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Equity Bank in talks to buy controlling stake in leading DRC bank

The bank, which also operates in Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo eyes to buy controlling stakes in another leading bank in DRC. (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA — Equity Group said on Monday it has entered talks with some shareholders of Banqué Commerciale du Congo (BCDC) shareholders to buy a controlling stake in the Congolese bank, stepping up its Africa expansion.

According to reports by Reuters, Equity, which already runs another subsidiary in the DRC, said the talks were likely to result in a cash transaction.

It did not identify the BCDC shareholders who are selling.

In March this year, a subsidiary of Equity Bank in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) signed a pact with FSD Africa to tap into existing potential from million of farmers, youth, women and small businesses.

The three-year US$2.8 million project will train and enroll at least 4,000 people to become bank agents across 22 of DRC’s 26 provinces. Once trained, the “Equity Cash Express” agents will help unbanked populations in rural areas gain better access to financial services including savings accounts, credit and micro-insurance products.

Agency banking, where local people are trained to provide banking services, is proving to be a viable approach for increasing financial inclusion in previously underserved areas.

By 2021, the project aims to have opened one million new savings accounts, approved 10,000 loans and issued 5,000 new insurance products. A large proportion of these products will be opened by farmers and small businesses who until now have had limited access to formal financial services.

“FSD Africa is supporting Equity Bank’s vision of providing inclusive financial services to all. This project will increase access to finance for previously unserved and underserved customers in DRC, improving their livelihoods and resilience while demonstrating the potential of agency banking in a fragile and conflict affected state such as DRC,” said Paul Musoke, Director, Financial Institutions, FSD Africa.

Poor infrastructure, a large geography and a prolonged civil war means financial inclusion rates in DRC remain low. Out of a population of 88 million, more than 25 million remain excluded from the financial system, while only 14 per cent of people have an account at a financial institution.

While financial institutions have expanded their branch network in recent years, access to financial services remains limited once outside DRC’s key economic zones of Kinshasa, Matadi, Lubumbashi, Kivu and Goma.

“At Equity Bank Congo, we have been implementing state-of-the-art Agency Banking technology for over three years. Today we have more than 2,100 accredited agents, working across Kinshasa, central Kongo, Bandundu, the two Kivus and Grand Katanga. Our new service, “Equity Cash Express”, will allow our clients to carry out banking transactions quickly, easily and safely via our network of accredited agents,” said Celestin Mukeba, Managing Director of Equity Bank Congo.

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