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Diane Karusisi: ‘We still have the country to serve’

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Challenging the East African Community

By Clement Uwiringiyimana, in Kigali
Posted on Friday, 8 March 2019 16:30

Diane Karusisi, CEO of Bank of Kigali. Photogenix Studio

The CEO of Bank of Kigali, Rwanda’s biggest bank by assets and market share, says the bank has been raising funds to expand at home, eschewing the East African Community-focused plans of some of its regional competitors

Rwanda’s biggest bank by assets and market share has been raising funds to expand at home, eschewing the East African Community-focused plans of some of its regional competitors. Bank of Kigali raised $70m in November 2018 through a rights issue and then listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange both to help it grow its insurance business and launch investment banking activities this year.

The Africa Report: What do you think about Bank of Kigali’s recent performance?

Of late, the bank has grown into a group that offers financial services. Now we have a tech business, we have an insurance business and we have investment banking also. We haven’t yet released our financials for 2018 but it will be in line with the growth we have seen in the past, and we expect maybe 2019 to be a better year than 2018 because of the pipeline we have. We have a number of loans in the pipeline and the economy is actually performing very well. […] We always promise and deliver double-digit growth not only on the balance sheet but also on the bottom-line profit after tax, which is something we have delivered consistently. […] We raised capital last year, so we have more capital to deploy and that’s why we are very optimistic.

Your bank is getting involved in big projects. Which are most important to the bank and the country?

When you look at the past, there are iconic projects in the country like the Kigali Convention Centre – the Marriott hotel is also one of our clients – and these have changed the landscape of our country in terms of making Kigali a major ­destin­ation of conference tourism on the continent. Projects we are now financing: […] a cement plant, and cement is one of the highest import bills. We’ve seen in the past crises where people did not find cement to complete their projects, and this is one very important project for the economy that we are financing.

We have more capital to deploy and that’s why we’re optimistic

Obviously Bugesera airport is one new project that we are financing. We are financing a number of big power generation plants. One that we are financing is a peat-to-power plant in Gisagara. We believe these are projects that are transformational but also profitable to the bank. For example, for 2019 we are expecting new loans of about RWF180bn ($202.6m).

Your strategy targets Rwanda and not the region. Why?

We believe we still have the country to serve. You know, we only have less than 30% of adult people in Rwanda with bank accounts. […] We believe it is not the case where people need to go to a branch to open an account and to get services. We want to offer all the services on the phone. That’s why we are investing much money in our IT infrastructure and we want to be not only a universal bank but also a universal financial services company. We want to offer all financial services seamlessly under one brand, be it an insurance policy, be it a loan. We are looking at an investment of $10m into the changes that are required in our core banking systems, in our data infrastructure. This will be ­considerable.

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