EDITORIAL: Commonwealth meeting presents rare opportunities for businesses

Saturday February 19 2022
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Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Vincent Biruta (left) and Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland at a press conference in Kigali. PHOTO | FILE


Businesses are picking up bits and pieces to resume operations after two years of largely being inactive because of the Covid19 pandemic that ravaged the economy.

As the pandemic wrecked havoc, some businesses capitulated while others used a lot of energy and extra resources to remain standing by the time lockdowns were lifted and curfews extended.

Putting the curfew at midnight and business closing time at 11PM was a big reprieve to many businesses, however, many of them are yet to resume their loan repayment because they haven't started making money.

As a matter of fact, a cross section of businesses need additional capital injection to start making money, but as it stands banks are reluctant to give credit to many businesses. Banks also being businesses it is not surprising when they exercise risk averseness especially at a time when the ratio of Non performing loans has been going up in the last two years, but again this is not the time to abandon their
customers, not when the economy is opening up and re- covering. 

At the height of the pandemic the Rwanda central bank directed all commercial banks to give moratoriums to the most hit businesses and also came up with a guarantee fund to aid their recovery. However, the working capital window where businesses could apply and access money to help kickstart operations, was woefully under subscribed largely because banks put difficult requirements.

This resulted into many businesses missing out on getting the financial support they critically needed to get back on their feet. The upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled to be hosted in Rwanda this coming June presents a big opportunity for a number of businesses especially those in the service sector, but inability to access credit might limit some from operating at their full potential.


It would therefore be prudent for banks to come up with special products for businesses or their clients that have tenders related to offering services or supplying products to the CHOGM event. The meeting, which is one of the biggest events in the world, is expected to be attended by 10,000 delegates from 54 countries, and it is estimated that the meeting and delegates will inject up to USD780million into the economy. 

It would therefore be a shame if that money goes back simply because businesses didn't get financing to be ready to cash in on CHOGM.

Even in these past two stormy years banks have been profitable, which is a good thing for the economy, it is therefore important that they plough back some of these profits into the economy through financing businesses. 

It doesn't make sense that even sectors that have performed well during these past two years, like mining thanks to a spike in mineral prices on the international market, are struggling to get financing after their buyers  halted the pre-financing arrangement due to the pandemic.