Kagame and Museveni are so much in love that each cannot visit the other’s capital without icing it with lunch, dinner and breakfast at the other’s country home. Last December, President Kagame spent Christmas Holiday at Museveni’s village home at Rwakitura, Western Uganda. In August last year, Museveni was here and spent two days at Kagame’s home at Muhazi. To top this up, media reports now suggest that Kagame has been invited to NRM’s liberation celebrations where he will be awarded a heroes medal on January 26 for his role in the NRM five year war and eventual capture of state power.

    How was it possible for Kagame to turn bitter foes into bosom friends? How did he manage to convince France to talk on equal terms following the humiliation of their ambassador who was given marching orders upon Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière indictment of nine former senior RPA and now RDF officers in 2006? Or how did Museveni and France manage to convince Kagame to talk peace? To understand how Kagame managed to turn foes into friends or vice versa, one needs to comprehend Rwanda’s strategy in its relations with both countries. Evidence suggests that she combined both hard and soft power to win the respect of both countries and their leaders; at least some of the leaders. For starters, Rwanda and Uganda are not really enemies. The peoples of the two countries share long historical, social and economic ties. Also, a lot has been said and written about Uganda’s role in RPA/F’s four year struggle just as the contribution of Rwandese in NRM/A struggle is well known. There is no doubt that Uganda and President Museveni in particular played a critical role in RPF’s victory than any other country or leader. The reason this history is important to recount here is not to reignite sad memories. It’s to ensure we know how we got here; what it took and what it takes or might require in the future remaining a respected people and country. It’s also to show how respected countries are built and sustainable mutual relations between countries forged.

    With France, it is a well know fact within the political and diplomatic circles that Paris, from the day the RPF/A captured state power and defeated its ally, the FAR, it used different tools to undermine it; ranging from attempting diplomatic isolation to undermining the country’s ability to attract aid. It has also been said variously by different leaders in Rwanda that France was using justice to intimidate, and silence Kigali or deflect attention from its role in the 1994. The Bruguière report of 2006 that ended in indicting nine senior RDF officers is largely seen in this light.

    On his part, Kagame refused to be intimidated and called France’s bluff. First, in reaction to the indictment, the French ambassador was expelled and their embassy closed. Secondly, the Mucyo Commission was set up to investigate France’s role in the genocide. This closed with the naming of 33 senior military officials and political leaders, including current foreign minister Alain Juppe. The Mutsinzi Commission was also set up that closed with the finding that the plane that was carrying Habyarimana was brought down by a missile from Kanombe Military barracks then controlled by Habyarimana forces. If France did not reconsider its stand, it is thought her officials would be indicted too.

    Combining diplomatic, political and judicial offensive, and publicising it must have humbled the French establishment or some of it. As a consequence, France, under Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to talk instead of plotting and fighting. With Uganda, it is probable that the gist of the problem was Ugandan officials’ failure to recognise that while some Rwandese were in their army as junior officers, upon return home, they had grown up to become generals and leaders of a sovereign nation that deserved respect. It is widely known that some Ugandan senior military officials such as the late Maj. Gen James Kazini used to refer to Rwandan senior officials as ‘corporal’.

    In this climate of disrespect, something had to be done. Either the RPF/RPA had to accept the inferior position or they had to assert their equality and even superiority. This is partly what was done and achieved in Kisangani. As former US president Woodrow Wilson said many years ago, the best and durable agreement is one between equals. President Kagame will be travelling to Kampala to pick his heroes’ medal from his former mentor, not as an inferior, but an equal; an accomplished and tested general and head of a respected state.

    Likewise, in the years to come, he will sit down with French officials, including Sarkozy, not as an inferior but a leader of a respectable country with interests to pursue and protect. In that sense, Bruguière will go down in history, not as the man who helped France silence Rwanda over its role in the genocide, but as the judge who handed Kagame the weapon to downsize the French ego and assumptions about its superiority and in the process establishing relations based on mutual respect.

    With this outcome, and politics being what it is─with no assured permanent friends or enemies, it would perhaps be worth Kagame inviting Bruguière for a thank you cup of café at Village Urugwiro! And in Uganda, no one will say Kagame has fluked the heroes’ medal, for he is not only among the original 27 members of the NRA war, fighting and rising to become Uganda’s chief of military intelligence, but he reconfirmed his military credentials as an accomplished general in Kisangani.

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  • Despite skepticism, 2012 could be the year for SACCOs

    This is the time of the year when financial institutions, particularly the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank present the country’s growth projections that in most cases depend on economic trends of the previous financial year. To make forecasts, one has to first review the previous year as well. While we wait on the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning MINECOFIN and National Bank of Rwanda to do that and officially present figures of the actual outlook, we can at least be abstract, that by the end of 2011, growth is poised at 8.8 percent.

    We also know from Governor Claver Gatete that the projection for economic growth in 2012, despite depending on the prevailing Euro zone debt crisis, oil prices and a weaker dollar weigh, is 7.6 percent.

    However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) seems to be carrying a little skepticism about the latter. After carrying out Rwanda’s third review of Rwanda’s economic performance, under the Policy Support Instrument (PSI) in December, the body warned that 2012 might not be as rosy as anticipated, unless reforms are stepped up, to boost prospects.

    I find this a little contradictory. However, among the many warnings IMF signaled, there was one about the development of SACCOS that should not go without being deliberated. For the layman, SACCOs are just saving institutions and any discussion about them is pretty boring. SACCOs is basically an abbreviation for ‘Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations’.

    These co-operatives are developed on the basis of this philosophy, “… creating the opportunity for people to take responsibility for their own financial organisation.” Among very many advantages, a democratic process is an integral part of the SACCO and encourages people to take control of their own financial affairs.

    According to that IMF, in Rwanda “… the establishment of a transparent and sustainable institutional structure to supervise SACCOs needs to be fast-tracked. The hiring and training of 60 supervisors was an important first step.Given the speed of rolling out these cooperatives as full-fledged lending institutions, and the risks involved, it is imperative that the necessary institutional structure be put in place without delay.” That is a warning from the IMF.

    Now, who dares disagree with the IMF? Myself, armed with barely a few pointers, on the state of Rwanda’s SACCOs, I will attempt to differ a little positively.

    Last year, Governor Gatete told the quarterly publication, Le Banquier, that NBR expects to have a SACCO in every sector in the whole country and 416 SACCOs in total. Already by September last year, 383 SACCOs had been granted authorization to start granting loans and district Mayors have already shown commitment to this cause.

    The governor said, “Among those operational SACCOs, 17 have fully been licensed and we expect to have all Umurenge SACCOs licensed by the end of this financial year. We have also noted that Umurenge SACCOs deposits significantly increased to reach Rwf14 billion. The loans portfolio is around Rwf2 billion and we recorded an upward trend.”

    Anyone’s worry about SACCOs in Rwanda would probably be management of the growing numbers. Also there could challenges on their working environment and probably the security of the funds. The SACCOs’ staff members could also benefit from training from NBR.

    SACCOs are advantageous in a way that they create the opportunity for people to take responsibility for their own financial organization. Savings are mobilised locally and returned to members in the form of loans.

    The ideal model invests 80 percent of mobilised savings to members in the form of loans. The money stays and works within the members.SACCO interest rates on both savings and loans are generally better than rates given by banks and the reason for this is that SACCOs have very low overheads compared to banks which pay low interest rates on savings but charge higher interest rates to cover their overheads.

    And since they also educate their members on financial matters by teaching prudent handling of money, how to keep track of finances, how to budget and why to keep away from hire purchases and loan sharks, if management of numbers is the biggest worry, may be NBR might consider combining some of them into groups and probably this could bring efficiency.

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