Monday, February 27, 2012

UOB Leadership Retreat - Feb. 2012

Listening to a team presentation
Giving feedback on presentation
UOB Leadership Retreat took place in Gisenyi over Friday through Sunday, February 24-26. Gisenyi is at the North-Western corner of Rwanda, bordering DR Congo. Because of its proximity to the Lake Kivu, many people come to Gisenyi for retreats and short leave.

The only business session was held on Saturday. The business session took the form of workshop.

Workshop was the right format for a group of 30 people, all managers or higher level officers.

A team presentation
The morning session centered around the theme of "Customer Care." Customer Care is a buzz word now in Rwanda because the President urges Rwandans to improve the customer care and the Prime Minister is meeting with business leaders to monitor the progress. But we are motivated by our own mission to serve our clients as if we serve the Lord. (Colossians 3:23,24) We have established "The UOB Way" for our own customer care spirit. They are: C.S.A. Ways.

The UOB Way or C.S.A. Ways are:

Courteous -- the basic,
Speedy -- the competitive, and
Accurate -- the credible.

Praying together after team presentation
I am not going to get into details, but all participants took part in the process of identifying the issues, defining the resources and constraints, identifying options for solutions, conducting cost-benefit analyses and concluding and making recommendation for implementation. We will soon have five reports from five teams.

In the afternoon, we also conducted the workshop on five different topics. They will also produce five different reports.

Through this workshop, we learned about problem solving skills, priority management and time management, on top of dealing with the issues that we face now. I was grateful for the opportunity of holding the retreat at a place where we were able to appreciate the facility and food, to rest and to recharge. It is my prayer that the teamwork and morale will be boosted for another great year to be able to honor our Lord at the end.
- Jeffrey 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rwanda's Influential People on Economy and Finance

On Friday, February 24, the Minister of Finance invited all bank CEOs in Rwanda for an informal dinner. He also invited the Governor and Vice Governor of National Bank of Rwanda, CEO of Rwanda Development Board, the Minister of Justice and Register General. Also in attendance was the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Finance. These are the most influential people on economy and finance in Rwanda.

[John Rwangombwa, Minister of Finance is sharp-looking but also gentle in his talk. He is highly respected in Rwanda. He is the driving force behind the government's well-disciplined fiscal policy. Rwanda still depends heavily on foreign aid but this aid has been used wisely.]
[Tharcisse Karugarama, Minister of Justice and Chief Prosecutor is a man of integrity, intellect as well as wit. He is famous for his timely humor that thwarts any freezing moments. He is very proactive and pro-business and aggressively reaches out to business people, particularly the financial sector, without any arrogance. He is also very well respected.]

The topics discussed included:

1. Modernization of the banking systems
2. Savings mobilization
3. Awareness campaign on financial services and customer care
4. Legal issues on banking, particularly justice over loan defaulters

There were some other issues that were discussed but the list above represented the primary issues.

[Claver Gatete, Governor of BNR was Rwanda's Ambassador to the U.K. He worked for UNDP, Ministry of Finance before his diplomatic appointment. He is intellectual and effective in communication. He was responsible for keeping Rwanda's inflation under control in 2011 while its neighboring countries suffered a lot.]

Min of Finance PS Kampeta Sayinzoga
John Gara, CEO of RDB
Rwanda Bankers' Association Chairman expressed his appreciation on behalf of all bankers on their willingness to maintain dialogues with the bankers to strengthen and improve the Rwanda's banking system. For that, both ministers said that it was not so special for them to maintain relationships with bank CEOs because it is part of their duties. I said that their comments alone were sufficient indicators of their genuine service mindset and of their commitment to excellence in taking the country's banking system to a higher level.

Indeed they were honorable, admirable and respectful. They are the hopes of Rwanda in its endeavor to make a difference in the financial services sector. On the way home, I prayed that the Lord blesses them and their team members with wisdom. - Jeffrey

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Books about Microfinance, Poverty and Empowerment...

Do you want to learn more about microfinance?

Do you look for a good book about poverty?

Do you seek to empower the powerless and helpless?

Opportunity International is recommending eight books on these topics of interest.

Opportunity International is a network of enterprises that desire to give the poor a working chance through microfinance based on motives to serve the needy as called by Jesus Christ. 

Please check it out. You will be glad you did. - Jeffrey

Friday, February 17, 2012

Opportunity International Canada Delegation

Opportunity International Network is a global network of enterprises involved in micro finance.

It consists largely of two types of enterprises. One type is supporting members (SMs) and the other is implementing members (IMs). UOB is one of the implementing members. SMs are engaged in raising funds to support the activities and programs of IMs. There are six SMs. They are Opportunity International in US, UK, Canada, Germany, Australia and Singapore.

This week, February 13-20, OI Canada has sent a delegation of 20, including its Chairman and CEO, Mr. Bob Lawless, to visit UOB and to meet the staff and clients of UOB. Also, they visited Wellspring Academy, a Christian school, and held jointly a leadership forum for young entrepreneurs and established business leaders. The forum was named "Made in Rwanda Leadership Summit." Mr. Lawless was the key note speaker and there were three others who shared their perspectives on human capital, the only capital that lasts.

I met the delegation twice. First, I was asked to share the testimony on my life. Second, I was asked to share what God is doing through UOB. The Lord blessed many hearts through these presentations and it was a blessing to me also.

I pray that the Lord will continue to inspire them to be more actively engaged in the Kingdom work in any manner that is possible to them. - Jeffrey

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Meeting with Goran Skytte

Goran Skytte is a Swedish author, journalist and a TV anchor. I had a meeting with him today. His daughter, Jenny, a medical doctor, had to leave Rwanda early because of illness. She has been serving with Doctors without Border.

He was born to a Christian family, but he became an atheist and a community when he was young.

When he was at his peak of life, enjoying his fame and wealth, God did not leave him alone but reached out and touched his heart. He returned to Christ and has become a Christian.

But the cost of becoming a Christian was high. He had to leave the TV screen because of his faith in Christ. It was a form of persecution but he remained joyous. He would rather choose to stay in the true light, Jesus, rather than the spot light for the TV filming.

He came to visit Rwanda and witnessed the transformation that has been occurring.

He came to visit UOB because UOB is a business as mission or BAM. He was introduced to me by Mats Tunehag, the BAM specialist at the Lausant Movement and also a Swedish. Goran wanted to make a film, focusing on BAM. I said I would love to share the story for Jesus and His Kingdom.

He would come back soon. May the Lord bless his heart! - Jeffrey

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Rice Farmers After First Cycle Agric Loans...

UOB started providing agricultural input financing in 2011. The first target farmers were Irish potato farmers, rice farmers and maize farmers. The biggest number of farmers who received input financing from UOB were rice farmers. Now they are getting into their harvest time. At the same time, they need to prepare for the next season since Rwanda offers bi-modal (two season) farming.

Rwandan farmers depend still heavily on natural rain. This past season has provided sufficient but not excessive rain during the rainy season, thus promising a good harvest. But during the rainy season, there were a few times when the rain appeared to be too much. We thank God who allowed just enough rain this season!

The following photos show some of the scenes related to the harvest time of rice farmers.

[A farmer explaining how the loan was helpful to him]

                       [One of the rice drying places]

Rice field ready for the next season

[A woman farmer who is happy with the harvest]

                       [Paddy rice collected in bags]

In 2011, we provided input financing for 1208 farmers. In 2012, we plan to finance 6,000 farmers. We need to seek God's grace for adequate rain more than ever. It is a risky business, but it is essential for the farmers. - Jeffrey

Saturday, February 4, 2012

BDF Strategic Meeting

Minister Kanimba at BDF Launch in 2011
On Saturday, February 4th, there was a strategic meeting for BDF board members and senior management. BDF is the only credit guarantee agency in Rwanda. BDF has been mandated to develop credit guarantee scheme for the SME (Small Medium Enterprise) and agricultural sectors in Rwanda and to provide business advisory services for business enterprises. I have the privilege of chairing the Board.

This strategic meeting was held to document the paradigm shifts that are taking place within BDF and to establish key principles for the new management to follow in their execution. Since BDF was launched in 2011, many government organizations have send their funds related to SMEs and agriculture along with heightened expectations for delivering performance that may not fit into the mission statement of BDF. These principles should provide a boundary and shield for the management to use as necessary.

The meeting went very well and 12 principles have been drawn. Also it was a constructive session for the new board and management to enhance their mutual understandings of the organization's expectations. We have an ideal mix of seven board members: a Ph.D. in statistics, a representative from Ministry of Trade and Commerce, country director of East African Development Bank with legal background, a commercial banker, an accountant, a marketing executive and myself.

I am grateful for the opportunity to make contribution to the foundation of governance for this infant organization and also for the successful outcome drawn out of the meeting. May this new agency help the SMEs start, grow and succeed through enhanced access to financing! - Jeffrey

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ministry Updates - January 2012

Dear friends, family and fellow Kingdom workers,

January of each year is a slow month and it was not an exception in this January. On the other hand, this January kept us pretty busy receiving many visitors as well as closing the 2011 book and setting up new goals and objectives for 2012. The following are the highlights of our ministry in January

1. UOB received several visitors in January. Among them were a) Peter Greer, CEO and Dave Wasic, VP of Hope International, b) 4 global MBA students from Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School, (explained further below) c) Saang Keub Lee, an intern from S. Korea, d) Ji-young Rhee and David Kim, E3Empower from San Jose, California, (covered in the previous month update), e) Kristine and Sam, interns from Harvard College, f) 7 students from Handong University, S. Korea, (venture development with Rwandan students) and g) a medical and dental mission team of eight members from S. Korea.(explained further below)  They all were important guests to UOB and Rwanda.

2. Kristin had been involved in training economically disadvantaged 20 women in Kinyinya Church with sewing skills and English for the past eight months. In January, there was a graduation ceremony, as traditional in Rwanda for any training and education, at Kinyinya Church. Some dropped out but 16 graduated from the training program with 10 having passed the final test. These 10 have received sewing machines and have begun their commercial operations. We know it will take a while before they may be sustainable, but we rejoiced in the Lord that they finished the training and have made the first step towards self-sustainability.

3. Global MBA students from Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School worked on designing an ideal mix of agents to serve UOB's clients in Gicumbi and Kiramuruzi through mobile banking platform. During their 3-week stay, a team of four students worked together with UOB staff on GIS mapping of client locations and prospective agent locations on Google Map, and on analyzing and recommending the best options. They were impressive with sharp analytic skills and excellent presentations. 

4. Kristin coordinated a medical and dental mission program for Hearts and Hands International, involving an eight-member team from S. Korea. They provides services in two villages in Gicumbi in cooperation with UOB and in two other places in Musanze. They also treated patients at S. Korean Embassy. It is noteworthy that UOB actively participated in this program and UOB clients received medical and dental services. We are considering providing this service for UOB clients in other areas throughout the year.

5. UOB's loan portfolio contracted to Rwf7.4 Billion from Rwf7.6 Billion, a month earlier, reflecting the slow seasonality and in light of the seasonal peak in December. Moreover, we saw substantial early payoffs in December, which caused a reduction in loan disbursements in January. The deposit balance remained pretty flat from December 31st 2011.

6. UOB's loan portfolio quality declined in January with PAR>30 days increasing to 1.43%. This hike in PAR>30 was due primarily to the failure of processing repayments of Rwf10M on time due to a connectivity problem in Rusizi and to a couple of MBLs that are waiting to be paid off.

7. For 2011, UOB achieved the operating self-sustainability and it is now official! For January 2012, it is too early to tell since the book has not been closed yet, but we expect it to be a slow month. The overall trend is on an up trend, however.

8. For the month of December, the number of clients who received at least one lesson of HLI training was 6,863. We desire to see this number grow significantly in 2012. 

9. UOB completed its in-house alpha testing for mobile and agent banking in December and part of January 2012. We will begin the beta testing with four groups in Kigali from the first week of February. This is an exciting development but we need your prayer support so that this pilot testing will go smoothly and we will learn as many lessons as possible to make our expected commercial launch seamless.

10. We held the UOB Day in January. We celebrated God Almighty with praises, prayers and preaching for who He is and what He has done in 2011! We have chosen the spiritual and management theme for 2012 at "IN CHRIST." It is such a rich theme that we plan to explore and learn about it throughout 2012. Of course, we use IN CHRIST as an acronym to help implement UOB's management objectives.   

11. Korean missionaries in Rwanda continued the monthly prayer fellowship and it was a blessing to us all. We hope to see this fellowship develop further to collaboration that will produce synergy for His Kingdom. 

12. Jeffrey continued serving God's people through preaching at UOB staff devotion and Agape Korean Church in Rwanda. He also led the weekly Shalom Bible Study, studying the Sermon on the Mount. It is a time of mutual blessing and spiritual growth.

13. We have the following Prayer Requests: Please...

      * Pray for the UOB's continuing holistic transformational development in Rwanda.
      * Pray for the scheduled beta pilot testing for mobile and agent banking in February.
      * Pray for a scaled-up progress in UOB's agricultural lending program.
      * Pray for successful visits of OI US, OI Canada and OI UK teams scheduled for February. 
      * Pray for God's wisdom and guidance in designing effective educational finance products
      * Pray for our children (Amanda + James, and Joyce) to learn what God has in store for their lives on earth. 
      * Pray for God's peacefulness in the heart of Kristin's mom during her last days of life on earth

We appreciate your partnership with us through your prayer and support!   

Joyfully IN CHRIST,

Jeffrey and Kristin Lee from Kigali, RWANDA,

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Feb 1, 2012 - Third Anniversary Day of Arriving in Rwanda...

Three years ago, on February 1, Kristin and I arrived in Rwanda. It was Sunday.

I had a week to take over from my predecessor. During this week, Kristin found a place to live and we signed a lease. It all happened just like we planned it in advance. But we know it was God's providence.

From then on, three years have gone by really fast. People use expressions for time, like "flying arrow" and "flying bullet." Indeed we felt exactly the same way.

During this time, we experienced abundant God's grace. We realized how loving, how good and how faithful He has been. Despite our deficiencies, inadequacy and unpreparedness, He used us for His Kingdom and His people beyond our imagination.

There were discouraging and frustrating times, of course. Sometimes, we were wondering where He was and what He had in mind. At times, we were asking why He brought us to Rwanda among many other countries.

Through these times, however, He let us know, in His perfect timing, of His will, His purpose and His way. He has been amazing in abundant love. It was amazing grace.

People have started asking us when we would return (to the U.S.) Our response is "We do not know." We have not been serious about asking Him when and where. But returning to a place on earth is meaningless to us. Because the only places for us to return to are to the dirt in body and to the Father God in spirit. We want to live on earth. The planet earth. Wherever He leads us, we shall follow.

Wherever we live and whatever we do, however, we want to live according to His will and to do what will please Him.  

May God make His face shine upon us again in the next part of our journey on earth! Until all have heard. May His Kingdom come! - Jeffrey