Kigali, population one million people, capital and gateway to the Republic of Rwanda, is a city on the move. From it’s founding as a sleepy colonial outpost in 1907, with few links to the outside world, to its metamorphosis into the city that is the economic, cultural, and transport hub of a vibrant Rwanda; Kigali is a city that has famously kept its residents on their collective toes.  The residents of this wonderfully alive city are celebrating a century of its existence and Business Rwanda is proud to be a part of this celebration.  Kigali isn’t a city that’s only going through the motions. It has prevailed against the odds and has grown into a modern metropolis; the heart of the emerging Rwandan economy and the pride of every Rwandan.  Kigali City, founded by Dr. Richard Kandt, representative of the “Deutsch Ostafrika” in Rwanda, in 1907, was at first just Dr. Kandt’s residence and a few commercial houses on the lace of hills around present day Nyarugenge.  Then, in 1921, Kigali became a Belgian colonial administrative centre. The capital of pre-colonial Rwanda was the seat of the Mwami in Nyanza, while the capital of colonial Rwanda was in Butare, then known as Astrida. Butare was initially the leading contender for capital of the newly independent Rwanda, but Kigali was chosen to be the capital in 1962 because of its central location in the heart of the nation.  

As the seat of government of the newly independent Rwanda, Kigali saw incredible growth. From being a miniscule eight hectares in 1907, and with a population of three hundred and fifty seven people, Kigali has grown to be an impressive seven hundred and thirty square kilometers with a population of one million people. Kigali City has had its ups and downs as a capital, following the turbulent times of post-independence Rwanda. It reached its nadir, as did the whole nation, in 1994, as its boroughs rang with gunfire and the stench of death hung in the air like a blanket.  

But no more; for as the country recovered, so did the capital. The scars of that period are fast healing and the city is now being given a clean bill of health by its residents and visitors. It went from being a sleepy city at the heart of a regional backwater to being the exciting centre of an emerging Information Technology hub.  From being a city with small, and slightly dilapidated structures, it went to being a city of towers and skyscrapers.  From being a boring place with no nightlife to speak of, Kigali is now a night owls’ favorite haunt.    

Kigali, which has grown more than six times in square area and trebled in population since1996, resembles a quickly changing mosaic. The tallest building in town back in 1994 was a tie between ‘kwa –Rabangura’, as the tall building right next to the now defunct central taxi park was known as locally, and CND (now the Parliament buildings). Now, Centenary House and the Ecobank Headquarters tower over Kigali’s city centre. 

Anyone coming back to Kigali after more than five years away will be amazed at the changes. From 2002 to date, Kigali has seen the building of the first five-star hotel in Rwanda, the Kigali Serena, the Union Trade Center-a huge shopping mall right in the centre of town, housing projects like the Gacuriro estates and many office buildings.  Kigali resembles one big construction site. 

Kigali is a city of business. If you have doubts, then travel along the streets and watch residents as they go about their business. The hustle and bustle on the streets of Kigali is reminiscent of the forward-looking city it is and not the sleepy hollow it once was. Kigali is the headquarters and home of all the major economic players on the local scene; from MTN Rwanda, which is housed in the suitably named MTN Center in Nyarutarama, to Banque du Kigali- which has just moved into its opulent new headquarters. In the pipeline is an international conference center that will rival any in the region, a permanent Exposition Center and many more facilities that are pro-business. Rwanda is open for business and Kigali is its gateway.  

Kigali is a city of leisure. Have a meal at one of the numerous cosmopolitan restaurants- with menus as diverse as Mexican and Senegalese.  Sip refreshments in one of the many cafés and bistros in town.  Enjoy the nightlife in the many nightclubs that cater to various tastes in music. Where once there was nothing to do as soon as the sun set, Kigali is now a 24-hour city. Unlike many big cities of the world, Kigali is famous for its security. Crime rates are negligible no matter where you are, and the only unpleasantness that one might encounter on an evening stroll may be a street child asking for spare change. Muggers and other criminals of their ilk are a rare breed in Kigali.  

One of the slogans that Kigali has made its own is “Clean and Green’. The typical image of an African city, with the omnipresent Marabou Stork perched atop piles of rotting waste right in the center of town, uncontrolled traffic jams, chaotic public transport systems and the smell of general decay, is an image that Kigali city  has fought a winning battle against. Recently the International Telecommunications Union’s secretary general, Hamadoun Toure pronounced Kigali the cleanest city he has visited. Essential services work. A steady supply of piped water and electricity is something that many of Kigali residents take for granted. Roads aren’t full of potholes. 

However, it isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. True, Kigali is slowly coming into its own as the modern capital of the ambitious country that Rwanda is. Nevertheless, in the course of rousing itself to take its place in the sun, the city must rise to many challenges in its path.  

Some of the biggest challenges that city planners have to deal with are the lack of a proper citywide drainage and sewage system, the lack of sufficient landfill space, the poorly planned housing, the lack of green spaces like parks and the deficiencies in coverage of essential services in certain parts of the city. City authorities are not oblivious to these challenges. According to the Kigali City Councils’ Director in the Department of Inspection, Mr. Reuben Ahimbisibwe, in an interview with Business Rwanda, the city authorities have put in place a 50 year Master Plan to find solutions to the needs of the growing city. This Master Plan will include green zones, demarcated roads and sufficient street lighting.  

When quizzed about the urgent need of a citywide sewage and drainage system Mr. Ahimbisibwe spoke of a Sanitation Master Plan that will be completed this year.  This sanitation master plan will then guide the City Council. However, until the introduction of a city-wide sewage system, the City Council has made it compulsory for anyone constructing a large building to include an in-house sewage treatment plant. City Council has, in order to fight against the lack of affordable housing for low and middle-income earners that gave rise to small, dinghy and unplanned-for housing, started constructing what they call the ‘Batsinda Project’, 250 well-built and affordable houses for low income earners in lower Kiyovu. These houses will eventually number one thousand. All in all, Kigali City Council is, in Mr. Ahimbisibwe’s words, making sure “we don’t repeat what we inherited”.   

These various master plans are a positive step.   However, if most of these problems that Kigali faces aren’t solved, the progress that Kigali has registered in the last century will be for naught.  For a city that doesn’t provide a positive environment for both the business and pleasure of its residents and visitors is one that will stagnate and eventually die.  

If Mr. Richard Kandt somehow came back to life and took a look at the new Kigali he surely wouldn’t believe his eyes. When Business Rwanda surveys the progress made since 1994, we know that it can only get better. HAPPY 100TH BIRTHDAY KIGALI! MAY YOU CONTINUE TO RISE AND SHINE!  


SORAS: Rest Assured

By Louise Umutoni  Imagine, crashing and totally wrecking your new BMW 6 Series that you saved literary your whole life for.  Try to picture that dream house that you recently constructed being totally vandalized by thugs, or, worse still, burning to cinders in a towering inferno.  Tragedy has struck, and you think you have nowhere to turn. That’s not entirely true. SORAS Insurance Company is there for you. SORAS, a French acronym for Societe Rwandaise d’Assurance, started in the early eighties and has since leap-frogged to become the one of the nations largest insurers.  

SORAS was the first fully private insurance company to be introduced in Rwanda, in collaboration with a major European insurance company – Union des Assurances de Paris (UAP International). Gaining valuable experience and expertise from their European mentor, SORAS became fully digitalized four years after its establishment and quickly established itself as a leading insurance firm in Rwanda. 

The Client as King      

At a time when Rwanda’s private sector was characterized by inefficiency, SORAS chose to treat its clients as kings, a standard it has maintained to date.   It remains one of the few insurance companies that reimburses clients without subjecting them to the usual red tape. The company has also commissioned numerous research studies and surveys into customer satisfaction and is constantly searching for new and innovative products that will serve the present and future needs of its clients.  

In the two decades of its existence, SORAS has managed to establish an extensive, nationwide network of agencies and sub-headquarters, with the main headquarters located in the capital, Kigali.   

The company boasts of a wide range of products developed specifically with the client in mind. These include, among other services, automobile insurance, which covers theft of the vehicle and injury to the client and third-party occupants of the vehicle and insurance for damage to goods, be it natural or due to another cause.  

SORAS is also a believer in the investment potential of Rwanda, and has acted on this faith in constructing a high-rise luxurious apartment building, the PRIMA 2000 Residence located in Kacyiru.  It has also constructed elaborate quarters for all its major branches nationwide.    

While the company’s services have already won it nationwide acclaim, it has remained steadfast in its commitment to innovation. In 1999 SORAS introduced the first life insurance policy to Rwanda, a product that has led competitors to follow suit. Six years later it went on to introduce MEDIPLAN, a private medical insurance policy that has attracted a huge clientele due to its reliability.  

Interview with Robert Mathu (CEO Rwanda Stock Exchange)

The capital market is the market for securities, where companies and the government can raise funds for the long-term. The capital market includes the stock market and the bond market. Financial regulators oversee the capital markets in their designated countries to ensure that investors are protected against fraud. The capital markets consist of the primary market, where new issues are distributed to investors, and the secondary market, where existing securities are traded. A stock exchange is a corporation which provides facilities for stock brokers and traders to trade company stocks and other securities. Stock exchanges provide facilities for the issue and redemption of securities as well as other financial instruments and capital events including the payment of income and dividends. 

Business Rwanda spoke to Robert Mathu and Pierre Celestin Rwabukumba who are here to introduce the Stock Exchange to Rwanda. 

Business Rwanda: Exactly what role are you going to play in the growth of Rwanda’s economy?

I am here to set up the Rwanda capital market. Capital markets provide an ideal platform for transparency in transferring management from the private to the public sector by floating shares to the general public and offering the common man an opportunity to buy ownership into those companies, as opposed to going through the long and tedious tendering process. 

Business Rwanda:  How will a capital market work in Rwanda?

In any economy we have the money market and the capital market. The money market is for short term funds and is dominated by banks, commercial banks and microfinance institutions. They receive savings and offer products like fixed deposit and current accounts.  However, we constantly go back for this money so the bank cannot use it to lend to a project with a long gestation period.  

Citing an example, if an investor wanted to venture in long term projects such as coffee, tea or cement, the minimum gestation period is about three years.  Going for a bank loan would be costly for the bank and the company. This is where capital markets come in. All the company has to do is sell shares to the public. Money obtained will be invested in the long term project and the long run returns will benefit the shareholders by increasing the value of their shares and paying dividends. 

As an investor, you have the option to sell your shares and get your money back. All this happens in an organized ‘capital market’. Essentially, a capital market is a market for long term capital.

Business Rwanda:  Could you explain the structure of a capital market?

All economies fundamentally require government planning authorities for finance, banking, insurance and retirement. Of equal importance is the capital markets authority, which, however, does not have to be under the government. Such is the global trend; the New York, London and Johannesburg Stock Exchanges were all started by private entities. In Africa, the World Bank has influenced financial reforms to ignite capital markets through legislation to provide security for the investors.  

In Rwanda we are taking a double edged approach by working with the government as the main sponsor and our private agency as a guide that puts together the infrastructure of the capital market. The agency already has a secretariat and a board in place with members appointed by the Minister of Finance. I am heading the secretariat.

Business Rwanda:  What are the direct benefits of a capital market to national development?

The benefits are mainly Long term. Capital Markets will create wealth and employment by mobilizing funds within the economy and injecting them into large projects. The process will also encourage thrift savings as the value of shares go up, thereby creating wealth for shareholders. Google initially sold their shares at US$100 back in 2004 and right now that share is over $730, which means anybody who bought a significant amount of those shares at the initial price got wealthy. 

In any economy, if you don’t have savings you cannot invest, because there are only two primary sources of funding in a business; savings or loans. In aggregate economics savings are important, as the performance of most economies is judged by the level of savings.

Business Rwanda:  How would one predict the direction of the price of a share on the stock market?

Speculators understand the market and help those who don’t to predict the trends. Like any business, there is always risk, but there are ways of guarding against a volatile market. When a company is first listed on the stock market, the price of a share of its stock is determined by its performance. Once a company sells shares to the public and is quoted on the capital market, the company signs an undertaking stating that whenever anything material happens in their business or they have audited their accounts, they must send that information to the market, and this is called fundamental information. This ensures that when people are making an investment decision, they are basing it on information that is available publicly.  

For example, say a share was selling at FRW 100, and we just received information today that the turnover of that company has gone up by 20% and profitability has gone up by 50%.  Then you will be ready to pay more for that company’s shares. That is how the price goes up.  However if the news is negative, the market price will go down. The stock exchange cannot determine the direction of the price.  We are just a platform for issuers of shares and investors to come and trade.  

Business Rwanda:  It has been established that Africa offers the highest return on investment in the world. Do you expect the capital markets here in Rwanda to follow this trend?

Africa is a growth market.  For example it is good business to have shares in a company such as CIMERWA because everybody is building with cement. Due to the lack of a capital market, we are not able to participate in such companies.  But this initiative is going to give us that opportunity.  As long as African economies continue to perform the way they are performing we are going to see good returns. Of course the world economy has been growing at a high rate, so there are more funds available for investment.

Business Rwanda:  In your experience, do you find that only the elite invest in the stock market?

You would be surprised.  When it comes to investing, beyond the sophistication of the type of investment you are investing in, it’s important to keep people aware. The best awareness that you can give people is that companies that come over make money, as you’ll not need to educate a potential investor. Just the news that people are making money somewhere will be enough incentive for every Rwandan to participate. The importance of creating awareness is that it will enable them to understand what they are getting into.

Business RwandaWill any company be able to list on the stock exchange?

Only profitable companies will qualify to come to the market. You could be looking for money but it is not money you are lacking.  You could be lacking good management or markets, or business acumen. So, to be in the capital market you have to have your house in order. We will have rules stipulating what kind of management systems need to be in place before being listed and the minimum capital requirement. We are also going to have trained and licensed stock brokers.

Business Rwanda:  Investor confidence has a lot to do with perception of the country.   Will Rwanda’s international image attract investors?

The perception of Rwanda is extremely good compared to many other African countries because there is clear political good will in terms of supporting development.  Rwanda has good political systems, given where you’ve come from and where you are now.  Everybody admires Rwanda.  

The most important thing is that there is governance in this country.  There is little corruption, and corruption is what scares investors away.  I mean, Rwanda is very open, and more than that, the government of Rwanda has already gone out to the world to promote itself and invite investors to come see for themselves. The perception of Rwanda is very good and it is going to influence the emergence of our capital market. 


Mr. Larry Edwards was the first foreigner to attend the annual Rwandan governmental retreat, where he endeavored to market technologies in Oklahoma and highlight the benefits of an economic relationship between Rwanda and Oklahoma. Edwards is the  CEO of AEon Group of companies, with offices at the ICT park here in Kigali. He also heads the Global Fusion Foundation (GFF).  This year the Global Fusion centennial business conference took place from October 7th to October 12th in Oklahoma City with the objective of organizing opportunities and partners to invest in countries like Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. 

Attended by a variety of entrepreneurs, government agencies, investors, service providers and non-profit institutions, this foundation, created in 2005, is involved in export promotion and import assistance and global sourcing of products and services for member countries. This singular event showcased Oklahoma to the world as the Gateway to the U. S. Market and, conversely, the Gateway to the world for Oklahoma and other U. S. companies. 

As part of the week-long conference, the ambassador of Rwanda to the United States, H.E James Kimonyo gave a presentation at the Gaylord Hall  at the Oklahoma Christian University coined “The Rwandan Renaissance”. The theme for the dinner was actually “The Singapore of Africa-The Rwandan example” and was attended by the ambassador of Kenya to the US, HRH Joseph Dubois, US senators, the president of Oklahoma Christian University, representative from Rwanda’s private sector, and American businessmen. 

Rwanda was portrayed as the ideal investment setting in Africa. The ambassador highlighted the improvements Rwanda is making in Transport and telecommunications, education, customs procedures to ease work for investors and tourism. GFF is organizing a visit to Rwanda for American investors to ‘test the waters’.  

During the visit, the investors will meet presidents Paul Kagame and Mwai Kibaki as well as US ambassadors Michael Arietti (Rwanda) and Michael Renneberger (Kenya). The foundation will also hold conferences in Nairobi and Kigali with delegates from all over the region.  

BCR heralds the growth of Rwandan Small & Medium Enterprises

By Patrick Mutimura Rising from ashes to glory, turning straw to Gold, are all expressions that would describe BCR’s evolution after privatization and small and medium enterprises’ transformation into the driving force of the Rwandan economy and post ’94 Rwanda in general. When BCR was privatized, ACTIS, the Government and Rwanda and its minority shareholders had one vision: BCR was going to be the most respected bank in the country.   The bank was also going to be at the forefront of the country’s developmental agenda. With this in mind, it was understood that it was going to be “Business Unusual”. 

A Great Bank facilitates other Businesses to become Great Businesses 

In order to succeed as a business, BCR had to carefully segment the markets it was going to serve, increase customer focus, innovate and return to profitability. The Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) market was a natural selection. It is growing, active and has enormous room for expansion and is a market with a clear need for what the bank offers – business growth financing.  

BCR Launches SME products

In order to facilitate SMEs to increase their volume of business, BCR, in the past two years, has developed products that have revolutionized SME business financing, and other banks have followed suit. Lease and Go, BCRs leasing product is a prime example. With Lease and Go, SMEs that could not obtain assets under ordinary financing now acquire them as leased assets, pay for usage and receive tax benefits, as the rentals are tax deductible.  

PhoneBanking is another service worth mentioning which SMEs have taken up quite well. It is convenient and customer-driven.  Simply put, it is the bank’s enquiry desk accessible to you, wherever you are. SMEs can inquire whether a payment has been made or received without leaving their business’ premises. They can stop payments (prevent the holder of an issued check from making withdrawal) as well as speak to the agents regarding any issues they would want to raise with the bank.  

BCR also intends to play its part in developing entrepreneurship in Rwanda, and in the process, increase the number of SMEs operating in the country. This is the essence behind Credit Éclair – a fast, no frills, no hassle loan facility that allows salaried employees to obtain quick financing to start a small business and find alternative earnings. 

Easing SMEs ability to grow through tendering is also one of the means by which BCR is facilitating SMEs in Rwanda. With Tradeline, a short term loan facility, a trader who is awarded a tender approaches the bank and is provided up to 70% of the financing required to deliver on the tender.   Tender approval acts as security. This is business made simple and the new approach to banking. 

Insurance Premium Finance (IPF) is another SME loan facility. IPF allows businesses to pay insurance premiums on machinery and equipment, imported and exported products as well as all insurable items. This is done in installments rather than up front cash, which provides flexibility in cash flow management. 

Going Forward

BCR prides itself in offering the SME sector business-needs oriented products, coupled with world class service. Being crowned the London Based Financial Times Banker of The Year 2006 and 2007 (Rwanda) confirms that BCR is well on its way to attaining its vision. Successful businesses usually have the support system of great partners. This is true for BCR and the SMEs they support.   There is a mutual respect of interests and a mutual desire for each others’ progress. The bank will continue to innovate and find ways of helping SMEs achieve their potential as businesses and development agents in the country. 

The Small and Medium business’ role is simple: they have to improve the management of their businesses which, will reduce their risk profile, and improve their processes and productivity level. This is geared towards ensuring that their growth is inevitable, given the virgin nature of the majority of business sectors in Rwanda.  

Q & A with Vincent Karega

The minister of Commerce Tourism and Cooperatives, The Honorable Vincent Karega found a minute to share with Business Rwanda at the recently held Bird watching ceremony in Akagera to examine the upcoming opportunities in the tourism sector. 

What were your impressions on bird watching? 

It is very important.  It is a new product in the tourism family. Thinking outside of the box and diversification of our economy is key and critical for the things we want to achieve.  

You mentioned thinking outside of the box. Apart from innovations like bird watching by ORTPN, are you aware of any new packages? 

Thinking outside of the box is doing things differently.  It is searching around, finding ways and solutions to the problems that we have because we believe that nature and the culture have a lot of opportunities that we are not tapping into, and that also means that the way things have been done traditionally by our ancestors and colonials are changed to the current and dynamic way by embracing the global and local opportunities and linking them and turning into them economic realities. 

Do you have any new projects in the pipeline? 

We are thinking of revamping the cultural tourism as well as the hospitality capacity and much more. The Akagera Game Lodge is slated for renovation.  We’ve got interest from strong investors who are well known worldwide.  In this case, it’s Dubai World. Their technical team is currently in the country and their work is ongoing. This will not be privatization but a joint management venture between ORTPN and Dubai World. It means putting together a company that will plan and manage the park in a manner that attracts high end tourists. That means people with wealth who want a special place.  

Interview with Mrs. Rosette Rugamba

Business Rwanda spoke to Mrs. Rosette Rugamba Director General of ORTPN found a minute to share with Business Rwanda at the recently held Bird watching ceremony in Akagera to examine the upcoming opportunities in the tourism sector.

Why chosen Bird watching?

Rwanda is home to over six hundred-fifty types of birds in Nyungwe and five hundred twenty-five types in Akagera. Out of those, forty-four are endemic only to our country. In August we were in London to launch Rwanda as a birding destination, and realized that we have a huge potential and the capacity to compete with the rest of the world.

While some tourists will come to Rwanda specifically to watch birds, others will extend their stay in Rwanda by engaging in the same activity. Akagera and Nyungwe are now a single bird watching circuit as we had with the primates, and the lake circuit.

Why did you take too long to a launch this activity?

Launching Bird Watching required preparation such as staff training, purchasing equipment and raising awareness. However, it comes at a timely moment in line with our strategy. We targeted seventy thousand visitors and the generation of one hundred million dollars by 2010. The only way we are going to do this is through diversification. Of course we had to start with our main product which is the primate and then we had game drives in Akagera; and now Bird watching.

Aside from bird watching, what other ideas are you looking at to promote tourism?

Well, before the birding we had the golden monkey, which actually prolonged the tourist’s stay in Rwanda. We have introduced mountain climbing, which has created the same effect. Today it is bird watching, and soon we will invite the public for the launch of cave exploration. All these are specialty markets which we have ventured into because they have dedicated tourists and a very affluent clientele.

What else is special about the Akagera Game Park that the world does not know?

We are very privileged to have a park like this one. Even Masai Mara and the Kruger national parks don’t have a landscape like this. We have lakes and hills that they don’t. They are flat. All we are doing here is taking advantage of these unique selling points and positioning ourselves as a unique destination.

We understand that Akagera has been privatized. Tell us more about this.

We have entered a joint venture with a group of tourism investors, Dubai World, with support from the Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Authority (RIEPA). Minister Karega and the investment group have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will see a number of Rwandan attractions developed to the tune of two hundred thirty million dollars (230,000,000 USD). This would be the biggest investment in our tourism sector to date.

This opportunity couldn’t come at a better time because that was the gap! While we could boast about our wildlife, we still lacked infrastructure and that is what Dubai World is bringing on board. Among the properties being considered for development are the Akagera Game Lodge, Nyungwe Eco-lodge, Gorilla Nest and a 5-star hotel at the Kigali Golf course. We would like to bring the standards and labels of Singita and Kampinsky to Rwanda. These are the very best the world has to offer in terms of managing hotel property. All this was discussed with the investors.