Insurer opens shop in Rwanda, Burundi

Sunday February 5 2012


The African Trade Insurance Agency (ATI) is seeking projects to finance in Rwanda and Burundi as it expands across the region.

The Nairobi-based multilateral financial institution that provides export credit, political risk and investment insurance officially opened its Rwanda office last week, which will also serve the Burundi market.

ATI facilitates exports, foreign direct investment into and trade flows on the continent.

With the deepening financial crisis in Europe, ATI said local banks seeking to fill the financing gap will need added security and international investors seeking opportunities in the region will be attracted to a country that can offer protection against political and non-payment risks.

ATI works closely with banks by providing insurance to the bank’s borrowers.

Last year, the agency spent $3.5 billion worth of transactions within the banking sector in the region while $900 million was spent on projects insured on behalf of the regional markets.

“Rwanda and Burundi, like other East African countries, are beginning to feel the effects of the Eurozone crisis. Groups that could benefit most from our products are the local banks, which are under pressure to fill the financing gap left by the international lenders,” said Julius Karuga, ATIs resident underwriter in Rwanda.

Mr Karuga said ATI is keen to grow a pipeline of business in energy, ICT, infrastructure, hotel, tourism and transport sectors.
“The new office will help attract capital and resources for critical infrastructure projects and help banks lend more and on better terms. It will also help companies to trade on open term basis,” he said.

ATI’s insured transactions in Rwanda are currently valued at $180 million since 2009 covering both reinsurance and political risk insurance.

In Burundi, ATI has insured projects valued at over $87 million covering political risk, terrorism and sabotage insurance.
“Small and medium sized business companies in Rwanda have traditionally had difficulty trading open terms or accessing bank financing at good rates.

With ATI’s insurance, banks will look more favourably at their loan requests,” said Robert Bayigamba, a Rwandan businessman.

The agency has so far covered over $7 billion worth of trade and investments into Africa since its launch in 2001.
USAid East Africa regional trade advisor Matthew Rees said ATI gives both countries a competitive edge particularly businesses venturing into new markets.

“As other countries develop and emerge, risk insurance will give them greater competitiveness including first exporters into new markets. As regional integration within the EAC and Comesa becomes deeper, regional trade is as important as export trade and the ability to insure will be a huge advantage,” Mr Rees said.

However, Mr Rees observed that ATI’s services will have more impact on economies if they begin supporting small businesses that are still dominant across the region.

“If they can continue to grow and target the small enterprises such as farmers who want to export, the benefits will be more.”
The Rwanda office is the agency’s fourth local office joining Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia/ Malawi.