How banks and fintechs can boost financial inclusion in Congo – TechCabal
Image credit: Noel K. Tshiani
Noel K. Tshiani is the founder of Congo Business Network, which partnered with the Africa Fintech Summit to bring an official delegation from Kinshasa to participate in the event from November 3–4, 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa.
I went to Cape Town to participate in the Africa Fintech Summit from November 3–4, 2022. I organised a delegation made up of representatives from the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Small Businesses, the National Agency for the Development of Entrepreneurship in Congo, Ecobank DRC, and fintech startups from Kinshasa.
I and people in our delegation met attendees who came from various countries, including Nigeria, Kenya, Angola, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, the United Kingdom, and Ethiopia, with the goal to meet investors, find business partners, and gain visibility on social media.
Panels that were organised on the first day of the event provided participants with the chance to hear directly from entrepreneurs and operators in the fintech ecosystem in Africa. Discussions centred on the latest trends, challenges, and investment opportunities in various countries.
We went on a tour of the ecosystem on the second day of the conference and visited four places, including the Cape Town Stock Exchange, to hear what people at the local level are doing to develop startups that can scale and solve problems for consumers in South Africa.
I collaborated with event organisers to put in place a panel in French to discuss how startups are contributing to economic growth in Francophone Africa, a region that includes countries such as Senegal, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Brazzaville-Congo, Chad, Gabon, and Congo-Kinshasa.
Having participated in a series of events organised by the Africa Fintech Summit in April 2019 in Washington, followed by November 2019 in Addis Ababa, then November 2021 in Cairo, Egypt with a delegation from the Central Bank of Congo, and in November 2022 in Cape Town with representatives from Ecobank DRC, it has become clear to me that banks and fintech startups can be partners in the quest to achieve financial inclusion in Kinshasa.
Banks have the resources that fintech startups need to provide services to merchants or individual clients. Some of these resources include a banking licence and the technology infrastructure to issue prepaid debit cards that will allow shoppers to buy from online sellers and pay at grocery stores without carrying cash, a practice that should be strongly discouraged in Africa.
And encouraging mutually-beneficial partnerships between banks and fintech startups will further contribute to financial inclusion, especially in remote areas that are difficult for banks to open a new branch. Finding qualified employees to begin operations in a new location is a challenge that banks have to overcome.
For fintech startups to succeed, it is essential for the Central Bank of Congo to take a proactive role by putting in place a sandbox, which is a mechanism that involves ongoing discussions with entrepreneurs so that decision-makers at the regulatory authority can better understand what startups do and adjust regulations to reflect the nature of an evolving financial service sector.
The Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Small Businesses need to develop a plan focused on how to work with fintech startups to help them find training, mentors, and investors from around the world. It is surprising to know that there are 15 banks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but only 10% of the population of 100 million people have bank accounts.
Clearly, a lot of work needs to be done by both the Central Bank of Congo and the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Small Businesses to assist fintech startups to develop and provide services in the provinces, where 80% of the population lives. The banking sector is at the core of any developed economy, and fintech startups can play an essential role for the good of the country going forward in 2023.
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