DRC civil servants hail mobile banking, ICTs

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Kinshasa, DR Congo

Civil servants in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have described mobile banking as the ‘biggest miracle’ of the 21st century, saying that the information and communication technologies (ICTs) have saved them from corruption and helped them recover their dignity.

At the centre of these eulogies is the government’s new strategy to pay its civil servants, including cops and soldiers, through the banks, which then connect the employees’ accounts to their cellphone numbers.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw my salary reflecting on my cellphone. Then I went to the bank to get my money. And guess what, I got it exactly as it showed on the pay slip. This is a miracle of the 21st century,” Paul Nobana (52) told Biztechafrica.

Nobana, like millions of Congolese employed and unemployed, never had a bank account and used to think that bank accounts were only for the wealthy and their families.

Therefore, civil servants in this vast mineral-rich nation used to get their salaries through small windows office managed by  paying agents who allegedly swindled a couple of bank notes from each employee’s salary.

But when mobile banking was introduced in the DRC in late 2011, the government thought that it was time to take the opportunity to fight corruption among its ranks, including identifying ghost civil servants, whose salaries simply disappeared into the syndicates’ coffers.

While the Association Congolaise des Banques (ACB) estimates that there are only some 600 000 bank accounts in the DRC out of a population of 80 million, minister of posts, telecoms and ICTs Kin-Kiey Mulumba recently said the country boasted some 22 million mobile subscribers.

“I no longer need to travel to my village to give some money to my family because I now do everything through my telephone mobile which is my bank account,” driver Georges Ekutshu (47), a native of Mbandaka in northern DRC, said.

Jean-Claude Masangu, former Congolese Central Bank governor who oversaw the country’s launch of mobile banking, said the dawn of new ICTs paved the way to mobile payments, which in turn had the merit of promoting financial inclusion on a large scaleby challenging various existing constraints.

 

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