DR Congo banking on wage revolution for state workers

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

For civil servants working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the arrival of mobile banking has been just short of a miracle.

Aside from getting paid on time, workers are now receiving what is actually owed to them, circumventing greedy superiors who used to dip into their pay envelopes to "tip" themselves and leave staff with only a fraction of their salaries.

"The first time, they're surprised" to see what they actually make, Hassan Wazni said, managing director at Sofibanque -- one of about a dozen banks offering mobile banking accounts in the conflict-torn Congo.

For the impoverished central African country the size of western Europe, the introduction of the service represents a minor revolution and comes about a year after Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo vowed to end the practice where state workers were paid in cash.

With an average annual revenue of $240 (185 euros) per person, most Congolese had never visited a bank before, let alone had an account.

Like a number of other countries in Africa and Asia that had only a tiny network of bank branches but where mobile phones are now ubiquitous, Congo opted for mobile banking.

No smartphones are needed. Clients can pay bills, make deposits or conduct other transactions via text messages.

Many shops, even in rural areas, have the equipment and can take deposits, make withdrawals or make sales with transactions confirmed by the clients with their phones.

"It's very practical," said Barthelemy Bosongo, who works at the Youth and Sports Ministry.

"Everyone likes it" even though there were a few hiccups with spelling of names at the outset.

So far some 270,000 state employees have received bank accounts, and by June all one million civil servants should have their accounts.