The congolese financial and banking landscape is characterized by banks, microfinance institutions, electronic money institutions that are committed to providing several financial and banking services to its customers. However, it should be noted that the country experiences a low rate of access to banking and financial inclusion compared to other countries in the region. Nowadays the banking rate in the DRC is estimated at 6% and 13 % penetration of mobile financial services(statistic of 2019). Among the factors that contribute to the low rate of financial inclusion and banking services in the country are: the billing of basic banking services by commercial banks, electronic money institutions and microfinance institutions. This fact deserves to take legal actions aiming to reinforce the financial inclusion of the populations as well as to accelerate the banking. Reason why the Central Bank of Congo, has set up the regulation to credit and microfinance institutions No. 37 of January 03, 2019 relating to banking services offered free of charge.
By Gaby Kabue Kayombo
I. Subject of the regulation
The regulation to credit and microfinance institutions No. 37 of January 3, 2019 relating to free banking services, essentially aims the promoting of banking services offered by credit institutions and microfinance institutions to their customers. In addition, it contributes to improving the financial inclusion rate that the country is facing.
This regulation is subject to credit institutions, which are made up by banks; savings and credit cooperatives; savings banks; specialized financial institutions as well as financial companies. It also applies to microfinance institutions established in the DR Congo.
II. Entry into force of regulation
Published on January 03, 2019, the regulation came into force on June 03, 2019, either six months after its publication. This text first draws its legal basis from Act No. 18/027 on the organization and functioning of the Central Bank of Congo; Act No. 003/2002 relating to the activity and control of credit institutions and Act No. 002/2002 on provisions applicable to savings and credit cooperatives.
Under the terms of Article 4 of the regulation under review stipulates: “Anyone who contravenes the provisions of this regulation is liable to the sanctions provided by the legal and regulatory texts”.
III. Categories of free banking services
The regulation provides 15 banking services offered free of charge by all credit institutions and microfinance institutions operating within the national territory. These free banking services are divided into 3 categories.
1° Opening, operation and monitoring of account
This category relating to the opening, functioning and monitoring of accounts contains 8 banking services to be offered by credit and microfinance institutions: it is the services related to account opening; depositing cash in the customer’s bank regardless of counter; withdrawing cash from the customer’s bank regardless of counter and currency; salary domiciliation; the change of components of the client’s file; the establishment of direct debit or permanent transfer authorization; the establishment and dispatch of the first two monthly and printed statements of the client’s account and the closing account.
2° Payment methods and operations
This group has 4 banking services which are offered free of charge by subject institutions. It is the services related to the withdrawal from an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) of the customer or from a Point of Service (banking agent); the balance consulting and editing the first two monthly balance statements at the customer’s ATM; transfer from account to account in the same bank; payment by bank card in national currency.
E-banking is an outcome of the digital transformation of banks which has changed the paradigm of banking services. In fact, the E-Banking category contains 2 banking services to be offered free of charge by all credit institutions and microfinance institutions: the services related to debit and credit notice through electronic means; consultation and editing of account balance and history through an ATM from the customer’s bank.
IV. Observations and recommendations
Indeed, the regulation to credit and microfinance institutions No. 37 of January 3, 2019 relating to free banking services, is an incentive and legal action which contributes to the improvement of the rate of financial inclusion and banking in the country. However, it should be noted that the instruction on free banking services offered by credit and microfinance institutions did not take into account the payment services through bank card, collection of national transfers, regional and international.
From this point of view, it is relevant to recommend to the Central Bank of Congo, to take the regulation which includes the payment services by bank card, collection of national, regional and international transfers, as the banking services offered free of charge by the credit institutions and microfinance institutions.
As long as the regulation No. 37 aims in particular the promoting banking services, it is recommended that the Central Bank of Congo take an additional instruction from credit and microfinance institutions relating to moderately billed banking services.
 In 2018 the congolese financial and banking landscape counted 16 commercial banks; 20 microfinance institutions; 81 savings cooperatives; 7 specialized financial institutions, 3 professional electronic money institutions
 www.https://arca.cd/la-rdc/ (consulted on May 2020).
Article 2 paragraph 2, Act No. 003/2002 of February 2, 2002 relating to the activity and control of credit institutions, OJ, Special No, May 2002.
 Article 10, Act No. 18/027 of December 13, 2018 on the organization and functioning of the Central Bank of Congo, OJ, Special No. December 2018, p.8
 Act No. 002/2002 of February 02, 2002 on provisions applicable to Savings and Credit Cooperatives, in collection of legislative and regulatory texts in matters of currency, exchange, credit, supervision of financial intermediaries, fight against money laundering capital and terrorist financing. OJ., Special No. 20 January 2013, p.43.