If Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame earns an average of Rwf10m per month for the last 17 years, then he has about Rwf2 billion on his account as savings, after he revealed on Friday evening that he has “never touched” his salary from the day he became president in 2000. That is just an assumption, maybe he earns less or more, but he saves 100% of his salary, he said.
The President was speaking at a gala dinner to celebrate Bank of Kigali’s 50th Anniversary at the Kigali Convention Center. “You must be keeping a lot of money for me, I will find out how much it is later,” he said, arousing laughter, although he was laughing at it as well.
“I haven’t been handling well my finances, someone else handles it for me…it was in the year two thousand, my first salary as president and I told someone ‘why don’t you keep my salary in the bank, and keep putting my salaries that come month after month there’…and it happened to be at Bank of Kigali,” Kagame said.
President Kagame’s revelation was triggered by a gift offered to him at the dinner by the Chairman of the bank, Marc Holtzman, who happens to be one of his great friends and an informal advisor. Holtzman unveiled a Platinum VISA card and President Kagame was given the first card right away. With this card, Holtzman said, customers can exchange the Rwandan Francs and transact on it in five different currencies round the world; the American Dollar, the Canadian Dollar, the Pound, the Euro…
After receiving the prestigious card, President Kagame said he is now going to start spending his money. “Thank you for the Platinum card, I will put it to good use,” he said. “He [Holtzman] was explaining to me how it is useful to travelers, especially; using lounges [and] all kinds of facilities…certainly I am one of those travers who should be happy to enjoy the facilities.”
Earlier, Holtzman had made a speech in which announced several pragmatic innovations the bank will rolling out from now. First he explained that BK has began a robust journey that will see the company undergo another pragmatic transformation in the next one and half years. This will include issuing at least 250,000 debt card and 50,000 credit cards, to enable a the bank tie in an efficient and effective digital payment system on mobile and credit cards.
The Platinum VISA card, he said, will become “a pathway for diaspora remittences.” Much more expected to done using this card, including redeeming flight dream miles, accessing facilities in 1000 airpot lounges, easy transactions, and proper financial management of personal finances. In the fist one year, the card will be issued at no fee as “a symbolic service to BK customers”.
Another product Holtzman said will be on the market soon is one similar to Kenya’s M-Pesa that has fetched Safaricom US$250m. With this product, BK will be introducing a micro-lending package for the smaller customers.
This whole new picture of the bank in the industry comes after it launched two affiliated companies; BK Tech House and BK Insurance, plus the existing BK Brokerage, thus making Bank of Kigali a Group of Companies. The new face of the bank allows it to create an ecosystem where the financier will be in place to become an efficient enabler of economic transformation.
President Kagame was not shy to say that BK has now become the country’s most “iconic and recognizable brands.”
Having been launched in 1967, BK has survived economic hardships, managerial and innovation fatigue, but worst of all, it was subjected to political turmoils, including the catastrophic genocide against the Tutsi. But the Bank persisted, exhibited resilience and grew even after being emptied by the thugs of the genocidal regime in 1994. It is the only bank that was able to refund its customers after the looting. But that aside, said the Managing Director Dr. Diane Karusisi, “as we look back, it is fair to say that its [BK] is a reflection of the country’s history of resilience.”
From just four branches in 1994, and a handful accounts and staff, the bank has grown to 80 branches,1,280 banking agents, 1002 staff,Rwf 600 billion in assets, Rwf4107 billion in loans and at least Rwf30 billion in profits as of end of 2016. “This is a story of creating value for customers, shareholders, and the country,” said Dr. Karusisi at the dinner having had a session earlier in the day where she witnessed the approval of the annual general meeting of a dividend of Rwf 8.3billion for the year 2016, a 40 per% payout on the bank’s audited net income for the year 2016.
For all these achievements and the innovative products to have a meaningful impact, the bank did not, Kagame said, “neglect the bottomline…turned a healthy profit to its shareholders and …being given the privilege of being Rwanda’s biggest tax payer.”
Keeping the numbers away, before the speeches and the pronouncements of commitments before the president, Bk staff treated gusts to a fantastic drinking and snaking spread. At 5pm guests were checking in. Tight security as usual, if the president is expected. And once all got it in, Radisson Blu employees had to ensure they match the speed of the drinking Rwandan elite.
Mention any liquor, it was there, figuratively. Wine specialities were assembled too. Had it not been for the long wait while standing, until all ladies went to sit on the verandah, Radisson Blu counters would have go dry. The President came almost 5 hour later, at least almost everyone of the over 500 guests had seen each other in the face, but it was worth it for some, of the ‘hardcore drinkers.’ No one was asking for a business card anymore. Everyone simply shook a hand and smiled their walk away around.
While the “who is who” and “who knows who” dined and wined merrily, thanks to the service of the prestigious Radisson Blue Hotel, the Marriott General Manager Rex Nijhof had a free taste on what dish his competitor can or offers at a glamorous gala. We have not read any cuisine critic’s review or a liquor critic, but the party was really expensive. Why not, everyone who matters was there anyway. Let another party roll.
Video: The President’s speech
Photos/ State House