RWANDA:ICT minister roots for more digital payment solutions

Electronic payment facilities provide essential solutions that can help ease service delivery and improve business operations, Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, the minister of Youth and ICT, has said. 

Nsengimana said that embracing digital payment solutions will fast-track Rwanda’s efforts geared toward achieving cashless culture and economy.

He noted that information and communication technologies (ICTs) present huge opportunities, especially for small-and-medium businesses “where people are still struggling with traditional ways of payments.” He added that ICT solutions can help enterprises reduce the cost of doing business, particularly the financial sector “since they work with Savings and Credit Co-operative Organisations (SACCOs)”.

Nsengimana was speaking during the launch of Tigo payment solution for agriculture platform in Kigali on Tuesday. He noted that the platform has increased financial and digital inclusion for over 10,000 tea farmers working with Mulindi and Shagasha tea factories in Gicumbi and Rusizi Districts, respectively. 

The facility was launched in partnership with Finance to Access Rwanda and Wood Foundation, offering tea farmers an easy way to access their payments. The platform allows farmers to transact seamlessly between their SACCO accounts and their mobile wallet any time. 

“This is an illustration of what is possible in other sectors of the economy. So, ICT innovations have the power to provide solutions to Rwanda’s challenges, and help change lives,” he said. 

He said about 80 per cent of Rwandans live in rural areas, “so this platform is an example of what the ‘smart village’ concept is all about, he added. 

Under the Smart Rwanda initiative, the country is promoting use of ICT in all sectors of the economy to ensure sustainable development, job creation and transforming Rwanda into a knowledge-driven economy to make it more competitive. 

Over 8.5 million people have mobile phones in Rwanda. The number of transactions using mobile money grew by 659.8 per cent to over 168.6 million last year, from 22.19 million in 2012. 

Meanwhile, Alphonsine Nizeyimana, a tea farmer in Gicumbi, said they used to walk long distances to get their payments at SACCOs, where they would spend hours in queues. 

“With this platform, one only has to pick their mobile phone and go to the nearest agent to withdraw the money. This saves time and money...we are able to save money to do other things,” she said. 

Evangeline Bikorimana, a tea farmer from Gicumbi District, said the platform has helped create more time for activities. 

Speaking at the launch of the platform, Judith Aguga Acon, the Access to Finance Rwanda technical director, said there is need for more innovations in the mobile financial sector to enhance access to services by smallholder farmers to help improve their incomes and livelihoods. 

Acon called for increased investment in supporting agricultural finance. 

Philip Fofie Amoateng, the Tigo chief executive officer, said the platform was created to provide mobile solutions for the agricultural sector to improve farmers’ communication and payment streams. 

He said the ICT and agricultural sectors present a lot of untapped potential, adding the firm will “take advantage of this and the growing technology to help transform the lives of Rwandans”.