"With mining companies currently enjoying high prices, exceptional production performance and robust supply chains, we anticipate that the sector will continue showing resilience and growth, remaining financially sound in 2023."
What have been the developments over the past year at Standard Bank DRC?
We have invested in capabilities through various digitization projects. Our recent development is the integration of the Mobile Money solution to our digital banking platform. It is an automated solution that allows clients to transmit high volume payment instructions from their business management software system into our online banking platform. It also enables them to receive transactional reports back into their management software. The system reduces operating costs for the client’s as well as time spent on such operations.
Interest rates have reached an all-times-high in the Congo this year. How has the global inflationary dynamics played out in the country?
Where interest rates hiked to 18.5% back in 2020, they significantly decreased to 7.5% throughout 2022, indicating an economic stability. The extractive sector is set to continue to drive growth, with the non-extractive sector still in recovery. The DRC’s terms of trade have strengthened significantly over the past two years, largely as a function of elevated export receipts from the mining sector. However, this should be somewhat offset by recovering import growth, combined with a higher fuel import bill. It can be expected that the strong export performance should continue supporting the currency’s stability, as would improvements in onshore FX liquidity conditions.
Could you remind our audience of the role that Standard Bank plays in the mining sector in the country and your key services?
With a dominant presence in the mining industry, we provide our clients with specialist technical expertise required to operate in the mining and commodities industry. Our clients have access to a multi-disciplinary teams, both on the ground and at the Group level, who can assist them with identifying opportunities in the mining and metals and help them navigate risks and challenges. We also can connect primary producers in Africa with large global markets, leveraging off of our institutional relationship with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). Our strength lies in the ability to focus on the multinationals and their value chain, who are either buyers, distributors or supplier to whom we provide a wide range of banking, finance, trade, investment, risk management and advisory services. We are involved in major mining projects currently in development across Africa.
What is your outlook for the DRC mining industry in light of growing demand for copper, cobalt, but also lithium, which is to be produced in the country?
With mining companies currently enjoying high prices, exceptional production performance and robust supply chains, we anticipate that the sector will continue showing resilience and growth, remaining financially sound in 2023.
We know that mining will continue to play a crucial role in securing a clean and greener world. As the sector continues to evolve, the mining companies continue to invest in sustainability of the environment and that of host communities.
We have seen a number of mining companies being rated well for the ESG performance as the sector continues to invest in better resource management to reduce the environmental impact while also investing in technology to improve safety, engineering advances, productivity and efficiencies through automation and digitisation. With the industry acutely aware of the need to operate sustainably, we have seen a significant rise in interest in sustainable finance products, which are used to fund improvements in a firm’s ESG performance.
Could you comment on the current health and stability of the banking sector in the DRC?
The banking sector is well regulated through the Central Bank of Congo, who have undergone a considerable amount of change under the leadership of the new Governor, since her taking Office. The DRC comprises of 15 commercial banks, mainly dominated by international and regional banks (mainly Kenyan and Nigerian), the biggest bank however remains Rawbank, a local bank.
Despite growth in recent years, the sector remains relatively underdeveloped with one of the lowest banking penetration in the continent (6%). There is a focus by the Central Bank on increasing the inclusive banking model to ensure that more and a wider range of products and services is offered to the mass population.
Just like other sectors, the banking sectors was negatively affected by Covid-19, but has significantly recovered from the pandemic. Profitability levels as well deposits were at the highest levels in 2021. Deposits levels increased by more than 40% in 2021, as a result of the amendment made to the Mining Code, in which the surrender requirements were raised from 40 percent to 60 percent, coupled by high commodities prices.
Capital adequacy ratio levels were also acceptable at 12.5%, compared to a minimum of 10%. The increase of the minimum capital to $50m in 2025 will see a further improvement in this ratio. The sector is very liquid, with a low loan to deposit ratio (less than 40%).
Overall the banking sector remains sound and where it has been necessary, the Central Bank has stepped in.
What are your key objectives for 2023?
As a bank committed to Africa and her people, our mission is to drive positive, sustainable, and embedded growth in the DRC. In 2023, we will continue to develop and deliver the infrastructure needed for a digitally inclusive and connected market. We believe that the DRC is perfectly positioned for growth. So much so that we have embarked on a digital journey to become a platform business that will transform the way we do business in the future. We seek to unlock value for our clients by providing a comprehensive range of financial solutions under a unified offering. In doing so, we will continue to focus on developing long-term partnerships with our clients, the majority of which operate in the sectors that drive the country’s GDP.