An official of Mobisol explains to one of the Beneficiaries (L) and Bank of Kigali officials how the solar system works. / Nadege Imbabazi

The National Savings Week (NSW) 2017 closed yesterday. The Ministry of Finance-led awareness campaign involved key stakeholders such as commercial banks and microfinance institutions and the Capital Market Authority to encourage Rwandans to embrace the savings culture..Bank of Kigali has literally placed ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ in the lives of at least 2000 residents of Nyagatare district living under absolute poverty as per the local government 'Ubudehe categorization', after donating solar electricity equipment to 500 households.

Bank of Kigali has literally placed ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ in the lives of at least 2000 residents of Nyagatare district living under absolute poverty as per the local government ‘Ubudehe categorization,’ after donating solar electricity equipment to 500 households.

On Friday, Chief Commercial Officer Vincent Gatete led a team of Bank of Kigali staff to Rukomo Parish where a ceremony to officially handover the project to district officials was held, before hundreds of excited locals.

The district leadership was represented by Didace Kayitare, the Nyagatare Deputy Mayor for Finance and Economic Development.

Bank of Kigali CEO Dr. Diane Karusisi and Board chairman Marc Holtzman announced the donation in March this year, at an event to officially launch what would be year-long activities to celebrate the Bank’s 50th anniversary since incorporation on December 22, 1966.

What followed the announcement, made before former State Minister of Social Economic Development, currently Minister of Trade and Industry; Vincent Munyeshyaka was a process by the local government officials to identify a district where beneficiaries would be selected.

The lucky dice would fall on Nyagatare district, in Rwanda’s Eastern Province. The district was among those that were used in a 2014 nationwide Ubudehe Categorization exercise implemented by MINALOC in partnership with Local Governments and other technical ministries.

Results at national level found that 1,480,167 Rwandans living in 376,192 households fell in the first category of Ubudehe, profiled as living in extreme poverty characterized as not having ability to afford a proper house as well as basic household tools and clothes.

That category comprised of 16.3 percent of the country’s total population according to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda 4th Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV4: 2014) that gauges the living standards of Rwandans and progress in poverty reduction.

Deliverance from poverty

In 2011, Rwandans living in extreme poverty formed 24.1 percent of the population before reducing to 16.3 percent in 2014; the government’s current efforts aim at further reducing this percentage, by combating absolute poverty in partnership with other stakeholders.

“As Bank of Kigali, we are stakeholders in any exercise to better the lives of Rwandans and as we celebrate our 50th anniversary this year, we chose donating solar electricity equipment as a way of giving back to the communities in which we continue to thrive as a business,” said Gatete.

The beneficiaries of Bank of Kigali’s 500 solar equipment donation was shared equally among households living in category one poverty, with at least 35 households in 14 sectors of the district. All 500 solar panels have since been installed in selected households.

On Friday, the Bank trekked a four hour journey to Rukomo sector, Gahurura cell where they visited some of the beneficiaries whose houses have been connected with solar electricity.

“In Gahurura, we learned that a proper source of light is just one aspect on a long list of needs that people living in extreme poverty have; our donation is therefore only a token of support and we pledge to continue working with local government authorities to contribute to efforts of transforming the lives of Rwandans,” Gatete remarked.

The Bank which is currently running a nation-wide savings campaign dubbed ‘Bigereho Na BK’ is sending a message to low income Rwandans on how they could emerge from poverty by working closely with the bank, through saving or micro borrowing for investment.

It is an attempt to paint a new image of Bank of Kigali whose five decades of activity have mainly struck a code with urban and relatively high income Rwandans, a perception Vincent Gatete dismissed as false noting that the Bank is open for all levels of customers.

“Bank of Kigali is just a name; it doesn’t mean it is a Bank for people in Kigali. It is your bank and we invite you to work with us, that is why we have branches everywhere, including here at Rukomo,” Gatete said drawing applause from awed locals.

Devotha Karubera, 29 year old mother of four is one of the 35 beneficiaries in Rukomo Sector who in her remarks thanked Bank of Kigali for reducing her layer of needs by giving her household a decent source of light.

“I can’t find words right enough to express my gratitude. All I can say, from the bottom of my heart is that we are thankful; thankful to Bank of Kigali management, and to President Paul Kagame under whose leadership companies have thrived and are able to give back to people like us,” a visibly emotional Karubera said.

District vice Mayor, in charge of Finance and Economic Development Didace Kayitare thanked Bank of Kigali for the support and asked beneficiaries to take good care of the donated equipments especially from theft and misuse.

“We thank Bank of Kigali management for its continued support to ongoing government efforts such as eradicating poverty. This donation is a step towards moving the beneficiaries from extreme poverty,” said Kayitare.

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