Although the microfinance sector in Rwanda is still young, it has grown considerably in a short amount of time.
- Seventy-seven percent of Rwanda’s population lives on less than US$1.25 a day
- The life expectancy is 46 years old
- Five percent of the population have access to electricity and three percent have internet access
- Only 21 percent of the population has completed primary school
- About 1 in every 100 births results in the death of the mother
There are over 200 MFIs in Rwanda, many of which emerged after the genocide in 1994 where 800,000 people were killed in 100 days. Since 2004, the nation has seen the rapid growth of unregistered and unregulated MFIs. Even with this boom of MFIs in Rwanda, both the informal (moneylenders) and formal microfinance sectors are still weak and have only reached a small portion of the estimated demand for microfinance services.
Grameen Foundation saw an opportunity to help MFIs expand their outreach and achieve steady income by offering a new loan product: Village Phone. In collaboration with MTN Rwanda, we launched Village Phone Rwanda in 2006, making it the second Village Phone project in sub-Saharan Africa. This program allows individuals to open a mobile phone business to sell air time to local villagers. There are now more than 5,000 Village Phone Operators providing phone service in Rwanda.