Congo DRC: What now ?

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Congo DRC: What now ?

Jean-Philippe Waterschoot - Délégué permanent de la CBL-ACP en RDC Administrateur de la CBL-ACP - représentant du groupe TEXAF
Jean-Philippe Waterschoot
Délégué permanent de la CBL-ACP en RDC
Administrateur de la CBL-ACP – représentant du groupe TEXAF

The DRC is facing new challenges with important elections coming soon in the context of administrative reorganization of the country into 26 new provinces.

The DRC is the largest country in Central Africa, it is a market of nearly 80 million consumers. It has untold richeness but it is not yet able to create the conditions for sustainable development, which involves diversification ofits economy by making it less dependent on mining activity. Furthermore and despite sustained growth, the mechanisms are not yet in place for a fair sharing of the benefits of this growth.

The effects of the sharp decline of the commodities prices illustrate the weaknesses of an economy based exclusively on rent activities, too sensitive to these external shocks.

But the real wealth of a country is elsewhere, it is measured by the number and quality of brains and skills it is able to train and prepare for its development. The driving force behind the emergence of the DRC will go through education and training.

The country is fortunate to have a huge capital in water, agriculture, forests and tourism , which allows many axes of diversification but its dimensions, its weak infrastructure and the size of its population still make these challenges difficult to take on.

The reorganisation of the country in new provinces is intended to bring the administration closer to people. In this transitional period, the powers of the State and those of  the provinces often overlap rather than complement each other, forming a barrier ; especially in tax and incidental matters for the development of economic activities that create jobs and added  value  in the country, in regions already hit by a strong isolation.

It is in the interest of all that the DRC becomse a politically stable and economically strong regional power. For this purpose, we need to encourage public-private partnership initiatives to contribute more to the development of this country, focusing on the recognized expertise of our companies and the special ties between Belgium to the DRC.

Unfortunately, some interesting decisions that aim to encourage investment and trade are too often initiated but not finalized because of their non-formalization by the Congolese authorities. A good example for Belgian companies : the Law of protection and promotion of investments and Preventive Double Taxation Convention which is not yet strictly applicable.

Similarly, some law reforms, such as the Agricultural Code of December 2011, paradoxically carry within them the brake on investment, although their purpose is to encourage it.

It is necessary for  the DRC to create a favorable business climate by acting on the governance, the fight against corruption, security of tenure, access to energy and business law. These conditions are a prerequisite to attract major investors in areas with strong job creation.

In recent years, significant efforts have been made by the authorities of the DRC, especially for a return to peace, even if parts of the country remain subject to intolerable violence. Elections have bees organized in 2006 and 2011 and improvement of the macroeconomic framework and the stabilization of the currency have been launched.

Moreover, the DRC, with its 2.3 million km2 and its geo-strategic position in the heart of central Africa, is a partner of SADC, ECCAS and COMESA, making it a vital platform for trade in the subregion. Significant resources have been, and are, with the support of external partners, implemented for the development of infrastructure and the creation of  trade channels  (both road and river) between provinces and towards neighboring countries.

Membership in the OHADA, the set up of several PSCs including that for the creation of enterprises, the liberalization of the electricity sector and the insurance sector are also many incentives for our companies to take the risk of “plunge” by developing an activity in the DRC, the country that offers so many opportunities.

We make the wish that the whole Congolese political class will take care, over the coming months, to focus on the welfare of its people and its legitimate aspiration for a better future, safeguarding the achievements of recent years. This will allow the country to continue its march toward a long-awaited emergence.