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INTERVIEW

We are working towards a modern governance of public finances

We are working towards a modern governance of public finances
  • PublishedJanuary 25, 2024

Jean-Baptiste Ondaye, Minister for the Economy and Finance in the Republic of Congo, gives an overview of his country’s financial situation, and outlines the work underway in the CEMAC zone in terms of financial inclusion.

What do you think of the level of digitalisation of banking services in the Congo and the CEMAC zone?

The CEMAC zone has made significant progress, according to a comparative study based on variables such as websites and social networks, access to online bank accounts and mobile banking applications.

To what extent will your financial inclusion strategy, which is in line with CEMAC’s regional initiatives, stimulate greater economic integration in Central Africa?

You are referring to CEMAC’s 2023-2027 regional financial inclusion strategy, which has just been adopted. It has been designed to remove the constraints to formal financial inclusion on the demand side as well as on the supply side, the legal and regulatory framework and the financial sector environment in CEMAC.

The aim is therefore to promote financial inclusion in each member country and cross-border digital payments within the Community.

The objective of the National Development Plan 2022-26 is to build a strong, diversified, and resilient economy, with a view to creating more wealth and jobs, particularly for young people and women.

The COBAC has decided to ban the use of crypto-assets and bitcoin. Isn’t there a risk that this decision will affect the supply of money and put a brake on investment?

I don’t think so. In May 2022, the COBAC issued a reminder of certain prohibitions relating firstly to the use of crypto-assets, and secondly to the prohibition of bitcoin or any other crypto-currency as a means of valuing the assets, liabilities or off-balance sheet items of reporting institutions. This decision was motivated by a concern to ensure financial stability and protect customer deposits. Far from hindering investment and innovation, these provisions help to maintain a framework of financial transparency and stability, which is one of the key factors in investor decision-making.

The Congolese banking sector is an oligopoly dominated by foreign banks, while the bank penetration rate is 15%, below the African average. What strategy do you envisage to remedy this situation?

The Congolese financial system comprises ten commercial banks, sixteen microfinance institutions, six insurance companies and two pension funds. It also includes BDEAC (Banque de développement des États de l’Afrique centrale), stock exchange companies and portfolio management companies.

What is your position on the future of the CFA franc in Central Africa?

That is up to the CEMAC Heads of State to decide!

What is the economic outlook for the countries of Central Africa? What reforms are needed to accelerate growth and reduce inflation?

In the case of the Congo, economic growth, estimated at 4% in 2023, should rise to 4.4% in 2024. Inflation (4.5% in 2023) is due to higher energy prices, disruptions to the supply chain, and persistent cost shocks due to the recent rise in import prices.

What stage have you reached in your negotiations with the IMF?

You will have read that the IMF Executive Board approved the fourth review under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) on 20 December 2023.

Jean-Baptiste Ondaye was appointed Minister of Economy and Finance of the Republic of Congo on 22 September 2022.

How do you intend to reduce inequalities, in line with the NDP 2022-26?

The aim of the National Development Plan 2022-26 is to build a strong, diversified, and resilient economy, with a view to creating more wealth and jobs, particularly for young people and women.

More specifically, the 2022-2026 NDP aims to improve the productive system’s capacity to create a large number of decent jobs and generate inclusive growth. Employment and inclusive growth should in turn help to substantially reduce poverty.

As Minister for the Economy and Finance, what are your ambitions for the Congo and Central Africa?

My vision for the ministerial department for which I am responsible, under the authority of the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister and as part of the Government Action Programme, is that it should become the vector of economic and financial performance by 2026, with modern governance of public finances.

As part of the CEMAC Economic and Financial Reform Programme, we have conducted high-level missions that led to the organisation of the donors’ roundtable in Paris at the end of November 2023, to mobilise funding for the second generation of CEMAC integration projects. At the end of this roundtable, the total amount of funding mobilised provisionally stood at 9.21 billion euros, or 104.2% of the funding sought.

Written By
Néjib Ben Yedder and Mohamed Ali Aboudi

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