New presidency, new opportunities

Reforms and new initiatives in finance, agriculture, infrastructure and mining processing can transform the economy.

On 24 January 2019, Felix Tshisekedi became the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s new president. In a country that spent the last 18 years under the rule of Joseph Kabila, Mr. Tshisekedi’s rise to the presidency is a historic turning point. After seven months of political negotiations, the new Prime Minister Silvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba’s government was finally inaugurated.

With a new power come new opportunities. Indeed, the momentum generated by this power shift is set to unlock business opportunities across the economic spectrum.

Time for investment

Foreign direct investment is a top priority for the new government. President Tshisekedi’s recent visits to the US, Japan and Belgium all stressed the DRC’s renewed will to attract foreign investors. Incentives and facilitating measures are being put in place, including the digitization of the country’s three financial authorities, an initiative of the new Minister of Finance José Sele Yalaghuli and an important step to address the efficiency and bureaucratic issues of the Congolese public administration. Other important reforms should quickly follow to remove barriers to private investment.

Mining, as usual

The DRC’s mineral wealth is the foundation of the economy. The subsoil is rich with deposits of cobalt, zinc, copper, iron, gold, diamonds, coltan, cassiterite, manganese, bauxite, tin and wolframite among others. In this sector, the government’s focus is on reforms to pave the way for the local processing of minerals. Medium and small-sized hydroelectric power plants will be built in the mining production regions in order to fulfil that ambition.

Developing through infrastructure

Essential to overall economical development, the infrastructure sector requires massive investment. Indeed, road, railway and airport projects have all been identified as necessary to boost the transport of persons, goods and feedstock and thereby strengthen trade and economic growth. President Tshisekedi has already started to undertake a number of rehabilitation works as part of his 100-day program (programme des 100 jours).

Industry: More special economic zones on the horizon

Another sector deemed just as critical as infrastructure by the Ilunkamba government is industry. Julien Paluku Kahongya, the Minister of Industry, is expected to initiate the creation of new special economic zones. A public bank for industrial investments shall be set up and function alongside the already operating Industry Promotion Fund. The DRC’s population, estimated at 87 million people, represents Central Africa’s biggest single market.

Smarter agriculture

The agriculture sector has not been overlooked. As it pushes forward with its strategy to diversify the economy, the new government intends to push the agriculture sector first to self-sufficiency, then to industrialization and exports. In addition to the announcement of the increase of the share of the national budget devoted to agriculture and rural development – which in five years should represent 10% of the overall budget – the authorities have declared that a series of investments will be made in agro-industries. Jean Joseph Kasonga Mukuta, the new Minister of Agriculture, also stated that he was looking to hire up to 200,000 agronomists, the aim being to stimulate research and unlock the phenomenal potential of the DRC’s agricultural production. The country’s 80 million hectares of arable land could feed up to 2 billion people.