Population: 55,225,478 (2002)
Area: 2,344,858 Km²
Currency: 1 new zaire = 100 makuta
Language(s): Lingala, Kingwana, Kikongo
Time Zone: GMT+1h00
ISO Code: ZR
Dialing Code: +243
This profile of the DRC and doing business there is an overview. From the drop-down menus at the top of this page, you can access a wide range of additional business information on the DRC provided both by MBendi and by our clients and partners.
The first drop-down menu provides access to more detailed pages on the country’s economy, as well as to profiles of the DRC ’s major industry sectors, particularly mining.
The second drop-down menu allows you to access profiles similar to this one for other countries of the world.
The third drop-down menu allows you to search our various databases of DRC business information. This includes companies, organisations including government departments, personalities, projects and facilities.
Finally, the fourth drop-down menu allows you to access a range of Internet applications aimed at assisting you to conduct business more effectively.
The news headlines on this page are updated on a daily basis. You can click on Other News at the end of the headlines in order to get the country’s business news stretching back over several years. Because this overview is only updated every few months, you should use recent news items to build an up to date picture of the DRC business environment.
The DRC is situated in central Africa. It shares its borders with Angola, Zambia, Burundi, Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and the CAR as well as the Republic of the Congo.
The country’s capital city is Kinshasa. Other important cities include Lubumbashi, Mbuji-Mayi and Kisangani.
An international port is situated at Matadi on the Zaire River.
The war in the DRC has claimed over a million lives. The conflict is by no means a clean-cut case of civil war, it is one of a multi-national character involving seven nations. The country’s neighbours of Burundi, Eritrea, Rwanda and Uganda helped rebel forces to gain power with Laurent Kabila as their leader. It was hoped that when he came to power, he would improve the situation which had become grave under the leadership of Mobuto. But the situation worsened and rebel groups accused him of mismanagement as well as alleging that he had become a dictator.
The conflict worsened and Laurent Kabila was forced to seek outside help. He was supported by Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia. His former allies had now turned against him and were offering their support to the rebel groups. The leader retaliated by accusing his former allies of having ulterior motives in terms of resources in the country. He was eventually assassinated by rebels in the beginning of 2001.
It was at this stage that his son Joseph Kabila came to power. The hope that he would bring peace was short-lived and the conflict continues with as much ferocity as ever. The government is currently supported by Namibia, Zimbabwe and Angola, while the rebels are supported by Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
The continuation and intensity of the conflict has largely been blamed on the rich supply of natural resources in the country. With the abounding resources it is easy to finance the war. Some analysts have stated that the only reason that Zimbabwe remains involved in the war is to exploit the natural resources, to which they have unreserved access as a result of their presence in the country.
There have been many attempts at peace but they have been mostly unsuccessful to date. The Lusaka peace accord is the closest that the international community has come to securing any real commitment from belligerents to halt the conflict, but it is a tentative step to further dialogue between the warring parties. So far there has been a withdrawal of some of the foreign troops fighting in the country.
The DRC has one of the richest reserves of natural resources in the world. Although the country should benefit as a result of this fact, this is not the case. Together with economic mismanagement, the on-going conflict in the country has resulted in the economic decline of the DRC.
The war has meant a decrease in national production in all industry sectors. The country’s external debt has increased dramatically as a result. The conditions which prevail in the country have led to many foreign business either suspending or completely halting their operations. The uncertainty of the outcome of the conflict, combined with heightened harassment and restrictions from the government, have all been contributing factors to the problem.
Fundamental problems exist because of a lack of an enforceable legal system. The level of corruption in the DRC is extremely high and there is no transparency with regard to government policy. The inflation rate continues to soar.
Agriculture and mining constitute the DRC’s main economic activities.
As the conflict in the country continues, more foreign investors show their reluctance to invest in the DRC. This is despite the fact that the country boasts an overwhelming supply of natural resources in the form of minerals and timber.
It is not possible to rely on the banking system in the country as it has effectively collapsed. This makes it difficult to conduct financial transactions in the country. Most transactions are said to take place on the black market.
Property rights in the country are not protected and are therefore insecure. This is not only as a result of corruption – the government also prone to expropriating property. Intellectual property rights are threatened in the same manner.
Risk is further increased by the fact that the judiciary is not independent.
Trade in the DRC has been severely hampered by the conflict as it has had a devastating effect on the country’s infrastructure. The high level of corruption is another problem in this area. Customs officials have a bad reputation for their acceptance of bribes in return for trade licenses.
The DRC exports products such as diamonds, copper, coffee, cobalt and crude oil. The main importers of these products include the US, South Africa, Finland and Italy.
The country imports foodstuffs, mining machinery, as well as machinery for other industry sectors, transport equipment and various fuels. Its suppliers include South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and China.
Visas should be obtained from a DRC embassy prior to arrival in the country. There are direct flights on Sundays and Tuesdays to Kinshasa from Johannesburg by the South African carrier SAA.
There are often curfews which can be lifted or enforced with little notice. It is important to adhere to these curfews as far as possible. If one enters the country from Uganda, Rwanda or Burundi, there may be difficulties entering as a result of suspicious authorities. If a visitor wishes to travel outside of Kinshasa then they must obtain written permission from the Ministry of the Interior.
The health and medical facilities in the country are not always up to standard although in the city centres they are generally adequate. It is recommended that visitors obtain information with regards to required vaccinations before entering the country.
A visitor’s safety in the country cannot always be ensured by the government. This is as a result of the fact that the government only controls certain areas of the country. In areas that they do control, there is a high army presence. With the continued instability in the country, personal safety is a continued risk. The DRC is seen by many as a no-go country for foreign travelers and various authorities have warned against it
It is important to note that credit cards are generally not accepted in the country, other than by the main hotels. Traveller’s cheques are also difficult to exchange.
Communications and Infrastructure
The infrastructure of the DRC has been adversely affected by the conflict in the country. Many facilities have been damaged or are too dangerous to use.
Natural disasters such as flooding and the eruption of volcanoes have added to the destruction and dereliction of much of the country’s infrastructure.
The problem of HIV/Aids is one that the DRC has in common with just about every African country. However, the potential for the problem to become worse is extremely high.
The conflict and the chaos which has resulted, have meant that the level of infection in the country is higher than in previous years. The government is unable to effectively collect information regarding numbers. The damage to infrastructure means that the implementation of any programmes aimed at the prevention of the disease is not easy.
It is those in the rural areas that suffer the most. This has a direct effect on agricultural production levels and therefore on the economic potential of the country.
The level of risk in the DRC is obviously extremely high. This risk constitutes a threat to one’s personal safety as well as any attempt to do business in the country.
One’s investment and business safety are not ensured by the government. There is a high level of corruption in the country. This has direct consequences for the conducting of business in the country as it often influences the awarding of contracts or the granting of licenses.
When the IMF reviewed the economic situation of the DRC in July 2001, they mentioned all of the unfavourable economic aspects outlined above. But they were also hopeful as the government had started the long process of liberalising and restructuring the economy. This was with especial emphasis on the private sector. The IMF therefore adopted a cautious but somewhat optimistic approach to the country.
Perhaps this is the sort of attitude that the potential investor should also harbour. This is extremely difficult though as the political situation (which essentially determines the economic situation) does not look as if it will see any improvement in the immediate future, despite the intention to continue the Intrer-Congolese dialogue.
The outlook for the political situation is therefore very cautiously hopeful. The economic situation is not likely to show much change unless there is a sudden rise in confidence levels.
The DRC has a number of chambers of commerce and industry and details of these can be found via our Organisation Search, as can details of relevant government departments. Company Search allows interested parties to find details of many DRC companies.