Rwanda eyes larger banks, lower bad debts

Last year, one of the country’s largest banks, Bank of Kigali, listed its shares after a successful initial public offering. Rwanda also granted an operating licence in the country to Kenya’s Equity Bank.

Gatete also said Rwanda plans to reduce loan defaults in the industry to 5 percent of total loans in the medium-term, and cut non-performing loans in the industry to under 7 percent this year from 8 percent, to ensure the sector’s continued health.

Total outstanding credit by banks in the country stood at 509 billion Rwandan francs ($847 million) at the end of last year, he said.

Gatete said the main risks facing the country’s projected growth of 7.6 percent this year – from a forecast 8.8 percent in 2011 – stemmed from the euro zone debt crisis.

“It all depends on external shocks. We don’t know what is happening in the euro zone which is one of our big trading partner,” he said.

“We don’t know what factors will drive oil prices. It also depends on whether the famine in the Horn of Africa will persist.”

The projected growth for this year will be driven by the agricultural sector, tourism and exports, which grew by 53 percent last year to almost $400 million, Gatete said.

“We expect significant growth this year now that the government is making it a priority to support the export market,” he said.

Year-on-year inflation is projected to stay below 7.5 percent this year after hitting a high of 8.3 percent in 2011.

Gatete said the franc’s exchange rate would be stable to the dollar with market forces determining the rate.

“For us, we intervene when there is any kind of shock … we have sufficient reserves,” he said, adding the central bank holds hard currencies worth 7.7 months of import cover, far above the requirement of four months.

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