Despite its mineral-rich reserves, the majority of the Dominican Republic of Congo (DRC)’s population is crushingly poor. More than 60 per cent of the population lives at the poverty line and many earn less than two dollars per day.
Following a decades-long civil war and ongoing armed conflict at the country’s borders, including fleeing refugees to neighbouring states, FINCA Canada – in partnership with the Government of Canada – works in the DRC to help the Congolese create their own jobs and build assets. This collaboration offers life-altering opportunities by using technology and financial education to steer Congolese people towards a better way of life. Gender equality continues to be top-of-mind for the nation, and in April 2021, a new Sacred Union of the Nation government was formed, counting 57 members including 14 women. Although the size of the government has been reduced, a large portion of women’s and young people’s participation has been considered as legislators prioritize displaying principles of representation of equality and inclusivity on the cabinet.
FINCA launched in the DRC 18 years ago to support women and small businesses that had no access to investment from the financial industry. FINCA Canada was then launched in 2007, and despite initially starting with only 1,000 clients, FINCA Canada has grown to serve nearly 275,000 Congolese clients today. While this number is an impressive testament to the growing trust the Congolese place in the value of and access to microfinancing, it only tells part of the story.
Technological innovations offering life-changing opportunities
Adult illiteracy in the DRC, according to an UNESCO 2016 estimate, is a staggering 77.04 per cent. With so few people able to complete the simplest financial transactions in traditional ways, FINCA Canada leveraged innovative technology and partnerships with mobile phone companies that enable access to account creation, loan applications and point-of-sale purchases at local retailers, all through fingerprint scans. All of FINCA Canada’s clients are now registered this way, delivering on the promise to provide accessible financial solutions that serves to those in need.
This kind of innovative thinking is helping FINCA Canada make a measurable and positive impact on Congolese culture regarding their financial habits and sense of security. No longer are citizens hiding their money “under the mattress.” Instead, they are recognizing the importance of savings, and as their familiarity with financial services increases, it is encouraging to see many people beginning to transfer money into banks for the diversity of offerings. This reinforces that the assistance and early financial education FINCA Canada provides is directly translating to critical confidence in financial literacy .
Closing the gender poverty gap
Unfortunately, Congolese women have traditionally been more financially marginalized than their male counterparts. This inequity has led to a gender poverty gap exacerbated by the other challenges within the country, such as decades of war and violence and recently COVID-19. To bridge this gap and create financial inclusion for both men and women, FINCA Canada – in partnership with the Government of Canada – has launched a Financial Inclusion Project to increase economic prosperity for all in the DRC and Haiti, with a focus on low-income women. Since the beginning of the project in 2018, more than 13,000 low-income DRC women have been trained in financial literacy.
As the demand continues to grow, so too does FINCA Canada’s ongoing commitment to marginalized Congolese women in the DRC. The institution currently delivers insurance for women, specific loan products called “Just for Her” and have implemented community banking agents in an attempt to reach more women in need within rural areas. Despite persistent pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, FINCA Canada continues to connect with clients digitally resulting in significant increases in both the number of mobile clients and the number of mobile transactions. This reinforces FINCA’s leading role in global microfinancing.
We are not stopping here
This year, it is anticipated that COVID-19 will negatively impact, and reverse decades of progress made in reducing global poverty. The United Nations estimates between 110 and 150 million people, will fall back into extreme poverty by the end of 2021, – disproportionately so for women – further expanding the gender poverty gap. The pandemic has accelerated the need for support in the DRC, which is why, we are devoted to offering continuous support to stop Congolese women from slipping back into extreme poverty. This year, we are committed to helping 120,000 women in Haiti and the DRC FINCA Canada’s OppHERtunity Campaign.
Our success is directly linked to our desire to improve the lives of our clients and be the best partners we can be. FINCA Canada looks forward to building ongoing relationships in the DRC that help support those in need and contribute to a better quality of life for all.
FINCA Canada is grateful to the Government of Canada for their partnership and to Canadian donors for their generous support.