DRC mobile banking faces challenges in remote areas

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Kinshasa, DR Congo

Isidore Monga is a civil servant whose salary, like millions others in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is now being paid via mobile banking.

Though he receives an SMS notifying him that his money is ready, he has got to travel thousands of miles to fetch it at a mobile paying point as there is no bank in their area. The trip costs him about US$4, quite a fortune in a country where the UN says 63% of the population live in extreme poverty. 

“It’s a huge challenge for me, and I don’t know how long this will last. I’m begging the authorities to do something about it,” Monga told Biztechafrica. And it is not only Monga that has this problem, all over the country stressed government employees are singing the same sad song.

While the payment method has proved successful in the capital Kinshasa and urban areas like Lubumbashi and Matadi, the struggle continues for workers who live in remote places in this vast, ill-equipped country that has few roads and is suffering from chronic power outages.

“The initiative was excellent, but it lacked good planning and extensive consultation. I’m pretty sure that the mobile operators were not well consulted and given more time to make preparations,” Samba explained.

Vodacom M-Pesa, Airtel Money and Tigo Cash have all been ‘enrolled’ by the government, through the Association Congolaise des Banques (ACB), to run this operation, which is far from being called mission accomplie.

Vodacom Congo initially said that ‘mobile operators will now go where banks cannot go’, while Airtel DRC, seeing that the operations were beginning to harvest success, said ‘that is why authorities decided to involve us’. 

More than 300 000 employees are thought to have been paid through mobile banking since the start of the operation two years ago.

“I think everybody thought that everything will go as smooth as a sailing river, but now they can see that the pill is getting bitter to swallow,” he said.

And it is not only the problem of few paying points, the demand now seems to be overtaking supply, Samba said, adding that mobile operators now appear to be overwhelmed by all sorts of problems, including bad network and difficulties to access certain areas.

Mobile operators said they were aware of the challenges facing the operation and were working to solve them.

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