The year 2013 has opened with apparent growth in environmental challenges. Due mainly to DR Congo's domestic conflict and UN Report's allegation that Rwandan government is supporting M23 rebels, foreign development aids have been reduced or received a lot more slowly than projected. This has caused the government to cut back its budgets, thus creating lower construction projects leading to lower income and thus lower purchasing power. Lower purchasing power has been resulting in reduced demand for loans, increased withdrawals of savings, slower collection of loan repayments and rising portfolio at risk ratio.
|Clients meeting at UOB Office|
Moreover, a significant portion of liquidity has dried up mainly because Rwanda's largest institutional investor, RSSB or Rwanda Social Security Board, pulled significant amounts of term deposits out of commercial banks to buy treasury notes issued by the central bank (BNR) to support the government spending that would have been funded by foreign development aids which have been reduced or cut. This liquidity crunch in the market has put many banks to stop their lending during the fourth quarter. This has worsened in January 2013, combined with slow seasonality in January. So it is a tough time in Rwanda.
Nonetheless, we have reasons to praise the good Lord on many fronts. The following are highlights:
|UOB Day Group Photo|
1. UOB held its UOB Day in January. We praised God and shared the blessings we received in 2012 and also the plan we have established for 2013. We have chosen TRANSFORM as the spiritual and management theme for 2013 based on Romans 12:1,2. This was shared with all staff. We will put transformation first in what we do in 2013 and we plan to return to basics by enforcing standardized practices for conducting meetings and HLI teachings.
2. Secondary Student Loan (tuition fee loan) was pilot-launched in January. Approximately 27 clients in 7 groups received this loan with terms and conditions that are better than group loans. It will be scaled up to all clients in April.
3. UOB hired Agricultural Finance Manager and EduFinance Manager who started working on January 2nd.
With these two managers on board, UOB will be able to scale up these two important products to help Rwandans advance their agricultural activities and education for children, respectively.
4. Opportunity International IT Conference was held in Kigali, Rwanda for three days. This conference painted its future strategies towards more collaborative shared services and the upgrade of the core banking application, T24 to R10 model bank. UOB was honored to host this conference and show the delegates how UOB has well maintained its IT infrastructure.
|UOB Day Banner "TRANSFORM"|
5. UOB has signed an MOU with USAID dairy project for Rwanda to help 60,000 plus dairy farmers to access financial services better. This 24 month project will help UOB develop, design and implement dairy loan and savings product. Also, UOB joined Womens World Banking in a proposal to Access to Finance Rwanda to develop a women youth savings product. Moreover, UOB worked with OI US in submitting a proposal to Visa International for an innovative delivery channel.
6. UOB finally deployed all 100 NetBook computers to its relationship staff in the fied. These NetBook computers are equipped with Enterprise Open Sky platform that enables our staff to access the system from the field real time. This would enhance the operational efficiency and productivity significantly.
7. UOB held its quarterly prudential meeting with the central bank, BNR, for its fourth quarter 2012 performance. As expected, the meeting went very well and we maintained a favorable rating.
8. As a continuing measure of providing affordable pricing for our clients, UOB lowered its group lending rates by 0.5% per month in January. This measure has been taken again after it lowered the group lending rates by 0.5% per month in February 2012. We praise the Lord who has enabled us to do this based on continuing operational sustainability.
9. English bible distribution continued with six thousand bibles now have been distributed. They have been distributed not only to UOB clients but also almost 100 pastors who will produce greater impact because their influence over their congregation members. A final report should be made in February.
|Gicumbi Nursery under construction|
10. Gicumbi Nursery project is progressing well. Foundations were completed about three weeks ago and now walls are rising, taking shape of the building. The external construction works are expected to be completed in two months after which furnishings and interior construction will continue. We expect to finish all required work and start the operation in four months. We are grateful for all the support we have received from the friends and supporters for this project.
11. We received many visitors in January. They included Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade who has come to visit with the Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Retired Pastor Mark Kim and his wife Dr. Kim who plan to come to serve Rwanda next year despite their ages being at 75 and 73, Tom Phillips, the long time friend and supporter of many ministry works in Rwanda, Johns Hopkins University Global MBA students who worked on a project for UOB.
12. We continued to fellowship with Korean missionaries through a monthly prayer meeting. Jeffrey continued ministering to Agape Korean church, UOB staff and Shalom Bible Study through preaching and teaching of the Word. It is great joy to participate in these Word ministries on top of living the Word in deeds.
13. We have the following prayer requests:
- Please pray that various external factors adversely affecting Rwanda may get resolved sooner rather than later so that Rwanda's transformation may continue to be an exemplary case for a developing country.
- Jeffrey's father has now been confirmed to have Alzheimer's disease. Please pray that this disease may progress slowly and that he may live the last days of his life on earth in peace with the hope for the life to come. Kristin's mom has started losing her consciousness in a nursing home. May God grant her the peace of Christ through the last days of her life also.
- UOB has continued debugging its mobile and agent banking platform, mHose, in January. Now it is very close to get ready for the commercial launch in February. Please join us in prayer for this project to progress for launch.
- UOB is still waiting to hear from IFC on the implementation plan for its approved grant support for UOB's agent network development. Also, UOB has launched its Innovation for Education program with the support from DFID Rwanda. Please pray that the implementation plans for these programs may gain traction for timely launch and implementation.
- Please pray that UOB's initiative to put "Transformation" first in 2013 may also gain buy-in and support from all staff so that UOB may advance His Kingdom further through these initiatives.
Significant challenges that we face now keep us humble to go on our knees to the Lord. These challenges also remind us that we should always put our trust in the Lord no matter what the circumstances are. We are deeply grateful for you all for standing with us with your prayer and support. May the Lord bless you, keep you and make His face shine upon you and your family!
Jeffrey and Kristin Lee from RWANDA