Zaire Table of Contents
The banking system in Zaire has traditionally been underdeveloped and largely confined to urban areas. Zaire's banking system consists of a central bank, called the Bank of Zaire (Banque du Zaïre), and seventeen commercial banks, including development or investment institutions. In addition to the traditional functions of a central bank--issuing currency, establishing monetary policy, and acting as cashier for the national government--the Bank of Zaire also has the power to control all financial institutions in Zaire and to administer the country's gold and foreign monetary reserves.
The Bank of Zaire experienced difficulties in the early 1990s because of the country's dire economic situation. Mobutu's government had survived primarily by printing new money abroad to pay its loyal troops but became deeply indebted to German and British printing firms.
Of the seventeen commercial banks, only one, the People's Bank, was publicly owned. The other sixteen commercial banks were mostly subsidiaries of Western banks, the largest being the Zairian Commercial Bank, which is associated with a Belgian industrial conglomerate. The two most important investment organizations are the Development Finance Company (Société Financière de Développement--Sofide) and the National Savings and Real Estate Fund (Caisse Nationale d'Épargne et de Crédit Immobilier--CNECI). Sofide is a joint stock company, financed by the government, the World Bank, and the private sector and was responsible for lending money to create or modernize industry in Zaire. CNECI promotes savings from the private sector and granted loans to individuals for housing or mortgages.
As of 1993, the banking system has virtually collapsed. The central bank is bankrupt, and most other banks have closed. Despite the demise of the official banking system, however, many banking services are available through the informal sector. Visitors to Zaire have reported that Zairian women "bankers" operating in the informal economy have ample supplies of foreign currencies for exchange.
Data as of December 1993