Discusses key economic indicators and trade statistics, which countries are dominant in the market, the U.S. market share, the political situation if relevant, the top reasons why U.S. companies should consider exporting to this country, and other issues that affect trade, e.g., terrorism, currency devaluations, trade agreements.
Last Published: 7/24/2017

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) rich endowment of natural resources, large population, and strategic location in Central Africa make it a potentially rewarding market for U.S. companies. However, the DRC’s commercial and investment climate remains extremely challenging.  

Following decades of economic instability due to fiscal mismanagement, corruption and conflict, the government of the DRC (GDRC) implemented economic reforms aimed at creating sustainable growth, controlling inflation, maintaining the stability of the macroeconomic framework, reducing the weight of external debt and rehabilitating infrastructure.  The GDRC’s efforts from 2001 to 2014 yielded some improvement, but following a drop in mineral prices and the subsequent economic downturn in 2016-2017, significant challenges remain. 

Between June 2016 and April 2017, the DRC’s economic situation deteriorated significantly.  The estimated growth rate for 2016 was 2.4 percent, against 6.9 percent in 2015, and inflation was estimated at 12 percent  in 2016, against 1 percent in 2015.  Despite this, GDP remained close to level at $38.5 billion in 2016 versus $37 billion in 2015. 

The deterioration in the economy is in large part due to a fall in the global price of minerals and petroleum, as the latter constitute an estimated 95 percent of the DRC’s export revenues, and by ongoing political instability. The GDRC has made little progress in diversifying the economy which remains overly reliant on volatile global commodity markets.

A tense political climate continues to discourage investment and divert attention from economic issues – as of early June the government is still operating under the equivalent of a continuing resolution, without a formal budget.  Although his final constitutionally mandated term ended in December 2016, President Kabila remains in office.  The international community considers a power-sharing agreement concluded on December 31, 2016 to be the most viable path to elections and a peaceful transition of power, but both the government and the main opposition bloc have failed to inclusively implement the agreement. 

Fiscal reforms implemented in 2015 helped stabilize inflation and the Congolese Franc (CDF), keeping inflation below 2 percent despite drops in commodity prices.  Between 2011 and 2015, the CDF held steady against the dollar, trading at roughly $1 to CDF930.  However, beginning in April 2016 the CDF began to lose ground against the dollar and in April 2017 was trading at approximately CDF 1400 per $1.  

Despite economic improvements between 2005 and 2013, chronic corruption, poor or nonexistent infrastructure, and political violence continue to plague the DRC.  The majority of the DRC’s population lives in poverty and is not active in the formal economy.   According to a 2012 study by the National Institute of Statistics, the DRC’s informal sector represents 88.6 percent of total economic activity.
 
A weak manufacturing sector, porous borders, and weak links between the capital, the periphery, and between the regions, have rendered the DRC an import-based economy.  Low-cost consumer goods and foodstuffs smuggled into DRC from Angola and Zambia have undercut local production and resulted in large-scale capital flight.

The country has three main economic hubs focused around large population centers with large commercial or industrial bases. These are:

  • Kinshasa and Kongo Central provinces: Kinshasa is the DRC’s most populous city and its political and economic capital.  Kinshasa is home to both the seat of government and the headquarters of the vast majority of agencies and institutions.  It is a vibrant economic hub; most foreign companies operating in the DRC maintain a presence in Kinshasa; Congolese businesses tend to have their corporate headquarters in the city.  Kinshasa is the third largest city on the African continent, with an estimated population of over 5.5 million inhabitants in the city and 10 million in its urban agglomeration.  Kongo Central borders Kinshasa province’s western flank; to the south, Kongo Central shares a border with Angola and to the North, with the Republic of Congo.  Kongo Central is the only province in the DRC with direct access to the sea.  Matadi, approximately 170 miles (273km) southeast of Kinshasa, is the capital and largest city in the province, and is home to the only seaport in the country.  A meter gauge portage railway that recently underwent substantial overhaul as well as a paved two-lane road connects Kinshasa and Matadi.  Though the Congo River flows between Kinshasa and Matadi, the stretch connecting the two is unnavigable.

  • Haut-Katanga and Lualaba provinces: These two provinces form the southern economic hub. And occupy the southern half of the former Katanga province bordering Angola and Zambia.  Lubumbashi, Congo’s second largest city, is located near one of the world’s largest copper deposits.  Today, the region is home to numerous domestic and internationally owned mines.  Unlike Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and a number of other key cities in the Lualaba and Haut-Katanga provinces are connected to the southern African rail network.

  • North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, Bas-Uele, Haut-Uele, and Tshopo provinces:  This area of economic activity, from the cities of Bukavu and Goma on the Rwandan border, to the river port city of Kisangani to the west, and the gold mines in Bas-Uele and Ituri, forms the third economic hub of the country.  The area faces chronic instability, the by-product of  continuing low-intensity conflict between various armed factions fighting the GDRC and each other.  Despite difficult conditions, the region is home to a number of industrial and artisanal mines extracting cobalt, gold, and diamonds, as well as an agricultural sector that is increasingly exporting its products

The DRC seeks to promote and participate in regional integration and trade.  The GDRC is a member of the African Union, Southern African Development Community, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Economic Community of Central African States, Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Law, and the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries.

Key economic indicators:

 

Economic Growth Rate

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

6.2%

2.9%

7.1%

6.9%

7.1%

8.5%

8.9%

7.7%

2.4%

Inflation Rate

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

9.8%

15.4%

2.7%

1.07%

1.04%

1.4%

12%

Exports (in millions USD)

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

8,042.5

8,915.6

8,677.2

10,005.9

11,980

Imports (in millions USD)

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

8,042.5

8,915.6

8,677.2

10,005.9

11,980

 
Official Exchange rate (Central Bank of Congo): CDF 1430 :  USD 1 (from May 2017)
Income per capita: $410 (2015)

Real GDP based on 2013 (in billions USD):

  • China: 43.1 percent 

  • Zambia: 24.9 percent

  • European Union: 21.3percent (Belgium: 8.3percent)

  • South Africa: 7.7percent

Main import markets in 2015

  • European Union: 23.1 percent (Belgium 6.9 percent)

  • China: 17.7 percent

  • South Africa: 20.9 percent

  • Zambia: 12.3 percent

  • United States: 3.3 percent

Major Competitors in the DRC market by sector:

  • India and Pakistan - Banking, pharmaceutical products, consumer products, and general trade

  • France - Petroleum

  • China - Civil engineering and infrastructure development, mining

  • United States - Mining

  • South Africa - Telecommunications, mining, pharmaceutical research

  • Japan - Export of vehicles

  • Lebanon- General trade, restaurant business, housing

Top five reasons to export to the DRC:

  1. The DRC’s GDP recorded steady growth of above 6 percent on an annual basis for three years, from 2013-2015, and remained close to level in 2016, despite a significant economic downturn, helping to engender a growing consumer class;

  2. The Congolese hold a high opinion of U.S. products and services, particularly in terms of the quality to price ratio;

  3. The DRC is undertaking multibillion dollar programs to rehabilitate various sectors, including agriculture, energy, construction, basic infrastructure, and transportation;

  4. The DRC Government is working to improve the business climate and is looking to facilitate foreign trade and investment;

  5. The DRC possesses one of the largest natural resource deposits on earth.

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



Congo Kinshasa Trade Development and Promotion