Premier Pierre D Habumuremyi (R)handing over the award of the Best Investor to Herman Klaassen, Chief Executive Officer of Bank Populaire on Friday. The New Times / T. Kisambira

Bank Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) warded off stiff competition from Nakumatt Supermarket to emerge top investor for the second year running in the RDB Business Excellence Awards.

The awards ceremony was hosted at Serena Hotel on Friday and attracted over 100 guests including investors, government and World Bank officials.

“We are obviously glad! Being at the top in Rwanda is not an easy job to do because very many businesses are growing. With a market share of about 20 percent, Bank Populaire endeavoured to spread its services throughout the country, and it is a pleasure that our efforts have once again been recognized,” Herman Klaassen, the Chief Executive Officer of BPR, said in an interview.

Last year BPR largely invested in automating all its branches and to date, operates 108 automated locations. In the same year, the bank unveiled a new mobile banking platform which allows its clients to transfer money to none account holders. As part of its corporate responsibility, BPR donated foodstuffs to victims of mudslides that claimed the lives of four people in Kinyababa Sector, Burera District.

The biggest surprise of the night was the naming of Rwanda Directorate General of Immigrations and Emigrations as the best customer care body, beating MTN Rwanda, which failed to win a single category for the first time since the introduction of the awards.

However, MTN’s competitor in the telecoms sector, TIGO Rwanda, managed to scoop best ICT firm in the large category, whereas Hosiyana won best ICT firm in the SME sector.

Bralirwa was a double winner emerging as top manufacturer in the large sector as well as replacing Sorwathe as the best exporter of 2011.

Wolfram Mining Processing Ltd was named best in the mining sector whereas the manufacturer and exporter of banana wine, Coproviba, emerged best SME with a cash prize of US$5,000.

Last year’s winner, Zulfat Mukarubega, the founder of Rwanda Tourism University College, shook off competition from Akaliza Gara, the Managing Director of Shaking Sun, as the woman entrepreneur of the year, bagging US$5,000.
Most business friendly district 2011 was named as Ruhango, Southern Province, whereas Bank of Kigali emerged as best in the financial sector.

However, the night belonged to Soft Group, a manufacturer of paper bags and plastics, which scooped three awards as best general manufacturer in the SME category, Runners up in best SME category and its founder, Jean De Dieu, walking away with the young entrepreneur of the year award, which fetched him US$5,000 and a return ticket to Dubai.

RDB retained the same panel of judges for the last three years, made up of eight local and regional private sector gurus as well as policy analysts and researchers.

John Gara, the CEO of RDB, said that up to 81 companies were eligible for the awards after answering questionnaires.

“Compliance to the Companies Act of 2009 was one of the major indicators we considered in awarding companies. Other factors included the awareness of their environment and measures implemented to protect it. We also looked at their performance against their projected plans,” Gara said.

The guest of honour at the awards, Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, commended RDB for successfully fueling competitiveness, citing the awards ceremony as critical in influencing performance in the private sector.

By Ivan R. Mugisha, The New Times

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