Equity Group Holdings Chief Executive Officer, Dr James Mwangi.

What was billed as a bold expansion move into one of the biggest markets in Africa — the DRC — is unravelling into a bumpy ride for Kenya’s only trillion-shilling bank.

A regulatory spat sparked by the appointment of two managing directors Yves de Cuypers and Célestin Mukeba to head Equity Commercial Bank of Congo (Equity BCDC) after the merger with Banque Commerciale du Congo (BCDC) and Equity Bank Congo (EBC) has kept Equity Group Holdings chief executive officer, Dr James Mwangi, busy shuttling between Nairobi and Kinshasa.

Mr de Cuypers is the former managing director of BCDC while Mr Mukeba was heading EBC before the lenders’ merger.

The Democratic Repulic of Congo (DRC) apex bank, Banque Centrale du Congo (BCC), however, said that the decision taken by Dr Mwangi was not only unilateral but illegal in the central African nation, forcing Equity to move Mr de Cuypers to regional director in charge of the Central and Southern Africa region.

Equity Bank got easy clearances to acquire Belgian tycoon, George Forrest’s 66.53 per cent stake in BCDC for Sh10.4 billion ($95m) and merge it with the unit it bought as Procredit in 2015, creating the biggest foreign bank in the DRC.

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The smooth transition was, however, ruffled when Dr Mwangi dispatched an internal memo to staff, announcing the changes in the new bank’s structure and management committee and integrating BCDC’s operations and data into the Equity Group platform.

The industry regulator was, however, angered by the procedure followed where decisions were being made by the chairman of a shareholding company and not the bank’s board.

The lender has now named a new board chairman — in February — and company secretary, paving the way for the Board to appoint Equity BCDC’s managing director, and deputy.

Mr Nestor Ankiba is now the chairman of Equity BCDC board with Mr Mukeba as the managing director and Mr Jean Claude Tshipama, the former managing director of Canal+DRC as his deputy.

The board chairman, Mr Pierre Chevalier, who had been serving as interim chairman of the board since Equity’s acquisition of the bank in August 2020 stepped down. He will, however, continue serving on the board as a director.

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“I want to thank the Central Bank of Congo for their support and the timely approvals for the EBC-BCDC merger that has enabled this seamless transition through a change of ownership, a migration of the core IT banking platforms and eventually the merging of the two subsidiaries of Equity – BCDC and Equity Bank Congo – forming Equity BCDC. We are grateful to have worked closely with the Ministry of Portfolio in order to represent the interests of the Government and those of Equity BCDC. We wish to thank the Government for their support throughout the process,” Mr Ankiba said.

Mr Cuypers is the first Equity Group Holdings Plc., regional director in charge of the Central and Southern Africa Region.

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