Monday, December 31, 2012

Wraping Up 2012

Sunset in Serengeti
The year 2012 is now fading away.

On the last day of 2012, I look back the first day of the year. New hope, new vision, new resolutions. They centered around "being more like Christ and living more a life worthy of His calling."

365 days have gone by and I have gained one additional year of age. Have I been more like Christ and living more a life worthy of His calling? Well...

A lot of things have happened in 2012.

  • We continued enjoying the privilege of being used in the Lord's ministry. Preaching, teaching, memorizing, thinking, vision casting, implementing, planning, making decisions, leading, following, doing, praying, praising, worshiping, serving, achieving, launching, initiating, scaling up, controlling, reporting, approving, declining, presenting, etc. (no particular order)
  • We also enjoyed traveling, laughing, giggling, playing, eating, drinking, seeing old friends, meeting new people, watching beautiful scenery, visiting historical landmarks. What a life!
  • In the midst, we sense we have moved one step closer to the Lord in faith and His likeness. I know. I know. We are still far off, but trusting in His promise for completion of good work He began in us, we move forward. 
I remember George Bush Senior's statement in paraphrase.

"When you are at the deathbed, what will matter most will not be things or achievements, such as money, fame, degrees, awards, but relationships as represented by three "F's." Faith that defines our spiritual relationship with God Almighty. Family that defines your blood and covenant relationship. And friends that define your societal relationship. I should focus more on enhancing these relationships.

I also remember Jim Eliott's statement:

"He is no fool who gives away what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." 

Jim referred to giving away his physical life to gain a soul to Jesus, but it could also be used as giving away things you cannot keep, such as money, knowledge, skills, to gain relationships or souls to Jesus.

So another year is going away into the past. As I cross the timeline from 2012 to 2013, I reassure myself of the old hope, old vision and old resolution:

"I shall be more like Christ in 2013 and live more a life worthy of His calling."  

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." (2 Corinthians 4:16) 

"Thank you, Lord, for keeping us alive and using us for Your ministry in many capacities. I pray that You will lead us to be more like You and to live more a life worthy of Your calling in 2013." - Jeffrey

First 26 Agents Approved by the Central Bank...

mHose is UOB's mobile banking platform. It provides not only mobile banking transactions, such as cash deposit, cash withdrawal, send and receive, purchase airtime, making remote bill payment etc., but also interest on deposits and free life insurance coverage up to three beneficiaries.

These mobile banking features are pretty attractive to many clients.

These mobile banking features, however, are not so useful without cash access points for the clients. Our branches can serve our clients, but our branch network is not enough to serve all our clients. So we recruit agents that can provide such services for our clients at a fee. The more agents, the more access points our clients will have.

But we cannot increase the number of agents without restriction because if there are too many agents then the business volume each agent will have will be reduced, thus making it an unattractive business for the agents. Thus, the number of agents will have to be balanced against the business volume each agent will be provided for.

So, there is a trade-off between the number of agents and the business volume.

UOB has received approval from the central bank on 26 agents. This is the first batch of agents UOB will work with to carry out its pilot launch of mHose. The agents include mostly retail outlets and petroleum stations. This number will grow continually in 2013 and the type of agents will also be diversified.

Another competitive advantage of mHose is that it is interoperable with other bank mobile agents through mVISA, VISA's mobile banking platform. Currently Bank of Kigali and UOB are the only two banks that participate in mVISA's interoperable solution. This will help us help each other by not duplicating the agent network where the other bank already has agents.

Interoperable mobile and agent banking solution is the first of its kind in the world.

Moreover, mHose offers interest on deposits and free life insurance to clients. It is my prayer that mHose clients will benefit from these additional features to earn interest on their hard-earned money and also to be able to manage their life risk better.

It surely it a good case for financial inclusion. Lord, we seek your favor in this project. - Jeffrey

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shalom Bible Study 2012

Class on December 28th 2012
As we see the year 2012 now fading away into the past, I reflect on Shalom Bible Study (SBS). SBS has been one of the primary spiritual blessings that I have received in 2012. It has kept me awake and on the tip toe to prepare for the class diligently. For that I am deeply grateful to God and to the SBS members.

I have witnessed substantial changes in the attitudes of SBS members in loving and serving the Lord. I clearly saw increased commitments to their faith among many of them. I trust we all grow together in our faith and maturity in faith.

In 2012, SBS covered several topics including "Beatitudes",  "Believers' Full Armour of God." Currently we are studying "Colossians."

As a group, we also participated in other activities, such as Carol Service at St. Etienne and special song at Agape Korean Church. (Photos). In 2012, we climbed Mt. Kabuye together as part of farewell to four members who left at the same time. Our farewell is not simply saying good-bye. It is a commissioning of them to a new ministry field in Korea. Many are still connected through e-mails and SBS study materials. It is encouraging to see them live a godly life.

Special Song at Agape Korean Church
In 2012, several people have left SBS to go back to Korea. Isaac, Saangkeub, Min-Jung, Anna, Yurim, Hyosu, Minki. There were several visitors also. Booyeol, Jinbo, Nahae, Jason, Jennifer, In October, I had a reunion with former SBS members over lunch in Seoul and I had great joy of seeing eight of them again. Min-Jung, Anna, Yurim, Hyosu, Isaac, Saangkeub, Jihun and Sangmin. Oh what a joy it was!

We also received many new comers. Jihyun, Youngsup, Jaejoon, Sungeun, Jonghak and Keunwha. They all are lovely people of God and I love them thoroughly.
Christmas Dinner

As usual, we gathered together to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus on the Christmas Day. We had a fabulous dinner and great fellowship over card game, domino game and others.

Yesterday, December 28th, we had the last class for 2012. All attended the class, except for Se-Jun Park who is visiting his family in
Carol Song at St. Etienne Cathedral
Kenya, and one visitor, Jungwha, also attended. Here is the photo. I am so grateful to God for His unfailing grace in holding us together and growing mature in our faith in 2012. I pray that His grace may continue to be upon us as we put our feet into the new year 2013! Until we will witness God's complete Shalom restored in His Kingdom and on this earth! - Jeffrey  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

English Bibles for Gisenyi Pastors...

UOB has been engaged in distributing 7,000 English bibles to Rwandans in 2012. 1,000 bibles have already been distributed, primarily in Gicumbi and Kigali. Now the rest of the English bibles is being distributed nationwide.

These English bibles have been provided by Bible League in the U.S.

It is great joy to be part of this exciting ministry. One family at a time, Rwandans will have enhanced access to the Word of God more and more.

Our English bible distribution has been primarily to UOB's selected clients, primarily officers of trust groups. This time, we have added another dimension to the bible distribution ministry. We have worked with another missionary who is engaged in teaching the local pastors.

This time, we have worked with Rev. O-Young Kim, who is a missionary from Korea. He has been serving in Rwanda for the past six years.

He has been teaching 30 local pastors in Gisenyi, Rubavu, a most northern district, and he has decided to distribute English bibles to them. He said that the pastors were so delighted to have the English bibles. We are joyful and grateful to hear the news. Missionary Kim has shared a few photos. - Jeffrey

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

DFID Rwanda... Innovation for Education

Nathan and Kamari, Dir of Lending UOB
UOB received approval on its funding proposal to DFID Rwanda under its Innovation for Education (ifE) program. This proposal, approved for GBP610,000 is to introduce an innovative way to promote education in Rwanda through holistic approaches over the next 28 months. This has been made possible because OI UK program team (Deborah and Sally) and Director Edu Finance in Africa (Nathan) have worked tirelessly and selflessly to secure this resource for UOB. Praise the Lord!

DFID stands for Department of Finance for International Development, UK's international development agency.

Under this program, UOB will implement a) school development loans and education for school entrepreneurs or "edupreneurs" as some people call them, b) school tuition fee loans and education for parents and c) children financial education. UOB's program thus is holistic towards innovative education using multi-pronged approaches.

To implement this program effectively, UOB has hired a Manager of EduFinance who has experiences in both banking and education. We are excited about this opportunity to be part of Rwanda's education improvement process.

We praise the Lord who always provides sufficiently to meet the needs. May we seek God's favor in implementing this program effectively. - Jeffrey

Thursday, December 20, 2012

mVISA... now official and UOB

VISA is the world's largest and best known e-payment service provider. But its service has been centering around plastic cards, both debit and credit cards. 

No longer the case.

VISA, on Tuesday, December 10th, 2012, made a formal announcement about the launch of mVISA, its mobile banking solution. Also it stated that it will be launched with Bank of Kigali and UOB. This announcement was made in a soft tone as part of VISA's press release on extending its Charter of Collaboration with the Rwandan government for the next three years. VISA plans to make a further announcement about mVISA at Barcelona mobile banking conference. 

The following is the quote.

Deploying Mobile Solutions To Reach The Under-Served 

Visa has launched a new mobile service designed to meet basic banking needs of Rwanda’s unbanked and underserved population. The service, mVISA, overcomes lack of access to physical bank branches and works across different financial institutions and mobile networks. The offering comes with optional outsourced processing services based on technology from Fundamo, a South African company acquired by Visa in 2011. mVisa is being launched with Bank of Kigali and Urwego Opportunity Bank.

For the full press release, here is the link.

UOB is doing the FUT (Friends and Family User Test) in a live environment and we expect to take over the platform for our own use soon. Agents are being signed up and transactions are being made. Staff training continues and call center training is also gearing up. Marketing materials have been designed and radio campaign will begin in January. Slowly but surely we are making progress. We plan to continue our FUT in December and the commercial launch is expected in January 2013.

UOB is using mVISA platform, but mVISA is not the only function that UOB's mobile banking product, called mHose, has. mHose means "mobile everywhere." mHose is competitive against other mobile banking solutions based on its interoperability. An interoperable mobile phone enabled agent banking solution is the first of its kind in the world. Moreover, even within mVISA ecosystem, mHose is competitive based on its additional features, such as interest on the balance and free life insurance provided on the basis of the savings balance.

To be part of this launch, UOB has also received the "Principal Member" status, although somewhat restricted, from VISA. UOB is the first MFI in the word, which has received this status from VISA. We are honored.

We are excited about this relationship with VISA and the opportunity that mVISA and mHose will bring to Rwandans. - Jeffrey 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

COMESA in Africa...

COMESA stands for Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. It is a union of the central bankers in 19 countries in Africa.

It was created in December 1994 with a big goal, but its reality is now "economic prosperity through regional integration", particularly to promote free trade among the member nations through cooperation and proactive intervention.

Here are some statistics for COMESA countries:
  • 19 countries including Rwanda, Burundi, Egypt, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Libya, Malawi, Swaziland, Sudan etc.
  • 20 central bankers
  • 423 million people
  • 12.8 million square km
  • GDP growth 5.1%
  • Intra-COMESA trade $18.8 billion (2011)
Minister Kanimba Delivering a Speech
I was privileged to attend the COMESA's 18th meeting held at Hotel de Millie Collines in December 2012 in Rwanda. Rwanda's central bank, National Bank of Rwanda, hosted the event. The guest of honor was the Minister of Trade and Commerce, Mr. Francois Kanimba. Mr. Kanimba was Rwanda's central bank governor for 10 years prior to the current post. 

COMESA launched the intra-COMESA affordable settlement system, called REPPS or Regional Electronic Payment and Settlement System. This system settles among central banks within COMESA, thus bypassing the traditional correspondent bank system for international trade transactions. It is not uncommon for a trade business to pay 3-5% fees for an international trade transactions but REPPS can handle the same transaction at 0.25% of the transaction amount. That will be significant cost savings. Moreover, the settlement time will be shorter at T+1 day. REPPS will be secure with transactions communicated through SWIFT and cleared through the central bank in Mauritius.
It sounds like a good idea.
Currently, only Mauritius and Rwanda have signed up. Swaziland, Zambia, Egypt and Kenya are in line to sign up also. I saw a regional cooperative union in action for efficiency and result. May this become a good example of an efficient and effective regional union in Africa and else where. - Jeffrey 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christian Microfinance for Holistic Transformation...

This article is from Opportunity International's Blog.

Serving the Whole Person with Opportunity’s Transformation Program

“It’s the dignity of it” was how one African loan client expressed herself to an off-duty staff member standing in line at an Opportunity International bank. She knew she had achieved success through the work of her own hands. Four million such stories play out each day all over the world as Opportunity strives to provide clients with the products and services they need to achieve economic, personal and social transformation.
Loan officer Valamarthi (right) delivers transformational training to the Roja Trust Group, including loan client Deepa (left) in Chennai, India.
Loan officer Valamarthi (right) delivers transformational training to the Roja Trust Group, including loan client Deepa (left) in Chennai, India.
“Poverty is not just a deficit, not just a lack of resources, it’s a deprivation,” said Daniel Ryumugabe, transformational impact manager for Opportunity Rwanda. “If you offer only one solution — loans — the client cannot get out of the poverty trap because of other environmental problems, such as poor health or financial illiteracy.”
Improved economic status is the most obvious component of Opportunity’s transformation model. With the opportunity to expand a business with a smallloan and training, our clients are able to feed their families and put their children in school. They develop steady incomes and create jobs to help their neighbors improve their lives. Opening asavings account and purchasing insurance exponentially expands their economic choices.
Opportunity also believes in personal transformation — helping people build their capacity not just in business, but in life. Through Trust Groups, Opportunity’s gateway lending model, clients learn life-saving information about HIV prevention and disaster planning, in addition to business skills. They also discover more effective ways to communicate and resolve conflicts with family members and others in their communities.
The support a client enjoys from her Trust Group, and the nurturing she receives from her loan officer, who is equal parts advocate and counselor, lead to an understanding that others are invested in her. This awareness fosters her growing sense of self-worth and confidence. Additionally, the administrative, financial and managerial skills she learns reinforce her determination to plan and save for a better future.
Transformational impact manager Daniel Ryumugabe meets with farming client Felicite Mukandahiro in Kibungo, Rwanda.
Transformational impact manager Daniel Ryumugabe meets with farming client Felicite Mukandahiro in Kibungo, Rwanda.
When businesses and individuals thrive, it strengthens the community’s social fabric, thereby contributing to social transformation. Former loan client Valamarthi became a loan officer for Opportunity India after experiencing transformation in her own life. Moved by the plight of those at the lowest rung of India’s caste system, she resolved to help traditionally stigmatized communities of lepers and gypsies to create better lives for themselves, and convinced Opportunity to offer them loans. Said Valamarthi, “It is our way of telling them, ‘We value you as people. We’re invested in you. You’re as worthy as the rest of us.’”
Opportunity now teaches marginalized groups to make and sell candles and other products, and has partnered with an organization that trains them to refurbish bicycles. Valamarthi said that the gypsies, typically nomadic, have settled, built homes and are sending their children to school — a social upgrade that would have been much more difficult prior to working with Opportunity.
Opportunity’s Code of Conduct — 10 guiding principles posted in each Opportunity branch in the local language — ensures all clients are treated with dignity, fairness and respect. In fulfillment of the code, we strive to make all fees transparent, clearly explain contractual obligations, and support our clients in their transformational life change.
Further, Opportunity encourages clients to live selflessly, embracing a love of community and neighbor, and to care especially for people who are more impoverished or marginalized than they.
At Opportunity, we’re not just about microfinance, we’re about transformation. For our clients’ sakes, we are committed to the creation and delivery of the best financial services possible to help them transform their businesses, their lives and their communities.
This article was the cover story in the fall 2012/winter 2013 issue of Opportunity’s Impactnewsletter.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ministry Updates - November 2012

November was another month of experiencing God's overflowing grace. Glory be to the Lord God Almighty!

Relationship Staff training clients on household finance
The following were the highlights of our ministry in November:

1. Jeffrey and Kristin attended the Opportunity International Africa/Eastern Europe CEO Conference held at Zanzibar, Tanzania. (October 31st and November 1st) The conference was for building up on the Strategic Blue Print that was shared at the September Global Leadership Conference held in Oxford, U.K. I had the privilege of presenting about Client Presentation. We had the bonus of enjoying the fantastic beauty of Zanzibar's coastal lines.

2. UOB received high powered visitors in November. They included Harry Turner, CEO of OIN GMO (Global Microfinance Operations, David Simms, Chairman of OIN Global Board, Stanley Tsikirayi, CEO of Opportunity Tanzania, OI US Insight Trip team, Edity board members (Chris, Rodney, Dale), Merry Year International management and Tom Philipps, a Christian Kingdom businessman. They all witnessed how God is working through UOB to empower the underprivileged people of Rwanda.

Harry Turner with COOPAG farmers
3. UOB celebrated the opening of its ninth branch in Ngoma, Eastern Province, which is 42nd business outlet for UOB. Local officials and David Simms, OIN Global Board Chairman helped open the branch. We held a parade in the town with UOB's mobile branch, 25 motorcyclists, 10 roller blade riders and a radio anchor woman promoting the bank's newest branch. UOB is now working on two other branches.

4. God provided additional resources for UOB in November. UOB received approval on in its grant funding proposal for 650,000 British Sterling Pounds ($1 million equivalent!) under DFID's Innovation for Education program. OI UK team (Deborah and Sally) and Nathan Byrd played a significant role in securing this funding. Praise the Lord! OI UK also submitted another proposal to DFID UK for agricultural financing. UOB submitted an Expression of Interest for collaboration to USAID Ejo Heza, led by CHF International. Collaboration produces synergy.

5. UOB held an off-site prudential meeting with BNR (Rwanda's central bank) in November for the third quarter performance. UOB maintained a favorable rating from the central bank based on its safe and sound performance. Excellence by the regulatory guideline is the foundation for the opportunity to point to the Lord who is the real CEO of UOB.

6. UOB project team worked on preparing for the final launch of mHose, an interoperable mobile and agent banking solution. It is scheduled for a soft launch in December. UOB lending staff also worked on finalizing its product design for secondary student tuition fee loan (SSL) to be launched in January 2013. UOB insurance team worked on designing the new premier credit life (to be named in Kinyarwanda) to be launched in January 2013. This will replace its current Enhanced Credit Life.

7. UOB's performance in November remained almost unchanged from October. It is normally a slow season for economic activities after planting crops. Moreover the insecurity in Eastern part of DR Congo that is bordering Rwanda has created fear and uncertainty among many Rwandans. Historically this area has been at the center of many conflicts and please pray with us for this area to regain the peace and stability not in a human way but in a way that clearly evidences God's intervention.

8. UOB and Jeffrey were privileged to be featured in a few video clips produced by OI Canada. Here are the links.

A boy who could benefit from nursery...
9. Kristin visited the Gicumbi Church twice to check the progress of building a nursery for little children. God has provided ample resources for this project through many people He has chosen. A separate report will be made to the supporters. Praise the Lord! Kristin and I also visited a site in Bugesera to explore the possibility of building another nursery in cooperation with a pastor.

10. Jeffrey continued serving God's people through preaching at St. Etienne Cathedral, Agape Korean Church and UOB staff devotion, and leading the Shalom Bible Study. SBS is still studying the precious and profound epistle of Apostle Paul to the Colossians. We are blessed by these preaching and teaching ministry opportunities.

11. Here are the topics for which we are seeking your prayer support:
  • God's intervention in the DR Congo conflicts. The conflicts affect hundreds of thousands of people, including innocent children and Rwandans living in the border area.
  • Insightful thinking and wise judgment under the uncertain situations as we are working on the 2013 budget and 3-year strategic plan.
  • Long-term perspective and deep commitment to UOB's holistic transformation as we plan to scale up its efforts in 2013, including Holistic Life Improvement training, Spiritual and Social Performance Management system, God Provides DVD resources, financial literacy training radio campaign, children education on financial literacy etc.
  • Successful preparation and launch of mHose, SSL and premier credit life products.
  • Successful construction of Gicumbi nursery, Huye Branch and Gisozi Branch.
  • Peaceful and hopeful lives for our parents
  • Godly lives for our children in service for His Kingdom people
Thank you very much for standing with us in prayer and with support!


Jeffrey and Kristin Lee from Kigali, RWANDA