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Rawbank: Making a difference through CSR and digital banking

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Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been a key area of focus for Rawbank. In an interview, the bank highlights some of the CSR initiatives it is undertaking and explains how digital innovation in banking is supporting financial inclusion.

Q: Assuming corporate social responsibility is important to Rawbank, what does the bank’s CSR strategy look like? What does it aim to achieve?

Rawbank has embraced five UN sustainable development goals as part of its CSR strategy: end poverty; promote good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; and climate action. Our CSR strategy is built around three pillars - SMEs and entrepreneurship, women leadership and human capital.

On the first pillar, Rawbank is a leading partner of SMEs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, providing financing and training support. The bank became the first private financial institution in Central Africa to offer training modules, such as Business Edge, for local entrepreneurs.

The training we offer aims to build the capacity of entrepreneurs, managers and SME staff, in order to facilitate their access to financing and improve management tools and business management methods.

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Furthermore, we understand the importance of parity at all levels within the bank, which is why we have an active policy of promoting women to key positions. Our team includes one female board member and a female member in the executive committee. We also have another two female members in the management committee and several others in management positions.

In order to promote the activities of our 'Lady's First' programme, Rawbank set up an annual campaign called 'Ambassador Campaign', which involves electing a woman entrepreneur ambassador for the programme to convey the values advocated by the bank around sustainable development.

The bank has long been committed to helping the needs of employees to build a solid professional career and strengthen their technical, behavioural and managerial skills.

Q: What are some of the CSR initiatives that demonstrate the importance of this area to the bank?

The 'HeforShe' initiative, a campaign initiated by United Nations Women, was designed as a commitment for gender equality.

By joining the ‘HeForShe’ movement, we are demonstrating our commitment to gender equality. The movement allows men to get involved in issues faced by women.

The bank intends to go further in its involvement by partnering with UN Women to raise employee awareness on violence against women and girls.

We are convinced that greater financial inclusion can be achieved through digitisation and the development of an agency banking network to reach remote areas with either limited or no access to financial services.
Isaac Kalala, compliance and corporate social responsibility director, Rawbank
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In particular, we are engaging with those who, for legal and financial reasons, do not meet the integration criteria of the 'Lady’s First' programme, though the launch of the Muffa CD project (financial mutual fund for African women).

Over 4,000 women are members across the country and the partnership between Rawbank and Muffa aims to supporting women in the development of their activities and allowing them to benefit from financial support through a loan.

In addition, we are supporting the Schoolapp initiative. The bank has provided initial financial support for the production of educational content to be posted online so it's accessible to students, pupils and teachers in DRC.

In 2021, the bank developed the Schoolap-Tab credit to facilitate access to tablet devices, developed by a Congolese entrepreneur, aimed at teachers that are also Rawbank customers.

Q: What is different about Rawbank’s approach to CSR compared to other banks in the country?

Rawbank's approach to CSR can be demonstrated through its focus on five UN sustainable development goals: to end poverty; promote good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; and climate action.

As such, the bank is contributing directly to the development of the country and the well-being of the wider community through a number of initiatives. For example, it provided support in the aftermath of the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in May 2021, which caused human losses and significant material damages.

As part of this effort, Rawbank worked with the non-governmental organisation, Change Your World DRC, which brought together displaced families. Significant donations were also given to the Carmel medical centre in Goma. Rawbank is also signing a memorandum of understanding with the Volcanic Observatory of Goma.

Q: All banks claim to be digitally innovative. What are some of the digital innovations Rawbank has developed and launched, and what have been their success?

In 2017, we created the illicocash solution, bringing together multiple paperless services within a single app. The app enables users to send, transfer and withdraw money, verify accounts, top up mobile credit and international transfers and subscription renewals are all available from the platform.

Illicocash 2.0 version was launched in 2021 to enable payments by remote distribution – bank to wallet, wallet to bank, linking a bank account to the illicocash wallet – with the vision of creating an entire ecosystem in the future in which all transactions will be carried out electronically.

Furthermore, the upgraded version enables users to send and receive money to and from any country in the world. This feature is highly valued by customers and is the first solution in the country that allows you to do this remotely.

Other features include MasterCard virtual cards, which allow users to purchase prepaid cards on the app and then access various e-commerce platforms; the ability to make requests for funds through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and an integrated budget manager, allowing customers to better manage their money.

Thanks to these innovations, illicocash 2.0 has seen its customer acquisition rates increase by 30%, with a corresponding increase in the number of transactions.

Q: What new digital innovations in products and services is the bank planning to develop and launch in the future?

Rawbank believes that digital innovation is something that should be integrated in its processes and in its products.

To date, several projects are either being implemented, upgraded or delivered across different areas of the business including AI, mobile banking, business process management, cloud infrastructure and data centre and data analytics.

Q: How, if at all, is Rawbank thinking about CSR and digital innovation? For instance, digital products and services can help support and increase financial inclusion.

By obtaining a license last year to develop its agency banking network, composed of non-banking agents (such as merchants, retailers, small sellers of mobile top-ups), the bank hopes to reduce operational costs by outsourcing some of its services, while strengthening financial inclusion for as many people as possible throughout the territory.

Furthermore, agency banking will allow Rawbank to subcontract services developed in-house, to create a distribution chain throughout the country. In the most remote areas, people will have access to financial services by simply pushing the doors of local shops.

We are convinced that greater financial inclusion can be achieved through digitisation and the development of an agency banking network to reach remote areas with either limited or no access to financial services.