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Continental Body Ranks Rwanda As Leading Country Against #COVID-19

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The African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) has placed Rwanda at the forefront among countries that put effective COVID-19 tax relief measures in Africa, followed by Lesotho, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Niger, Madagascar, South Africa, Togo, Cameroon, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Ghana, Angola, Burundi and Namibia.

On March 21, 2020, Rwanda took a strong decision to enforce a total lockdown across the country to curtail the spread of COVID-19, a week after the first case of the epidemic was registered in the country.

Social and economic activities were halted, except for the essential supply activities including health and food related; with a range of social distancing and hygiene measures were set up, such as hand-washing equipment at agricultural collection centers.

During the lockdown, all non-essential labor and business activities, mostly urban in nature, were stopped, bringing severe effects on the country’s economy, just like any other country around the globe. 

This called for collective efforts from both public and private agencies to support the Government in the struggle by putting respective and strong measures to curb the spread while also supporting business continuity. 

It is in this line that Rwanda Revenue Authority introduced various Covid-19 relief measures to facilitate the taxpayers in their business continuity and recovery.

Among others include halting all tax audits that required physical interactions with taxpayers for a period of one month, putting on hold the two major enforcement steps for tax arrears (garnishment and public auction) for all taxpayers for a period of one month, putting in place facilitation processes to expedite the issuance of refunds particularly for hardest affected taxpayers by the covid-19 pandemic. 

The Authority also extended the certification of financial tax statements for a period of 3 months, Payments of CIT 2019/2020 expected on 31st March were deferred to 15th April 2020 and 30th April 2020 for Large Taxpayers and S&M Taxpayers respectively.

Taxpayers also benefited from the extension of tax payment periods, exemption of PAYE for the 6 months for private school teachers earning up to Rwf 150,000 net and 3 months for employees of companies operating in the tourism and hotel sector earning up to Rwf 150,000.

There was also an exemption of VAT and Import Duty for essential supplies, waiver of penalties, fines and interests, suspension of the 25% down payment admissible for amicable settlement. 

The RRA also supported businesses to access the business recovery fund that was availed by the National Bank to help taxpayers that were affected by COVID-19 by expediting issuance of Tax Clearance Certificates (prerequisite).

The Authority while introduced measures aimed at protecting society by enforcing non-physical cargo inspection procedures at the customs and allocating cargo crew members designated facilities to rest as they await the finalization of the offloading process hence minimize their interaction with the rest of the society to avoid the spread of the pandemic.

With effect from April 24, 2020, all customs services which were initially offered in Kigali and other inland customs offices, were also extended to customs border posts.

These among other measures have facilitated taxpayers in their business resumption and recovery, hence being compliant to their tax obligations notwithstanding the effects of the pandemic.

For this reason, tax revenue collection for the first quarter of 2020/21 amounted to Rwf 371.5 billion above the target of Rwf 351.2 billion. This indicates an achievement of 105.8% and Rwf 20.3 billion above the target. On the other hand, Local Government (LG) taxes and fees collections for the same quarter amounted to Rwf 11.3 billion over and above the target of Rwf 10.6 billion.

This indicates an achievement of 106.6%, and the RRA anticipates more significant achievements. 

Represented by RRA, Rwanda is one of the 39 members of Africa Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), an organization that was established by African revenue authorities in 2009, in order to improve the performance of tax administrations in Africa.

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Hundreds Of Passengers Miss Flight In Uganda Due To Delayed COVID-19 Tests

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Hundreds of Ugandans have been left stranded at Entebbe International Airport by the Emirates Airways after the laboratory where they had taken their Covid-19 results delayed to return them on time.

In a Snapchat post by Ugandan socialite Sheila Gashumba, she ranted, ‘’When I tell Ugandans that Covid in Uganda is a business they say I have ‘kajanja’.

Now all Emirates passengers have missed their flights because Safari Lab sent Covid results at 2:45pm and Emirates closed its gate at 3pm.

The hospital said it couldn’t work on everyone in the short time.

Around 300 passengers missed their flight yet Safari Lab had made a total of UgSh75m since everyone had paid UGX 250,000 for the test.

In the video where all passengers were visibly angry and frustrated, they can be heard asking for what the solution is and who is going to pay for the tickets again now that those that they had paid for can no longer be used anymore.

Passengers expressed their frustration at the rot in the service.

“I experienced such thing in March as the officers in charge claimed that the gates were close at 1pm as the flight was at 3pm,” one twitter user said.

Some made jokes out of it and asked, if this was because of the US$10 tax that is in the process of being introduced and will be paid by anyone that leaves the country using the Entebbe International Airport.

Another twitter user @kasoxialex2000 asked, ‘’@UgandaCAA (Uganda Civil Aviation Authority), but seriously you guys when you move to some airports don’t you copy something? Why are we ever backwards??? Stop embarrassing us. Who will save Uganda’’
By press time there was no official communication from the Civil Aviation Authority, Safari Lab nor Emirates Airways.

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Kagame Tells Bankers, Banking Can’t Just Be “Service For Elites”

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Banking can’t just be a service for elites, President Paul Kagame has said.  He made the remarks while speaking at the 14th Annual Banking and Finance Conference in Nigeria that he attended virtually.

Running under the theme, ‘’Economic Recovery, Inclusion and Transformation: The Role of Banking and Finance’’, the two-day conference will aim at the need to reposition the Finance and Banking sector as a catalyst for Economic recovery, transformation and inclusive growth.

In his remarks, he noted how the Covid pandemic has affected every aspect of Africa’s economies but at the same time also presents an opportunity for African banks to play a leading role in making societies more resilient and more responsive to the needs of Africans.

‘’Whatever affects business, affects banking. Financial services are the engine of private sector development. Banks are crucial for allocating capital wisely and productively,’’ he further added.

President Kagame noted that, in order to stay competitive, there is need to keep integrating new technology into banking to increase financial inclusion and access as banking can’t just be a service of elites.

He also went ahead to reemphasize what he has always said when it comes to African states always depending on the West and other countries for support. ‘’Indeed, Africa has the resources to fund its own economic growth and reduce dependence on external resources,’’ he said.

Kagame also noted that the African Continental Free Trade Area is creating new opportunities for Pan African Trade and investment. ‘’Banks with continental reach, like several of the institutions represented here can lead the way in cementing economic integration.’’

As he concluded, he stated how the banking sector, more than any other, understands the importance of integrity and good customer service. ‘’Banking is ultimately about trust. We look to you to set the pace in this regard. Our role as governments is to maintain good enabling environments, protecting both shareholders and customers while allowing for innovation. We expect you to keep challenging us on this,’’ he said.

In attendance at the same conference was the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Edwin Emefiele who made a huge announcement.  He said, ‘’Central Bank, will, in the next twelve months be establishing the Nigerian International Financial Centre (NIFC). The NIFC will act as an international gateway for capital and investments, driven by technology and payment system infrastructure.’’

In Rwanda, current statistics show that even though there are still various challenges that continue to put women behind men when it comes to financial inclusion, the number of women who are currently banked have risen from 24% in 2016 to 34% in 2021.

This is according to a FinScope 2020 Gender thematic report on the state of women financial inclusion in Rwanda that was supported by Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR).

In one of the Focus Notes from Access to Finance Rwanda, farmers reported that women and men enjoy equal rights and treatment at specified two Financial institutions in the Focus note and therefore no special gender based treatment yet the outcomes of each groups are not equal.

At both Financial Institutions, women and youths are more likely to use loans to hire land farm as they lack access to land and they have been assisted by addressing some of the barriers that women and youth face in accessing loans.

The conference will therefore focus on how banking can be a service enjoyed by all Africans regardless of their financial strengths through making access to finance for development is an easy and smooth process.

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400K Coffee Farmers To Adopt Cashless System

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About 400,000 coffee farmers in Rwanda are being targeted to embrace a cashless payment system facilitated by Bank of Kigali.

On Friday, Bank of Kigali through IKOFI integration with Smart Kungahara System (SKS) said it expected to serve more than 300 coffee washing stations, with a target market size of more than 400,000 coffee farmers.

“Through our partnership with RWACOF, we enabled coffee farmers to embrace cashless means of payment. We believe in digital transformation for everybody including farmers. These telephones will significantly help famers to adopt a more digital lifestyle,”said ⁦⁦Diane Karusisi the CEO Bank of Kigali.

According to BK, currently, 1,767 agro dealers and 263,691 farmers are active IKOFI wallet users benefiting from the service by digitally paying for their agro-inputs through mobile phones, conveniently paying for other services such as Irembo, RRA, WASAC, all done through *334*2#.

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