Félicité SINGA BOYENGE optimistic for 2020
After ten years in management positions at Citibank, and as many at Standard, Félicité Singa Boyenge tried in vain for three years to save FiBanK, of which she was appointed Managing Director in 2012.

Building on this exceptional track record, this expert of the Congolese financial sector, who was CBA’s vice-president for three years, created the consulting firm EMAC, Executive Management Advisory & Consulting, in 2016. Founder last May of The Bankers Club DRC, she shares her thoughts on the 2020 prospects of the banking sector in the DRC and, in March, on women’s entrepreneurship. 

Interview.

 What does 2020 look like for the banking sector in the DRC?

 First of all, we should note the good health of the banking system. There has been a real “jump” over the last five years, and particularly over 2018/2019. The banks’ balance sheet total has reached US$8.5 billion, mainly due to an increase in deposits to just over US$6 billion and banking operations that have had a positive impact on the banks’ turnover and net profit. This is encouraging. In 2020, however, there is a risk that some banks may struggle to reach the 50 million minimum capital requirement of the BCC, as several of them have already struggled to reach the 30 million threshold. However, particular attention should be paid to the deterioration of the credit portfolio in some banks, which could undermine the efforts made so far.

 The Congolese Association of Banks is going to ask for a delay, isn’t it?

 Yes, it will probably ask for a postponement until the end of 2021... 

50 million minimum capital, how does that compare to other countries?

 Not much compared to advanced economies such as Nigeria where we are on capital values for banks around 200 million, but 50 million is still above average in Central Africa. However, this is too low in relation to the financing needs of large companies such as the mining industry in particular. It forces them to seek external financing, whereas it would be preferable for local banks to be able to finance major projects with local resources.

 How much more do you expect to see in 2020? 

In terms of the balance sheet total, between 10 and 15%... Partly because of the application of the law obliging miners to repatriate a good part of their export earnings and also in view of the development of the insurance sector whose potential, in the medium term, is around 800 million, whereas it is less than 400 million today. However, the growth of the banks is dependent on the health of the economy, which itself is dependent on the political and security situation. I am not making this up.

 What about the international economic situation?

 If some advanced countries are likely to be negatively impacted by the coming financial crisis (I am referring to the forecasts announced in the international media), the countries of sub-Saharan Africa in general and the DRC in particular could be spared because of the low exposure of their external commitments compared to the European, American and Asian continents. As for the audit of the American Treasury on the flow of capital in dollars in the DRC, it will, we all hope, remove the ambiguity on the suspicions of money laundering and the sword of Damocles that has been hanging over our country for a few years. On this point, I have confidence in the country’s institutions and I am calm.

 Especially since the new government is rather well regarded by Washington ... 

Yes, the President of the Republic has done a real job of changing his image.

 We’ve even become respectable again in the eyes of some people! What do you think of the Treasury bill policy launched by the BCC at the end of 2019? Can the State create debt? 

The Treasury bill policy is an interesting financing lever for major projects... and at the same time a tool for stabilising the Congolese Franc. I perhaps regret that the announcement did not take into account the particular attractiveness of these financial products. As for the domestic debt, the State can indeed create debt with Treasury bills. If it finances free schooling, for example, why not!

 And what do you think of the fund for future generations and the implementation of the FTAA on July 1. Pure utopia? 

When it comes to the fund for future generations, I’m less optimistic! The dossier is on the table of decision makers, but I’m afraid it’s going to drag on... That said, and to put a positive spin on it, the mere fact that we’re really working on it is already a big step. As for the FTAA, the borders will have to be opened sooner or later anyway. I don’t think the DRC is ready yet, if I may be so bold, we have not been able to plan (from an administrative, judicial and security standpoint) unlike some bordering countries for example. 

The Bankers club has been going for a year now, a balance sheet? 

 We organized our second “breakfast meeting” in February during which we discussed, among other things, a topical issue, namely “money laundering in the DRC” with representatives of the Central Bank of Congo, the Insurance Regulation and Control Authority and the National Financial Intelligence Unit, the Congolese Banking Association, as well as the heads of banks and insurance companies, before an audience of economic players from various sectors of activity. As far as the balance sheet is concerned, the club is structured and presents itself as a platform for exchange, reflection and training through its forums and conferences-debates for executives of financial institutions.

 As a woman in the banking sector in DRC, you have repeatedly stated that you have not been hindered in your progress, is that correct?

 Yes, absolutely... Maybe a little, at the beginning, 26 years ago, but that was another time. On the other hand, I think that a career in the professional world and entrepreneurship for women is not encouraged enough, whereas I am convinced that women can equally and acceptably participate in the development of the country. She may even be the solution! I encourage parity and, for equal ability, equal change given to women.

 Go further…

 For women’s development, we need to think about formulas that go far beyond the communications’ strategies of some banks of the place where many information seminars are organized throughout the country. Granting cash credit is not enough. We should be able to finance projects that generate added value for the economy. I think that the major problem lies in support, we need real support during the operationalization phase. We could envisage a professional upgrading structure, in the form of evening classes for example, for those women who are already in business and who wish to improve their skills.

 A last word? 

Let’s be resolutely optimistic! The DRC is on the right track!

 Interviewed by Fabrice Lehoux

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