The Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB), touches almost every Rwandan’s life, so a press conference to present its annual performance, is quite an event in any year, but this year’s report perhaps more so than all the previous years.
On its website the RSSB defines its mission, as “to manage and promote social security in Rwanda.” It is easy to glance over those words, and keep on moving, but stop to consider what they entail, and you get a sense of the enormity and complexity of RSSB, as an institution.
From pensions, all kinds of benefits, occupational hazard insurance, maternity leave benefits schemes, to health insurance, just to name a few, and it is easy to see why the organisation is housed in such a large building.
It is also easy to understand, why in their presentations, they are so keen to shine as clear a light as possible, not only on their performance, but what they do, and plan to do.
As is now customary, the presentation was led by the whole of the senior management team, from Chief Executive Officer, Regis Rugemanshuro, his deputy, Louise Kanyonga, to the Chief Benefits and Chief Investments Officers, Regis Hitimana, and Philippe Watrin, respectively.
Time and again, with almost every statement they made, all emphasised the same message: this is a members’ organisation, and members are the highest priority; know your rights, it is your money, and we are here to serve you, our members; we are accountable to you, our doors are always open.
It is said that your ears burn whenever you are being talked about, or criticised. With its importance in Rwandans’ lives, the RSSB staff’s ears must be constantly burning. Theirs is a much discussed organisation. The management team, clearly wish whatever discussions that might be going on about it, to include how well they are doing in managing the nation’s social welfare schemes.
And the figures are impressive. In the financial year, 2022/2023, for instance, there was a 24% increase on the previous year, in members’ contributions, amounting to Rwf 352 billion, or around $300million. A 14% increase in assets under management, to an eye catching Rwf 2.065trillion, or just over $2billion.
Every figure, is up on the previous year, including net profit at Rwf 285.7billion, or just under $300million. This is all the more noteworthy when added to the fact that there was also a rise in the benefits paid out.
The near intense focus on the RSSB is perhaps largely due to the fact that the sustainability of its services, depends in large measure, to wise strategic investments. And because no amount of due diligence will remove all risk from investments, not only any loss, but any rumour of loss, becomes a national talking point. This is perhaps understandable. Generating fifteen percent of the nation’s GDP, makes RSSB the biggest finance institution in the country.
Feeling their ears burning, in response, perhaps with a degree of frustration at being somewhat misunderstood, the management team points to the investment figures. Realised investment income, rose by almost 30% on the previous year. In the portfolio of asset allocation, there was a 9% increase of fixed income assets over the last four years, and a 100% average increase in total dividends, from equity investments, over the same period.
It is to be expected that an institution that holds so much of the nation’s wealth, would be under constant scrutiny. To their credit, the RSSB management not only accepts that, but they call for even greater, if more informed criticism.
The RSSB is an institution in transition. The other clause that peppered the management’s statements, was achieving an institution that is “fit for purpose.” Considering that that purpose is evolving, changing, and expanding, making such a large organisation fit for it, is a challenging undertaking, but one the management feels confident it is meeting. They certainly cannot be said to lack ambition.
With the help of international consultants, Price Waterhouse Cooper, RSSB is aiming for nothing short of transformation in everything it does. Major reforms are being undertaken in parallel with existing responsibilities.
Among changes envisaged, are innovations in existing schemes, starting with Community Based Health Insurance (CBHI), and the still relatively new saving scheme, Ejo Heza, or a better tomorrow, the revamping of investment policy and strategy, and reevaluating contracts with providers, for sustainability of the different schemes. There are changes too in the approach to Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG), to evaluate the sustainability and ethics of the companies with whom RSSB works.
But perhaps the most far reaching developments are the ongoing digitisation of services. The paperwork involved in analogue administration of an institution like RSSB, was all but overwhelming.
The digitisation of all of the institution’s operations is designed not only to enhance efficiency, and effectiveness in those operations, but for transparency, so that members, the public, can keep track of RSSB’s performance.
Already, with Imisanzu, not only will the institution be better able to collect accurate data that informs its decisions, detect fraud, individuals too, can monitor and track their pension contributions, and control their own data, for instance detecting any inaccuracies in information about them.
Healthcare systems swallow a major chunk of any nation’s financial resources. Costs are forever rising, and the opportunities for corrupt practices abound. The RSSB hopes that innovations like Kwivuza, will, in their words, revolutionise Rwanda’s healthcare system.
Rather than raising health insurance contributions, to cover rising healthcare costs for instance, a Capitation Payment Model, will be introduced. This will mean giving local authorities a healthcare budget, within which to provide the heathcare needs of their residents.
This will replace the current system, where medical practitioners can simply spend any amount, without regard to budget considerations. They need not for instance, bother finding cheaper medicines that are as effective as the more costly ones.
Universal healthcare coverage in Rwanda, is in the higher ninety percent, but by 2025, RSSB aims to get that figure to 100%. And they would like to have every single Rwandan, covered by at least one of social benefit schemes they offer.
The RSSB is for all intents and purposes, an institution in renewal, which invites the public to monitor the transformation.