Access to Finance Rwanda

2 min read
01 Jan 2024

Sector: Finance

We promote financial inclusion and financial-sector development in Rwanda for individuals, households and SMEs. Our goal is to remove the systemic barriers that hinder access to financial services by putting low-income people at the center of our interventions.

After working in commercial banking for more than seven years, Jean Bosco Iyacu, now the director of programs at Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR), felt that something was missing. Instead of focusing on turning a profit – often for individuals or institutions that didn’t necessarily need the money to survive – he wanted to support his fellow Rwandans in a more hands-on and direct way. “At some point with all those years in commercial banking, I felt like we were more or less using our heads, not our hearts,” he says.

Jean moved into impact investment and joined AFR in 2014. Founded in 2010, AFR uses a partnership model that brings together local lending institutions and international donors to support inclusive finance schemes aimed at low-income households. Its core objective is to stimulate the development of the financial sector in Rwanda and remove the systemic barriers that hinder access to financial services. Initially funded through the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the World Bank in partnership with the Government of Rwanda and the German Development Bank, it is now funded by DFID, the Mastercard Foundation, the Government of Sweden and the US Agency for International Development, and has a number of public and private sector partners. AFR’s services include providing grant funding to startups and educating Rwandans in financial literacy. The organization has supported more than two million people since its inception. 

For startups including online savings-group platform Mvend, AFR has helped turn a good idea into a sustainable business model that will help them attract additional outside investment. Jean says that the idea is to be more than just an investor. “Startups have multiple needs,” he says. “It’s not just financing; they need some business-management skills, they need to get legal advice to structure their
business and partnerships properly, they need some leadership skills.”


Have an innovative solution.
We are looking for projects that address financial services in creative and unique ways. 

Address a real need.
There should be a focus on impact, whether that is social, economic or environmental. How does your project support people? 

Indicate a high potential for growth.
We are interested in startups that are able to expand to new markets and fields. 

Be scalable.
We love to invest in startups that can expand beyond the immediate community affected, either to new regions or even new countries. 

Be sustainable.
Your project or startup should have a long shelf life, meaning that it can show the potential to be replicated and expanded in a sustainable way.


Main Photo by Access to Finance