Taarifa Rwanda

The American Banker Who Loves Rwanda

Marc Holtzman, an American businessman and a close friend to President Paul Kagame, couldn’t hold back his emotions after acquiring Rwandan citizenship. He had taken an Oath of Citizenship on the morning of January 2017, as the 375th foreigner since 2009.

Shortly after the Oath , Holtzman headed to Bank of Kigali Headquarters, as the Chairman, to join staff members and customers who were in the main banking hall to celebrate the bank’s 50th Anniversary.

With a big smile on his face, Holtzman moved around shaking hands with members of the board, staff members, customers and whoever got closer to him for a handshake and a photo moment.

After a less than one-minute speech, Holtzman stepped forward together with the bank’s Managing Director, Dr. Diane Karusisi to unveil a new logo for the bank and officially kick-start a series of events to cerebrate the milestones throughout the year.

Every step of the celebration rolled down as Holtzman maintained a warm smile before he went on to cut a gigantic anniversary cake together Dr. Karusisi amid thunderous applause in the banking hall.

“I want to thank everyone,” he said and continued with, “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.”

Holtzman, who is generally referred to as Marc by staff members and friends, had an exclusive interview with Taarifa a day before he flew back to the US to meet with his family and to share with them the news of the “Citizenship”.

He told us how he envied those who were born Rwandan, but is now very privileged to be a citizen too. “Some people were lucky enough to have been born here in Rwanda, but in our case we got here as quickly as we could and we love this place and we are honored to be Rwandans ourselves.”

Born in the U.S and father to four children, Holtzman is not new in Rwanda. He has visited Rwanda countless times in the last nine years.

His friendship with President Kagame, he said, began in April 2004 when the President visited Denver University to make a major foreign policy address during the 10th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi.

As the President of the University, he had the honor of meeting and introducing Kagame to the campus community. Their friendship had just been lubricated.

Four years later, President Kagame reached out to him to congratulate him on his new post as the Vice-Chairman of Barclays Bank and to also extend a formal invitation for him to come to Rwanda and advise him on expanding and growing Bank of Kigali to greater heights.

Once he got to Rwanda, he immediately fell in love with the majesty of what he keeps calling “this incredible country” and the kindness of the people and a few trips later, he was appointed to serve on the Board of Directors of Bank of Kigali until October 2015 when he became the Chairman.

“The President is not only concerned about the transformation of Bank of Kigali, but the entire financial sector,” he says. “And I must say, I am very grateful I have the privilege to play my small role.”

Holtzman, a recognized leading authority on economic and political development in East Europe, Russia, Africa and Asia, has over the years developed good relations with a wide range of leading governmental and political leaders around the world. And indeed, he has received medals for his outstanding work.

In August 2005, he was awarded the Russian Medal in Commemoration of Millenary of Kazan by the then Prime Minister (and now President) Rustam Minnikhanov of Tatarstan in appreciation for his contribution to the development and improvement of relations between The Russian Federation and the Republic of Tatarstan.

In January 1999, the former Polish President Aleksander Kwansniewski presented him with The Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit- Poland’s highest civilian honor for his service to the country.

Holtzman doubles out as the Chairman of the largest private bank in Central Asia, Kazkommerst bank, which has a total market share of 24%.

The bank is a large provider of banking services and other financial products to large and medium-sized corporations in all sectors of Kazakh economy.

Prior to his current positions, he was as a member of the board of Trustees of the United States Space Foundation and also co-founded Denver school for Science and Technology, a Charter High School in Colorado.

He is also a member of the Board of Directors of TeleTech; the world’s leading provider of analyticas-driven technology- enabled services.

Marc Holtzman, known to be the American jack-of-all-trades, talks of his new citizenship and his plans of turning around Rwanda’s largest lender, Bank of Kigali

Holtzman has joined other global figures such as Rick Warren, a renowned American evangelist Christian Pastor, as citizens of Rwanda.

Meanwhile, who brags much about the progress Bank of Kigali has made, proudly says how he is bullish about him being the single largest shareholder of the bank’s shares.

On top of shares in Crystal Telecom ltd, Holtzman owns 1,886,000 shares (0.3%) in Bank of Kigali, of which 706,000 belong to his four minor age children.

An informal advisor to President Kagame, the renown banker and strategist, she says his connection beyond him and the Bank of Kigali, and not only helping the president fulfill his vision of transforming this country, but to “fulfill my dream of citizenship of this country and becoming a Rwandan myself.”



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