Lending to farmers helped Microfinance institutions triple annual profits from Rwf2.4 billion to Rwf7.3 billion

By The Inspirer

Consolidated profits for microfinance institutions increased from Rwf2.4 billion in 2017 to Rwf7.3 billion last year, according to central bank statistics in its Monetary policy and Financial Stability Statement issued in February 2019.

Microfinance lending, the same statistics reveal, increased from Rwf138.3 billion to Rwf164 billion in the same period.

Farmers have increased their ability to pay back the money that they borrow [thanks to improving farm productivity], boosting the financial position of microfinance institutions, as reported The New Times.

With commercial banks shying away from financing the agriculture sector because they consider it to be highly risky, The New Times reported, MFIs remain the biggest lenders to farmers—especially smallholder farmers.

Microfinance institutions largely serve rural Rwandans, who account for more than 70 per cent of the country’s workforce that is engaged in agriculture. This means that the performance of agriculture has a significant bearing on the financial performance of the microfinance sector.

This is reflected in the significant drop of Nonperforming Loans (NPLs)—loans in default or close to being in default — reported by Microfinance Institutions (MFIs).

According to central bank data, in 2016, NPLs in microfinance institutions stood at 9 per cent before easing to 8.2 per cent in 2017 and further dropping to 6.5 per cent last year.

Aimable Nkuranga, Executive Director of Association Microfinance Institutions in Rwanda (AMIR), attributes last year’s reduction in NPLs to the improved performance of the agriculture sector, which boosted the incomes of farmers.

“Our goal is to bring it down to less than five percent…we will continue putting in efforts so that  we reduce it to the lowest level possible (close to zero),” Nkuranga said.

“We have set strategies to deal with Non-Performing Loans, including scaling up the monitoring of provision of loans, straitening collaboration between the existing systems such as TransUnion, the credit reference bureau in Rwanda. We are encouraging our members to report any (default) debt whether small or huge to the credit reference bureau,” he remarked.

He reiterated that the credit related information should be analysed and utilised accordingly while considering to provide loan to an applicant.

Rice farmers in Rubona in Southern Province harvest their produce. Microfinance institutions remain the biggest lenders to farmers while commercial banks shying away from financing the agriculture sector as it is considered to be highly risky. File.
Factors driving profitability
The rebound in the sector’s profitability is also attributed to increased income on loans and other incomes from recoveries that outweighed expenses. Net interest income for microfinance institutions increased by 8.5 per cent in December 2018, up from 5 per cent in the year before.In addition, the central bank says, recoveries were also important for the MFIs profit pick up.
Last year, microfinance institutions recovered Rwf2 billion.Nkuranga said that microfinance institutions were also becoming more prudent in their lending practices.“Loans are the main source of revenues and income in a financial institution. If an institution provides loans to people and they pay back with interest, it is such interest that impacts profitability of that institution,” he said.
Merchias Dusabumuremyi, Managing Director of CLECAM Ejo Heza Ltd – a Muhanga District headquartered microfinance institution said that most MFIs work in the rural areas, where majority of the people are engaged in farming.
He pointed out that MFI loans to agriculture are increasing, disclosing that they  accounted for 53 percent of the total credits that CLECAM provided to various sectors in 2018, adding that among 5,300 who got loans from it then, 3,400 were farmers. 
“We have a plan to give more loans to farmers and  make surveys with them on the types of products they need so that we give them products adapted to their needs,” he observed.
“We will also work with insurance companies to align insurance products and loan services with farmers’ needs so that farmers get protected against disasters such as climate change effects,” he said, observing that when farmers get good yields and sell their produce, they are able to repay loans.
“We plan to work with entities supporting farmers on modern farming practices such as use of improved seeds and fertilisers, and we will be financing their practices to improve farm productivity,” he said.
Rwanda has 459 microfinance institutions, of which 20 are microfinance institutions with limited liability company status, 439 are Savings and Credits Cooperatives (SACCOs) made up with 416 Umurenge SACCOs and 23 non-Umurenge SACCOs.

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,(www.rwandainspirer.com) is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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