NGO Opportunity International Sells Urwego Bank in Rwanda

Dec 2016
Rwanda, December, 16 2016 - HOPE International, which has been a partner of Opportunity International in Rwanda for the last 11 years, is now a 99 percent shareholder in the bank with World Relief continuing to own 1 percent. The transaction has been approved by the National Bank of Rwanda.

Opportunity International and its affiliates in Canada and Germany have completed a share purchase agreement to sell its 50 percent ownership of Urwego Opportunity Bank ("Urwego") to HOPE International, a network of Christ-centered microenterprise development programs in 16 countries, according to a press release circulated by the organization today.

HOPE International, which has been a partner of Opportunity International in Rwanda for the last 11 years, is now a 99 percent shareholder in the bank with World Relief continuing to own 1 percent. The transaction has been approved by the National Bank of Rwanda.

With 33 credit offices and 130 active agents across the country, Urwego is the largest microfinance institution in Rwanda, serving more than 300,000 clients or nearly 5 percent of the adult population. Urwego offers agricultural loans, education financing, foreign exchange products, asset financing, home improvement loans, and microinsurance.

As part of the agreement, Opportunity International and HOPE International have executed a Program Services Agreement to enable Opportunity to continue to provide high-impact education and agriculture programs to Rwandans living in poverty through Urwego Bank. Opportunity's Agriculture Finance program will provide farmers with access to distribution networks and consultants to improve their productivity, boost local food supplies, and increase farmer income. The Education Finance program will provide access to school fee loans to help parents pay tuition, buy books and school supplies. The program will also provide access to school improvement loans to help school proprietors build and expand schools and improve the quality of education and learning outcomes.

"We will continue working through Urwego Bank to put more kids in classrooms and help smallholder farmers increase their crop yields and boost their incomes, ultimately transforming lives as children are educated and rural livelihoods are secured," said Vicki Escarra, global CEO, Opportunity International.

Its use of mobile banking and biometric fingerprint technology provides convenient and secure account access for clients in rural and urban areas alike. Because HOPE International also partners with local Rwandan church denominations to provide families with financial access through savings and credit associations (SCAs), HOPE International and Urwego will explore the potential for healthy linkages between SCAs and the bank's financial services.

Initially founded in 1997 by World Relief as Urwego Community Banking, the bank joined the HOPE International network in 2005. In 2007, the bank merged with Opportunity International Bank of Rwanda to become Urwego Opportunity Bank. Over the years, the bank has distributed nearly $290 million in loans to underserved Rwandan entrepreneurs to promote sustainability, social transformation and spiritual impact.

"We are delighted to deepen our long-standing partnership with Urwego," said HOPE International President Peter Greer. "We are confident in Urwego's team and have seen their example of Christ-like servant leadership. Together, we will stay true to Urwego's calling and do everything in our power to support continual operational excellence and significant impact throughout Rwanda."

Over the past twenty years, financial inclusion has increased significantly in Rwanda, with the population excluded from financial products or services dropping from 28 to 11 percent between 2012 and 2016, yet only 26 percent of the population uses products or services from licensed commercial banks regulated by the National Bank of Rwanda. Together, HOPE International and Urwego staff will focus on further expanding and improving services for clients through Urwego's 18 fully operational microfinance branch offices located in 11 districts across Rwanda.

"I am confident that, with HOPE International as our primary shareholder and the continued relationship that Opportunity International will have with our staff and our clients, we will continue to provide transformational financial services that lift up the lives of those in our communities and open doors for economic growth," said Germaine Mukamusana, Acting CEO, Urwego Bank.

World Relief President Scott Arbeiter said, "Since Urwego's inception in 1997, the economic, political, and social milieu of Rwanda has changed dramatically. What began as a desire to respond compassionately to the nation's devastating genocide has evolved into a focus on long-term development through reliable financial services, capacity building, and job creation. Though much has changed in Rwanda, Urwego's mission and work is as important as ever. We praise God that Urwego is poised to help hundreds of thousands of families escape physical and spiritual poverty."

Source : allAfrica

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