Congo Central Bank Moves to Stabilize BIAC as It Urges Calm

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s central bank said steps are being taken to stabilize Banque Internationale Pour l’Afrique, which closed its branches for the second time in a week because of a liquidity squeeze.

“Urgent measures have been taken in order to return BIAC to normal operations from April 5,” Governor Deogratias Mutombo Mwana Nyembo told reporters Sunday in the capital, Kinshasa. Mwana Nyembo spoke after a series of emergency meetings with the country’s finance minister and the newly appointed management team at BIAC, as the lender is known.

Depositors and the general public should be “calm and continue to have confidence in BIAC and Congo’s banking system,” the governor said. The banking industry in Africa’s biggest copper producer has been trying to rebuild consumer trust since average inflation of 684 percent during the 1990s and the collapse of several banks wiped out many people’s savings.

BIAC has been under central bank supervision since June, when the regulator conducted an audit and instructed the bank to improve profitability and increase its capital. In February, the government instructed the central bank to cut lending to BIAC as part of a series of measures to reduce public spending and support the Congolese franc.

The bank, which says it’s Congo’s third-biggest lender, closed its branches in Kinshasa early on April 1 and they remained shut on April 2 and on Monday. The bank also shuttered its outlets last weekend and then limited cash withdrawals to $500, or 500,000 Congolese francs.

BIAC welcomed Sunday’s announcement and is working to re-open on Tuesday, it said in an e-mailed statement.

“These last weeks have been complicated, but everything will be progressively resolved,” Anne Mbuguje, the bank’s interim chief executive officer, said in the statement. Mbuguje was appointed last week in a management change, replacing former CEO Michel Losembe, who will step down on April 15.

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