During my first day at Amasezerano Community Bank (ACB), I learned that “Amasezerano” is the Kinyarwanda word for “Promise”. After being here for just about a month now, I have to say that this word is a good fit for Kiva’s new partner MFI in Kigali, Rwanda. ACB, though young and still fairly small, is having an effect on the community through its diverse loan products and dedicated staff. But most importantly, Amasezerano is able to help its community because this institution understands its clients well.
Amasezerano was founded in 2006 with the help of African Evangelical Enterprises, making it one of the only MFIs in the region to be founded by an African non-governmental organization, and became a Kiva partner in the summer of 2010. Being Amasezerano’s first full-time Kiva Fellow has been a fun and challenging experience; the warmth and enthusiasm of the staff has not only made adjusting to my new job easier, but it has made adjusting to my new home for the next four months a lot less daunting. The ACB staff has been quick to adopt me and show me the famous Rwandan hospitality, and they have been great resources when it comes to be questions about every day life in Kigali; which bus should I take home? How much should a motorcycle taxi cost? In turn, my new Rwandan colleagues have plenty of questions for me regarding everything from the freckles on my face (which one of my colleagues thought was a skin disease) to President Obama, who is revered here almost as much as Rwanda’s own President Kagame.
My first month here has been a mutual learning experience. While I’ve been helping the ACB staff become further acquainted with Kiva’s processes, benefits, and mission, the ACB staff has been helping me become acquainted with what it is like to practice microfinance in Rwanda. ACB seeks to accomplish its mission, which is to ‘bring a holistic impact on poor people’s lives through quality financial services’, through a diverse number of loan products to suit their clients’ needs. For example, many of ACB’s clients are poor rice farmers in the Eastern province of Bugesera, who work together to form Solidarity Groups. Solidarity Group Loans provided by ACB are meant for poor workers who generate income, but do not have collateral to provide in the case of default. Instead, ACB allows these groups to offer a guarantee that the group members will cover the full repayment amount in the event of a group member missing a payment. This product allows groups of poor workers, who would normally be excluded from banking services due to a lack of collateral, to access the credit that they need to make their businesses thrive. ACB also offers specific loan products for individuals, women entrepreneurs, religious organizations, low-salaried workers and farmers, in addition to checking and savings accounts, and a mobile money service through the mobile network MTN.
Getting settled at my MFI has by no means been a cake walk, what with the challenges provided by an exceedingly complicated Management Information System, unreliable internet and frequent power outages, but even so; the more I learn about ACB, the happier I am to be a part of their initiation into Kiva partner-hood. Their business practices, mission and staff give me reason to believe that this partner has a lot of “amasezerano”.
Caitlin Ross is a member of KF13 and is currently working with Amasezerano Community Bank in Kigali. Stay tuned for more stories from her experiences in Rwanda.
Want to learn more about Amasezerano? Check out their partner page here: http://www.kiva.org/partners/170