"ATMs never work in Rwanda!" was a common complaint on the Kigalilife, Rwanda's most well known e-mail-based social network. "You cannot use international credit or debit cards in Rwanda" was another.
It is changing, however.
SIMTEL changed its name to RSwitch in 2010. This name change followed the ownership change from the central bank and commercial banks to Africa Development Corporation or ADC in 2008. Commercial banks still maintain a minority ownership, but the most of the ownership is now with ADC.
The name change and ownership change would not have been sufficient to claim that RSwitch's reputation is changing.
The functions and services are also changing. The ATM up-time now has exceeded 90% and aims to reach 96% by the year-end. It is commendable. Also, people now can use both RSwitch'es proprietary cards, called SmartCash and international cards. That is a significant improvement.
But the credibility can hardly be gained over night, particularly when it was damaged and lost. People notice the difference but remain cautious. They want continuity to give the benefit of doubt again.
Someone said: "Trust is difficult to gain and easy to lose. Once lost, it can hardly be regained."
It is the current status. But RSwitch is changing.
The record so far is quite impressive. It is only my wish and prayer that these changes will continue, establish credibility and make the past bitter experiences only a distant memory.
Then, only then, Rwanda can claim that it is now modernizing the financial services sector as well. I remain hopeful with cautious optimism and there is a reason. UOB is distributing 50,000 debit cards to its clients and they carry SmartCash logo and will clear through RSwitch. - Jeffrey