"We want to create an inclusive bank in the DRC. To achieve this we have developed a whole arsenal of banking products and digital solutions for mass consumption."
What are the highlights of EquityBCDC since the acquisition by Equity Group in 2021?
I took over as head of the organization in 2021 after the merger between Equity Group and BCDC. I managed Equity Group's entry into DRC in 2015 through the acquisition of ProCredit, where I was the commercial director. At the time, I took on the organization with US$130 million assets, and in five years we exceeded US$1 billion in assets. As far as Equity's acquisition of BCDC is concerned, the advantage is that we had to merge an organization with a corporate focus, with another that also managed corporate and SME clients.
Our guiding principle remains the same: We want to create an inclusive bank in the DRC. To achieve this we have developed a whole arsenal of banking products and digital solutions for mass consumption. These concepts enable us to include a large number of citizens. We know how to manage large companies, and we also take care of distributors in the value chain and consumers. Our vision is to be the champions of economic prosperity for Africans, and this is our real ambition at group level.
Can you describe EquityBCDC's support for the mining industry value chain in the DRC?
As well as supporting major mining companies, we also support the entire value chain, including SMEs. We therefore offer top-of-the-range services to corporate clients. We are strongly positioned to support mining operators and craftsmen. Before we support a mining project, we ensure that the highest standards of environmental management are met and that our clients are compliant. We also analyze corporate governance, and we have the AFC standards, for example, and apply them to the mining companies we work with.
EquityBCDC has developed a resilience and growth plan for Africa, which the Group launched after the shock of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine to support the development of African countries. This enables the economies in the countries where we operate to prosper. This plan is particularly aimed at the extractive sector, where we are looking at ways of adding value locally, and strengthening the capacity of entrepreneurs in the sector. For example, we were able to secure a US$300 million investment for a mining company in Katanga. The bank is truly a catalyst for development in the region.
How is the DRC positioning itself to attract more foreign direct investment?
The country is experiencing a real boom in the sense that we've enjoyed several years of stability. The country is back on the international scene, asserting itself as a solution country. As an economic player, the country is very interesting in terms of opportunities. The problem is how the Congo is perceived abroad. We've brought in investors during economic missions, the first of which took place at the end of 2021, when we brought in 300 investors who were able to form a more accurate perception of the DRC. The narrative needs to change and the government is ready to tackle these challenges. There's a lot of opportunity here: The bank has gone from US$2.6 to US$4 billion in assets in 2 years; you don't see that kind of growth everywhere. The challenges are marketing real investment opportunities in the DRC.
What is the state of banking penetration in the DRC, and how is EquityBCDC helping to break down financial barriers in the country?
The penetration rate is low in the DRC, with less than 10% of the population banked. But we have helped to change this dynamic. We have helped to break down the financial barrier in the Congo. We are building an inclusive bank that supports all economic players. We launched the first ATMs, the first cards, and the online solutions that have really enabled the banking sector to develop. We have the most comprehensive network of physical branches, and the EquityBCDC express network where retailers act as bank intermediaries, as banking agents trained to take deposits, cash in or out. We're aiming for around 20,000 points of presence across the country, and are aiming to exceed 10 million customers in the near future.
As BCDC turns 115, what is your long-term vision?
115 is the age of maturity. We skilfully combine maturity with the youthful side that the bank brings with all its digital solutions. Today, there's a real renewal of the institution that allows us to look forward to the next 100 years!