Q: What is microcredit?
A: Microcredit is a small business loan made to an entrepreneur who does not qualify for regular bank loans due to poverty and lack of collateral.
Q: What is micro-enterprise development?
A: Micro-enterprise development is a program that provides microloans to poor entrepreneurs along with basic business training, mentoring, financial planning, and leadership development. It also includes financial services such as savings, insurance, and remittances.
Q: What is a Trust Group/ Community Banking Group?
A: A Trust Group/Community Banking Group is a group of typically 15 to 60 entrepreneurs, mainly women, who co-guarantee each other’s loans in order to start small businesses. Clients can bring others to form a new Trust Group, or join a group in a location near their business. Urwego loan officers conduct a 4 week orientation for group members to familiarize themselves with each other and to evaluate the characteristics of the group members. After the orientation, the members in the group provide a social guarantee for each other’s loans, which means that if one member of the group cannot meet her/his payment for one week, then other members of the group will cover the missed payment. The Trust Group/Community Banking Group is a channel for members to share their experiences, build friendships, and provide support for one another. Members of Trust Groups/Community Banking Groups have found this cooperative environment helpful in learning new ways to promote their individual businesses.
Q: What kind of businesses do your clients operate?
A: Urwego’s clients fall into three categories, each with rather distinct economic needs. The first category, the working and laboring poor, is involved in businesses such as subsistence farming, fishing,and selling basic goods or food out of their home or on the street. The second category, the self-employed poor, comprises the majority of the manufacturing and service sectors of the informal economy. They operate home-based commercial and production businesses and sometimes small shops. The third group, the entrepreneurial poor, operates larger businesses that create jobs in the community.
Q: How many clients does Urwego serve? How many branches does Urwego operate?
A: We are proud to serve over 157,376* clients with microloans and savings products. Urwego has 46 offices/branches and an operational presence in all 30 districts of Rwanda, as well as nine deposit-taking branches. Four are located in the capital of Kigali and one recently opened in Ngoma (November 2012). We hope to continue expanding our product offerings and branch locations to better serve the economically-active poor in Rwanda with financial services and related training.
*All numbers and figures as of September 30, 2012
Q: Do your clients have a good record of repaying their loans?
A: Yes, our clients have maintained an average repayment rate of more than 98* percent.
*Numbers and figures derived from PAR>30 as of September 30, 2012
Q: Do you charge interest?
A: Yes. The money earned from the interest goes to cover Urwego’s costs and sustain its operations. This ensures that the loan capital is maintained to benefit the community for generations. Experience with lending to the poor has shown that they can afford market interest rates when other lending terms are favorable. Often their only other means of obtaining credit is through loan sharks who may charge as much as 500-1000 percent in annual interest rates.
Since Urwego officers travel to our clients’ homes and offer training and educational services free of charge, our operation costs escalate. Therefore, Urwego charges a fair and necessary interest rate in order to cover our expenses and promote community outreach. We strive to be a financially sustainable institution supported by our clients’ capital rather than donor support. Our objective is to ultimately lower interest rate through continued enhancement in operating efficiency.
Q: What motivates your work?
A: We are motivated by Jesus Christ’s call to serve the poor and the desire to provide a tangible sign of God’s love to all people. Therefore, we actively seek to make our services available to all people regardless of gender, creed, ethnic background, or marital status. We welcome clients and donors or all beliefs.
Our Christian grounding leads us to recognize the importance of social and spiritual transformation in addition to economic transformation. As part of the Hope International Network we work with partner organizations whose board and staff members share our motivation and ethics.
Q: What makes Urwego different? Why should I borrow from or save with you?
A: Our mission to serve economically-active market individuals and micro-entrepreneurs sets us apart from other banks. Our products are designed to be intuitive, available, and comprehensible to prevent complication, hassle, and confusion. Our banking identification technology saves time and expenses that you might confront while opening an account and accessing your funds with other banks. Additionally, Urwego develops products and services to adapt to the needs of our clients. For example, Urwego’s Teganya Savings Account has no minimum opening balance or minimum maintaining balance, and the Ikaze Current Account has unlimited withdrawals. Our variety of group loans allows clients access to capital without collateral, and our transformation training provides a chance for clients to benefit through social guarantees, broader business networks, and deeper connections to their communities.
Most importantly, our mission is to holistically transform the lives of our clients. Our staff are committed to your success by helping you obtain and manage financial resources in order to improve all aspects of life for you and your family.
You should borrow and save with us because honesty and integrity are the principles we promote. We are a large institution from an established international network, hence your money is very safe with us.
Q: Is it difficult to take out a loan or to open an account?
A: It is not difficult to take out a loan or open an account with Urwego. We have designed each of our loan products to be simple to open and operate. With Urwego’s identification technology and dedicated loan officers, opening an account is easy-- simply bring your National I.D. Please see our product offerings for more detailed descriptions and conditions of each.
Q: What documents are needed to take out a loan or to open an account?
A: The documents needed to take out a loan or open an account will vary based on the product, but you must bring a form of identification, such as your national ID card. Please see our individual product offerings for more conditions of each.