Boundless opportunity for banking services in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In a country with a population between 60m-80m people there are only 3m bank accounts. The Government is taking steps to make banking safer and less corrupt.
Though they usually travel with army escorts, there have been at least ten armed robberies of bank employees since January, says Mr Losembe. One particularly brutal raid in September in South Kivu, in the wild east of the country, killed 13 people. Congolese bankers hope that the new system will spur the growth of a proper banking sector. At the moment banks are little more than money-transfer companies, and not very sophisticated ones at that. The transfers tend to go only one way—out of Kinshasa—so cannot be netted against each other; instead cash almost always has to be moved physically. Depositors mistrust both banks and the Congolese franc. To attract dollar deposits, banks must pay at least 6% annual interest; rates for borrowers are generally as high as 25%. There is hardly any corporate lending beyond short-term overdraft facilities.