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EAC Digital Pioneers – Easing loan requests for Burundian bank customers

Another round of successful internships of students from the Centre of Excellence for ICT in East Africa (CENIT@EA) has been completed. And there are more success stories to tell. For the 2nd cohort, we will focus on Christina from Tanzania and Armel from Burundi. Let’s dive into Armel’s experience first!

Armel Bizoza had been working at BGF Bank in Bujumbura for some time as an IT Executive when he decided it was time for him to develop his skills even further. With a fully-funded scholarship via German Development Cooperation with the EAC, Armel started a Master’s Programme in Embedded and Mobile Systems at CENIT@EA at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha in January 2020.

When asked, why he changed from a paid job to university, Armel stressed that he felt the need to acquire additional knowledge. “I wanted to perform better as an IT expert. To grow your career, you must learn.”

In fact, Armel was more than able to grow his career. At the end of his studies, he needed to find an internship place to apply the skills he had gained. For him, there was no place more obvious than BGF Bank. “Searching for internship places, I was interested in BGF because I had always liked working there before. Also, I was aware of the bank’s need for digital solutions. I wanted to apply what I had learned and develop innovations that would help my former employer.”

For a duration of two months in late 2021, Armel found himself to be working for BGF once again. Though this time he was well-equipped with digital skills. “I agreed with management to bring IT solutions to the bank. When I applied, I had in mind to design a cue management system to help clients.” As it showed, Armel was more than flexible to adjust to the bank’s needs as his supervisor asked him to work at the credit department since there was an urgent need for a system that would enhance loan request processes.

Right away, Armel agreed to develop an IT system that manages loan requests. Now, due to the app he designed, there is no more need for customers to come to the bank for application. They can apply for the loan online including uploading all necessary documents. Once the loan is granted, the customer will be contacted to come to the bank. Today, Armel is still finalising the first prototype as it will need to be linked to the security system of the bank. He stresses that he is not done yet, “After I finish my studies, I want to go back to BGF and get approval from BGF management so that my app can be added to the Appstore and customers can download it”.

Olivier Kaboko, Director of Information Systems at BGF, shows his appreciation for Armel’s work, “Armel brought a new manner to confront problems and resolve them with technological means to BGF. The work he did during his internship will help BGF to serve our customers even more quickly and efficiently when they ask for loans. This will help us to receive new customers”.

The benefits of introducing Armel’s system are apparent. Firstly, the process becomes easier for the bank if all is done virtually, thereby speeding things up. Secondly, customers can save time and money as they do not need to travel from rural areas to Bujumbura to apply. Thirdly, physical contacts are reduced – another plus in times of COVID-19.

Adding to the loan request system, Armel already has more ideas. “I will go to BGF after finishing my dissertation to see how my mobile system is implemented. Due to my studies, I have a good chance of being hired again. Then, I could also develop and implement an e-office system. This would allow bank management to see digitally who is working on a request in the bank. If there is a delay, you can see where the process is and who is delaying.”

Looking back at his studies, Armel highlights, “CENIT@EA helped me to open my eyes on innovation. I know how to tackle challenges now, and I have the basics to work on solving them. I needed this.” He also points out that studying in a multicultural environment was a great experience. “I have connections all over East Africa now. I have brothers and sisters from all EAC Partner States and can exchange with them on how to solve problems.”

Asked about regional integration, he acknowledges, “Being together is a strength. There is much advantage in coming together and exchanging knowledge. Being able to travel the region freely without visa restrictions is a huge advantage. The exchange of goods, services, and people will better the lives of all East Africans. A team of six can do more than one”.

Going forward, Armel wants to contribute to the development of East Africa. “I want to give something in return for the opportunity that I received at CENIT@EA.” Indeed, he already found a great way to start.

Background: 

dSkills@EA, implemented by GIZ, is proud to have made a remarkable impact in the upskilling and training of young professionals in digital skills relevant to the industry’s needs across the six EAC Partner States via its support to CENIT@EA.

The fully-funded Master’s programme in embedded and mobile systems at CENIT@EA is a distinct example of skills development for the digital transformation of the industry in East Africa. The collaboration between academia and industry has been one of the unique components of the programme, ensuring the quality of a practice-oriented teaching and industry-proven curriculum that enabled CENIT@EA students to transfer knowledge to the industry through internships.

dSkills@EA will continue to ensure that young EAC citizens' employment and innovation-related digital skills are strengthened in continuous efforts to increase support to youth development in the region.

Find more information on the Master's Programme and the possibility to apply under www.cenit-ea.org.

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