In Burundi accessing affordable money transfer can be difficult. Recognizing this, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU) developed “Rungika” in 2015 with the Burundian National Postal Service and RIA Money Transfer – a private sector partner. By June 2017, Rungika was launched domestically as a mobile money transfer platform provided by the UPU’s Postal Technology Center and taken international through the RIA network and the existing UPU Worldwide Electronic Payment Network (PosTransfer) in November 2018.
“Rungika” aims to foster financial inclusion/literacy in Burundian rural communities while providing a more accessible remittance transfer service for the Burundian diaspora and their families in Burundi through the postal network. The partnership between IOM, the Government of Burundi, UPU and the private sector was created to meet the following objectives:
Reduce remittance transfer costs both domestically and internationally for Burundi
This objective corresponds to SDGTarget 10.C: By 2030, reduce to less than 3% the transaction costs of migrant remittances and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5%. Despite significant remittances into and out of Burundi (World Bank estimates total remittances inwards at USD $33.51m in 2017 ), the sector has been mostly dominated by large global Money Transfer Organizations (MTOs) - Western Union and MoneyGram - who up until recently had virtual monopoly in the international money transfer arena. Their costs were prohibitive and still remain largely so. This project aims to reduce remittance costs to 3% (from 10%), thus increasing access to this service for a greater number of Burundians, including the diaspora.
Enhance access to financial services for rural populations in Burundi
This objective corresponds to SDG Target 10.2: By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status. The level of financial inclusion is very low in Burundi (12.5% - 13.8% of the adult population). According to the demand side survey commissioned by the Bank of the Republic of Burundi (BRB) in 2012, financial inclusion was only 8.5% for the population in rural areas, 7.9% for women and 7.1% for youth aged 18 to 30 . The project aims to enhance access to financial services, particularly in rural areas. It provides financial products, such as savings and loan facilities through post offices and more innovative financial options such as agricultural credit-linked products and insurance.
Enhance financial literacy of rural populations in Burundi
This objective corresponds to SDG Target 4.4: By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship. The project provided a one-month financial literacy course for 212 rural beneficiaries. The course equipped beneficiaries with skills and knowledge in managing money and budgeting, bank accounts, savings, investment and credit.
Strengthen relationships between key private and public actors to improve Burundi’s remittance services
This objective corresponds to SDG Targets 17.3 and 17.17. The project has created effective partnerships between IOM, UPU, RNP and RIA to reduce remittance costs in Burundi through the sharing of information and ideas related to Burundi’s remittance services as well as joint progress monitoring.
Together, these four objectives also make a contribution to SDG 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
Implementation of the international component of the project involved a partnership between IOM, the Burundian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Universal Postal Union (UPU), and the Burundi National Postal Service (RNP), who collaborated directly with RIA Money Transfer. Key donors included the Government of Belgium and the Government of Turkey. Beneficiaries include the Burundian population, primarily those living in rural areas and the diaspora. IOM, UPU, RNP and RIA participated in the launch of the international line in Brussels, Belgium in November 2018; the event was covered through social media.
The project was designed by IOM to capitalize on the different complementarities of the stakeholders involved. Specifically, the project leveraged IOM’s extensive knowledge on migration and development, the UPU’s technical knowledge and technical assets (Worldwide Electronic Payment Network powered by UPU’s Postal Technology Center), and the RNP’s infrastructure. The project was jointly implemented by the UPU's Headquarters in Bern, IOM Headquarters in Geneva and IOM's office in Bujumbura/Burundi and the RNP's General Management.
IOM was responsible for the management and allocation of funds, as well as overall project management. The project manager was responsible for planning and coordinating the project; implementing activities according to the deadlines and funds available; providing technical support to Burundi National Post in particular vis-à-vis its negotiations with RIA; regularly communicating with partners and other stakeholders; monitoring and evaluating the project, including collating data and drafting reports for stakeholders; advocacy and communications; carrying out financial literacy and access to finance modules; and ensuring the visibility of project deliverables.
IOMHQ led on coordinating with UPU partners in Bern from a technical and monitoring perspective to ensure the objectives of the project were being met and, where necessary, intervening with the private sector partner to ensure equitable remittance transfer rates.
The project was and continues to be monitored through an online Integrated Project Budget Monitoring System (PRISM) to assess the project’s budget and expenditure.
When the project started, remittance corridors into Burundi were very limited and virtually non-existent owing to the unstable political situation in the country. By end 2018, domestic and international money transfer corridor “Rungika” was used by clients in rural areas across Burundi and is now the cheapest domestic remittance corridor in Burundi. As of January 2019, more than 19,000 domestic transactions amounting to 1,250,808,400 BIF (approximately 695,000 USD) were carried out in Burundi, and more than 500 international transactions have been recorded in the month following the November 2018 launch.
The first phase of the “Rungika” launch equipped 142 post offices in Burundi with tablets using 3G Internet connection (2G in some very remote locations) to connect them with the domestic money transfer service throughout the country’s 18 provinces. As a result, even the most rural and remote areas where such services were not previously available to the population now have access to “Rungika.” Additionally, UPU’s mobile payment technologies have been rolled-out in all post offices of the RNP: the full Burundian territory is therefore covered with an electronic payment solution, for both domestic and international money transfers.
The Belgium – Burundi corridor was launched using UPUs IFS line in collaboration with the private sector provider RIA. Burundian Diaspora in Belgium can now send money to any RIA point and their beneficiaries are paid via Rungika in country. The service will also be made available to Burundian diasporas in any country where RIA is present
Remittance transfer costs have reduced due to a combination of external (ie. greater competition, more political stability) and internal factors (i.e project linked factors such as technological hardware, marketing initiatives for Rungika and IOM, UPU intervening with the private sector to negotiate rates). A market study provided an understanding of remittance flows, key actors, corridors and rates of transfer, giving RNP valuable market information prior to the launch of international remittance transfer line. Furthermore, it was used to position RNP in its negotiations with RIA to ensure remittance transfer costs were kept within market specifications.
212 people, of which 136 were women, benefitted from financial education through trainings in rural communities across Burundi. During each training, participants were informed of Rungika’s availability at post offices. Some beneficiaries of the training have started using financial products such as savings, insurance, investment and establishing a credit line. Financial literacy in rural areas was also enhanced. In addition, building infrastructure for post offices throughout the country has helped to support international trade and open international markets to rural producers in Burundi.
The project would not have been possible without funding and support provided by the Government of Belgium and a financial contribution by the Government of Turkey. Leveraging the infrastructure that was already in place by the Burundian postal network was also critical to the success of the initiative, as without it, most rural populations would not have been able to easily access the Rungika service. The agreement negotiated with RIA also provided beneficiaries with an attractive rate (4%) for sending their money, without which the initiative may not have been as successful. IOM, UPU and RNP continue to monitor the remittance transaction cost to ensure they stay within an acceptable limit in line with achieving SDG Target 10.C.
By partnering with the postal network, access to the service is facilitated for those who live in the most remote areas, while simultaneously reducing costs due to the fact that the infrastructure was already in place. The successful launch of Rungika domestic and international remittance services can serve as a model for the region and is a pilot project that can be replicated for various other remittance corridors. The project is ongoing and aims to build further on specific microfinance and credit instruments as well as financial access and financial literacy for rural populations.
Burundians who have used the domestic service have expressed their satisfaction with Rungika, stating that it is less expensive than the alternatives, but also more reliable and convenient because of the proximity of the post office to their homes. More importantly, the concern of sending money to relatives in distant places has disappeared which is especially important when families are spread throughout the country. The customer experience has been improved and harmonized through the entire network of post offices, now using the same technologies and enabled with instant money transfers (mobile App provided by the UPU’s PTC). Additionally, in close collaboration with UPU and RNP, new international corridors will soon be activated, with East African countries such as Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda being able to offer the same facilities to Burundian diaspora living in these respective countries. Finally, to leverage upon the financial inclusion activities, tailored products that meet the needs of the rural population will be developed in the next quarter and offered to them. By capitalizing on the comparative advantages of the organizations involved in this project, notably IOM’s outreach with diasporas and migration expertise, and UPU’s postal outreach and technical solutions, an innovative, partnership-based approach to reducing remittance costs was created and is a model that can be replicated throughout the region and world.