Destined To Disrupt: How One Microfinance Is Changing Banking In Congo

Destined To Disrupt: How One Microfinance Is Changing Banking In Congo

By Anna Koblanck  | From Center For Financial Inclusion

The Sakombi neighborhood in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is not an area where traditional banks spend their marketing money.

The people who live and work here are street hawkers and day laborers, low-income people in the informal economy who are generally considered risky and expensive customers by most financial institutions.

Microfinance institution FINCA thinks differently.

It conducts regular sales drives in Sakombi and in similar neighborhoods across Kinshasa, offering new customers the chance to open a bank account with just a one dollar deposit. These marketing drives build on a network of agents that FINCA is rolling out with the help of mobile and biometric technology.

Agent and mobile banking are key components in FINCA’s growth strategy in this market where the MFI sees huge potential.

There are few other places in the world where access to financial services is as low as in the DRC. Less than 4 percent of the population of 67 million use banks or other formal financial services, according to the latest estimates from the Central Bank.

“We estimate that at present, 3 percent of our potential market is served by FINCA or similar microfinance institutions, while 97 percent of the Congolese market is still unbanked,” says FINCA DRC CEO Alejandro Jakubowicz.

The agent network is considerably cheaper than a traditional brick-and-mortar expansion, and the biometric point-of-sales devices that agents use are not only convenient in terms of outreach but also solve an important identification problem as few people have national ID cards.

Customers essentially have their bank accounts in their fingertips.