October was the third month in a row, which showed signs of improvement in UOB's performance. Both active borrowing client number and loan portfolio balance have increased in three months in a row. The October performance was only a slight improvement, but I would still say that it is a now trend. I thank God for His favor in this turnaround and also for all our staff who has worked tirelessly to produce this result as a team.
The following summarizes the highlights of what God has done through UOB and our lives in October:
1. Kristin and I attended Opportunity International's CEO Conference held in Mombasa, Kenya. This conference took place soon after a terrorist attack at Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, but we are grateful that we all were kept safe. On the same day we left Mombasa, a Muslim cleric was killed, which triggered a riot in Mombasa. Whenever I see this kind of conflict, I end up praying for the Lord's hasty return. But we all know that He will return in His time and all these conflicts will be settled in His way.
2. Jeffrey attended the board meetings of RSwitch and BDF. God provides us with opportunities to lead and learn from these ministries.
3. UOB started business operations at Gisozi Branch in October. We plan to hold the grand opening ceremony in December.
4. UOB held two strategic planning sessions with senior leadership team to conduct the SWOT analysis and define strategic initiatives for each team. Collectively all these have been put into use in updating the three year strategic plan (2014-2016) and 2014 business plan/budget. The draft version has been submitted to Opportunity International Global Operations and Finance leadership for their review and input.
5. BNR, Rwanda's central bank, issued the Examination Report on UOB and we submitted our Responses to the Examination Report in October. God uses even regulators to teach us how to run a bank safely and soundly to fulfill the stewardship responsibility.
6. UOB received the second installment of the capital injection planned for 2013 from its shareholders in October, totaling $500 thousands. With this capital injection, UOB will be able to continue its growth for the next three years.
7. UOB has been successfully establishing two special credit lines with Kiva.org to finance the agricultural input loans and community impact loans. The former has been in existence for quite some time, but the latter is a new loan scheme that is believed to assist cooperatives, community organizations and even municipal governments in producing significant community impact.
8. mHose, UOB's mobile and agent banking platform, has been continuously rolled out to different regions in Rwanda. So far 13,166 clients have signed up for mHose, including more than 2,000 new clients. Also, the number of agents that have signed up reached 100 as of October 31st and they handled more than one million USD in October through 31,673 transactions. This performance is remarkable since the launch was made only in April 2013. Moreover, mVISA has announced that two more commercial banks will join the mVISA ecosystem thus making the participating banks now total five. This network is likely to be the largest and most significant network in providing reliable mobile and agent banking in Rwanda. We are grateful that UOB was the first bank to partner with mVISA in product design and the launch. Praise the Lord! Our clients will have a growing number of client service points throughout the country for easier and more convenient access to the financial services.
9. Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) is a fund that was established by DFID, UK's international development agency and World Bank. AFR has agreed to provide UOB with a grant of $300,000 to support UOB's agent banking expansion in rural areas. Praise the Lord! This is the fifth grant that God has provided for UOB to develop, launch and expand its mobile and agent banking platform over the past three years. He has been faithfully providing the resources over time just when we need them. God is marvelously amazing!
10. UOB has been able to help almost 15,000 farmers with input and production loans in 2013. As we have gained respect and appreciation from farmers and local governments, this program has been significantly scaled up in 2013. Kirehe District Mayor came to the bank asking us to help the District's farmers in early October and we swiftly responded to his request with input/production loans for more than 5,000 farmers. We are grateful for the opportunities to be of help.
11. Jeffrey continued his preaching ministry at Agape Church Rwanda and UOB staff devotion in October. He also continued the teaching ministry with Shalom Bible Study. Kristin and Jeffrey have hosted Korean Missionary Fellowship monthly prayer meeting. Jeffrey also initiated a face book group for Shalom Bible Study members who are now scattered around the world. Gradually, the face book group is drawing participation from members and is believed to help grow spiritually and facilitate fellowship with each other.
12. Prayer Requests:
- As announced, UOB is in the process of searching for a new CEO. Please pray that God will send my successor in time, who will be the most suitable to lead UOB team to the next level in serving the underprivileged people of Rwanda. To see the blog post regarding this new CEO search, click here.
- Rwanda is not exempt from climate change that is occurring all over the world. September and October were the planting season but many farmers have not completed their planting because of insufficient rain. Please pray that Rwandan farmers will have adequate rain during this important season for planting.
- Rwanda is improving with the money flow in the market place. But the economic activities are not like before. Please pray that Rwanda may recover fully its previous level of economic activities for the sake of the poor who are suffering most.
- UOB's mHose roll out is critical in relieving lending staff from handing cash in serving the clients. Muhanga District Police Commander has given us a deadline to stop all cash handling by November 15th. We have changed our mHose roll out plan to expedite the agent deployment in Muhanga to meet the deadline, but it is not that easy and simple. Please pray that our efforts will bear fruit, but the Police will also be patient during this transition period.
- Kristin and Jeffrey are prayerfully waiting for God to speak where He is leading us for the next mission and ministry opportunities, hopefully after a break in 2014. Please remember to pray with us and for us so that we may be able to discern His will and guidance correctly.
- Jeffrey will travel to Amman, Jordan in November to share the mHose roll-out experience at Women's World Banking Conference, focusing on serving women. Also he will be preparing for the UOB board meeting to be held during the first week of December. Please remember to pray for travel mercy and for discerning God's divine will towards appropriate priority management.
- Also please pray for Amanda and James who are in transition in their lives, and for the safety and health protection of Joyce who is serving in Senegal as Peace Corps volunteer,
We sincerely thank you all for your prayer support by standing with us in our ministries. "May God bless you and keep you; may God make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; may God turn His face toward you and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)
Gratefully and joyfully in His service,
Jeffrey and Kristin from Kigali, Rwanda.