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Angola

Executive Summary

Angola is a lower middle-income country located in southern Africa with a USD 100 billion gross domestic product (GDP), a 31.9 million population and a per capita income of USD 3,360 according to 2019 International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates. The third largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, Angola is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and produces an average of 1.390 million barrels per day, the second highest volume in the sub-Saharan region behind Nigeria. Angola also holds significant proven gas reserves as well as extensive mineral resources. Oil still accounts for 90 percent of exports and 37 percent of GDP. The Government of Angola (GRA)’s commitment to improve oil sector transparency led to the creation of the National Oil and Gas Agency (ANPG), an independent regulator to manage oil and gas concessions, which also ensures that the state-owned oil monopoly Sonangol will relinquish substantial control in the sector and on its core upstream business. In addition to reforms in the oil sector, the administration of President Joao Lourenco has implemented numerous other structural reforms to improve macroeconomic stability and the climate for economic growth. In early 2018, the government scrapped the Angolan currency’s fixed peg to the U.S. dollar over concerns of dwindling foreign exchange reserves, and to institute a more transparent market-based foreign exchange regime. A new private investment law and an antitrust law in 2018 have been key administration initiatives to encourage foreign direct investment (FDI), private-sector competitiveness, and growth. The loosening of the exchange rate has since led to a 178 percent drop in the kwanza. Public debt has shot up to above100 percent of GDP. To curb the depletion of foreign currency reserves, the Central Bank (BNA) has allowed commercial banks to purchase foreign currency directly from oil and gas companies. The BNA has also adopted a restrictive monetary policy, increased the minimum share and start-up requirements for commercial banks, and revoked the licenses of two non-complaint commercial banks.

The Lourenco administration has prioritized the fight against corruption and the culture of impunity. His government has indicted prominent Angolan figures accused of corruption-related charges and has improved the legal framework to better control illicit financial flows. The National Strategic Plan to Fight Against Corruption, a five-year strategy launched in 2018, aims to tackle corruption, money laundering, and other economic and financial crimes. The strategy focuses on three main pillars – prevention, prosecution, and institutional capacity building, and includes short and long-term initiatives for a-whole-of society approach to help reduce the impact of corruption. In late 2018, the government approved the law on Compulsory Repatriation and Excess Loss of Assets, providing measures for the repatriation of illicit financial flows. However, a lack of institutional, human, and material capacity risks undercutting the government’s anti-corruption objectives.

The business environment remains challenging, spurred by a tedious bureaucracy with limited bottom-up leadership. Angola ranked 177 out of 190 in the 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business ranking. Inadequate supply chain infrastructure, slow and inefficient institutions, limited access to credit, and corruption continue to constrain the private sector’s contribution to growth. Progress in economic diversification and advancement in social and human-capital indicators remain slow and limited.

Angola remains heavily dependent on oil, which accounts for 90% of the nation’s total merchandise exports. The recent decline in international oil prices has further aggravated the vulnerability of the country to external shocks. Overdependence on a single export item (oil) has also discouraged the country from incorporating into global value chains and participating more fully in the export of manufactured goods and value-added services.

Rolling back dependency on oil will require significant investment in other economic sectors to stimulate growth. Opportunities lie in the precious minerals, tourism, agriculture, fisheries, and hydropower sectors. Continued infrastructure development opportunities are most obvious in the areas of public transportation, tourism, port rehabilitation, energy and power, telecoms, mining, natural gas, and in creating national oil refining capacity. Key sectors that have attracted significant regional and international investment in the country include energy, construction, and oil and gas. Non-oil economic sectors such as agriculture, energy, fisheries, and extractives will open up new areas to foreign and national investment. As the country continues to seek to diversify its economy, an emerging sector is agriculture, in which the country lacks technical knowhow and the necessary startup capital resources to develop. Agriculture represents only 11 percent of GDP. Angola has decided to open up its telecoms market in a bid to attract foreign capital.

Key Issues to watch:

  • Angola continues to suffer from a relatively poor investment climate due in large part to the lack of openness to competition in the private sector and the dominance of the state on state-owned enterprises and in the economy. However, the government has prioritized the privatization of 74 state-owned enterprises by 2020.
  • Angola benefits from a relatively stable and predictable political environment, especially when compared to its neighbors in the region. While Angola is scheduled to hold its first municipal elections in 2020, which may lead to some decentralization of decision-making authority, disbursement, and management of public resources, it is unlikely the elections will occur due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
  • There is an abundant supply of unskilled labor, particularly in the capital, Luanda. Skilled professionals are available, but often require additional training.
  • Portuguese is commonly spoken, while English competency levels are relatively low.
  • The new private investment law of 2018 provides greater tax incentives to companies investing in the domestic economy and does away with the local partnership requirements for foreign investment and ends minimum levels for investment.
  • The Government remains committed to improving the investment environment, strengthening governance, and fighting corruption, and in 2019 passed amended anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) legislation to better control illicit financial flows and fight against corruption.
  • Real estate and living expenses remain expensive but have recently moderated due to the ongoing economic crisis, and the local currency weakening against the U.S. dollar. In 2019, Luanda ranked 26th as the most expensive city for expatriates globally, down from sixth in 2018.
  • Infrastructure is limited, roads are often in poor condition, power outages are common, and water availability can be unreliable. Although the government is attempting to ensure more transparency and has improved in its corruption ratings, the investment climate remains hampered by corruption, and a complex, opaque regulatory environment, as outlined in Table 1.
  • Despite price gains in crude oil benchmarks in 2019, weak global oil demand affected the Angolan economy, creating drastic losses in export revenue and a severe limitation in foreign exchange, forcing substantial cuts in government spending. Angola’s high external imbalances and forex shortages continue to hurt private sector growth, and its declining foreign currency reserves.

Repatriation of capital, dividends, and transfers of remittances abroad remain challenging.

Portfolio investment in Angola is embryonic.

Women empowerment:

Although only 23 percent of Angola’s entrepreneurs are women, Angola boasts one of the highest growth rates of female entrepreneurs in Africa. However, the government has not instituted any significant reforms to increase the percentage of female entrepreneurs and limited access to credit remains a significant impediment to entrepreneurship in general.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 146 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/cpi2019
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 177 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 Not listed of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 USD 267 Million https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 USD 3360 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Angola’s business environment remains one of the most difficult in the world. Investors must factor in pervasive corruption, an underdeveloped financial system, loss of U.S. corresponding banking relationships, abundant but unskilled labor, and extremely high operating costs. Surface transportation inside the country is slow and expensive, while bureaucracy and port inefficiencies complicate trade and raise costs.

The government continued to make concerted efforts to improve and diversify sources of foreign direct investment (FDI) which have been low, volatile and concentrated in the extractive sector. The New Private Investment Law (NPIL) approved by Presidential Decree 10/18, of June 26, 2018 eliminates preferential treatment to local investors and offers equal treatment to foreign investors. There are no laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors, including U.S. investors. FDI is concentrated in the oil industry with negligible investments in the diamond, power generation, infrastructure, agriculture and health sectors. However, Angola has placed emphasis on investment in the agriculture sector to promote local production and help reduce its import bill. The NPIL also eliminated local content provisions for foreign investors, with local content provisions now only applicable to investments specific to the oil & gas, mining, banking and financial services, aviation, and shipping sectors.

Implementation of the New Private Investment Law (NPIL) remains slow and is not standardized. In November 2019, in collaboration with the American Chamber of Commerce in Angola (AmCham-Angola), the government launched the “Angola is Now” investment guide intended as a research tool to grant investors access to information on the business environment and investment opportunities in Angola. The guide contains information on Angola’s natural potential, private investment legislation, as well as the sectors of greatest interest, such as diamonds, other precious stones, iron ore, oil, agriculture, tourism, transportation, real estate and industry. Available in Portuguese and English, the guide also provides a wide range of information on the physical, geographical, environmental, economic and demographic characteristics of Angola’s 18 provinces and can also be accessed at: http://amchamangola.org/guide/ .

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

With the NPIL, the Angolan government eliminated the 35 percent local content requirement in foreign investments, and offered incentives to companies investing in the domestic economy, while maintaining minimal FDI screening processes, bringing it more in line with those of its sub-Saharan African neighbors. Foreign ownership remains limited to 49 percent in the oil and gas sectors, 50 percent in insurance, and 10 percent in the banking sectors. There are several objectives that the GRA seeks to accomplish through its FDI screening process: 1) create jobs for Angolans or transfer expertise to Angolan companies as part of an “Angolanization” plan; 2) protect sensitive industries such as defense and finance; 3) prevent capital flight or any other behavior that could threaten the stability of the Angolan economy; and, 4) diversify the economy.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Angola has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1996. The WTO performed a policy review of Angola in September 2015.

At the government’s request, on September 30, 2019, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) completed the Investment Policy Review (IPR) of Angola’s business and economic environments. The IPR was part of an EU funded wider technical assistance project aimed to assist Angola in attracting and benefitting from FDI beyond the extractives industry and support the GRA’s objective of increasing economic diversification and sustainable development. The full report and policy recommendations are accessible at: https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/diaepcb2019d4_en.pdf 

Business Facilitation

The World Bank Doing Business 2020 report ranked Angola 177 out of 190 countries and recorded an improvement in Angola’s monitoring and regulation of power outages, and in facilitating trade through the implementation of an automated customs data management system, ASYCUDA (Automated System for Customs Data) World, and by upgrading its port community system to allow for electronic information exchange between different parties involved in the import/export process. Launching a business typically requires 36 days, compared with a regional average of 27 days, with Angola ranked 146 out of the 190 economies evaluated.

The government has maintained the approximately twenty “Balcoes Unicos do Empreendedor” (“One Stop Shop” for Entrepreneurs) since 2012. In addition to the Balcoes Unicos process, new business owners must also complete processes at the Ministry of Commerce, the General Tax Administration (AGT) and the provincial court in the location where the business has its headquarters. The Angolan Private Investment and Export Promotion Agency (AIPEX) that replaced the Angolan Investment and Export Promotion Agency (APIEX) now serves as a one-stop shop to promote local and foreign investments, exports and the international competitiveness of Angolan companies. The new state-run private investment agency website is http://www.aipex.gov.ao/PortalAIPEX/#!/ . Contact Information: Departamento de Promoção e Captação do Investimento; Agencia de Investimento Privado e Promoção de Investimentos e Exportações de Angola (AIPEX). Rua Kwamme Nkrumah No.8, Maianga, Luanda, Angola Tel: (+244) 995 28 95 92| 222 33 12 52 Fax: (+244) 222 39 33 81

To encourage the flow of investors and to boost tourism, Presidential Decree 56/18, of February 20, 2018, exempts several neighboring countries from visa entry requirements, and as of March 30, visas upon arrival are available to 61 countries/regions, including the United States and the EU, upon presentation of proof of accommodation and financial support. The 2018 NPIL eliminates the 35 percent local partner stake in the capital structure of foreign investment in the electricity and water, tourism, transport and logistics, construction, media, telecommunications, and information technology (IT) sectors.

Angolan law provides equal access for women entrepreneurs and underrepresented minorities in the economy. However, in practice, the investment facilitation mechanisms do not provide added advantages to these groups. Programs to benefit female entrepreneurs and underrepresented groups such as startup projects, business capacity building and development, and financial assistance including micro credit, are mainly implemented by non-governmental organizations and international financial institutions such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), the World Bank (WB), and private sector companies.

Outward Investment

The Angolan Government does not promote or incentivize outward investment nor does it restrict Angolans from investing abroad. Investors are free to invest in any foreign jurisdiction. According to data from the BNA, in 2018, the government did not invest abroad but received returns on previous investments abroad.

Domestic investors invest preferably in Portuguese speaking countries with few investing in neighboring countries in Sub Saharan Africa. The bulk of investment is in fashion, fashion accessories and domestic goods. Due to foreign exchange constraints, there has been very little or no investment abroad by domestic investors.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Angola’s regulatory system is complex, vague, and inconsistently enforced. In many sectors, no effective regulatory system exists due to a lack of institutional and human capacity. The banking system is slowly adhering to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Public sector companies (SOEs) are still far from practicing IFRS. The public does not participate in draft bills or regulations formulation, nor does a public online location exist where the public can access this information for comment or hold government representatives accountable for their actions. The Angolan Communications Institute (INACOM) sets prices for telecommunications services and is the regulatory authority for the telecommunications sector. Revised energy-sector licensing regulations have permitted some purchase power agreements (PPA) participation.

Overall, Angola’s national regulatory system does not correlate to other international regulatory systems. However, Angola is a member of the WB, ADB AfDB, OPEC (January 2007), the United Nations (UN) and most of its specialized agencies – International Conference on Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), UNCTAD, the IMF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the WTO, and has a partnership agreement with the EU. At the regional level, the GRA is part of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), and the SADC, among other organizations. Angola has yet to join the SADC Free Trade Zone of Africa as a full member. On March 21, 2018 together with 44 African countries, Angola joined the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), an agreement aimed at paving the way for a liberalized market for goods and services across Africa. Angola is also a member of the Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa (PMAESA), which seeks to maintain relations with other port authorities or associations, regional and international organizations and governments of the region to hold discussions on matters of common interest.

Angola became a member of the WTO on November 23,1996. However, it is not party to the Plurilateral Agreements on Government Procurement, the Trade in Civil Aircraft Agreement and has not yet notified the WTO of its state-trading enterprises within the meaning of Article XVII of the GATT. A government procurement management framework introduced in late 2010 stipulates a preference for goods produced in Angola and/or services provided by Angolan or Angola-based suppliers. TBT regimes are not coordinated. There have been no investment policy reviews for Angola from either the OECD or UNCTAD in the last four years. Angola conducts several bilateral negotiations with Portuguese Speaking countries (PALOPS), Cuba and Russia and extends trade preferences to China due to credit facilitation terms, while attempting to encourage and protect local content.

Regulation reviews are based on scientific or data driven assessments or baseline surveys. Evaluation is based on data. However, evaluation is not made available for public comment.

The National Assembly is Angola’s main legislative body with the power to approve laws on all matters (except those reserved by the constitution to the government) by simple majority (except if otherwise provided in the constitution). Each legislature comprises four legislative sessions of twelve months starting on October 15 annually. National Assembly members, parliamentary groups, and the government hold the power to put forward all draft-legislation. However, no single entity can present draft laws that involve an increase in the expenditure or decrease in the State revenue established in the annual budget.

The president promulgates laws approved by the assembly and signs government decrees for enforcement. The state reserves the right to have the final say in all regulatory matters and relies on sectorial regulatory bodies for supervision of institutional regulatory matters concerning investment. The Economic Commission of the Council of Ministers oversees investment regulations that affect the country’s economy including the ministries in charge. Other major regulatory bodies responsible for getting deals through include:

  • The National Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG): The government regulatory and oversight body responsible for regulating oil exploration and production activities. On February 6, 2019, the parastatal oil company Sonangol launched the National Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG) through the Presidential decree 49/19 of February 6. The ANPG is the new national concessionaire of hydrocarbons in Angola, authorized to conduct, execute and ensure oil, gas and biofuel operations run smoothly, a role previously held by Sonangol. The ANPG must also ensure adherence to international standards and establish relationships with other international agencies and sector relevant organizations.
  • The Regulatory Institute of Electricity and Water Services (IRSEA): The regulatory authority for renewable energies and enforcing powers of the electricity regulatory authority.
  • The Angolan Communications Institute (INACOM): The institute sets prices for telecommunications services and is the regulatory authority for the telecommunications sector. Revised energy-sector licensing regulations have improved legal protection for investors to attract more private investment in electrical infrastructure, such as dams and hydro distribution stations.
  • As of October 1, 2019, a 14 percent VAT regime came into force, replacing the existing 10 percent Consumption Tax. The General Tax Administration (AGT) is the office that oversees tax operations and ensures taxpayer compliance. The new VAT tax regime aims to boost domestic production and consumption, and reduce the incidence of compound tax created for businesses unable to recover consumption tax incurred. VAT may be reclaimed on purchases and imports made by taxpayers, making it neutral for business.

Angola acceded to the New York Arbitration Convention on August 24, 2016 paving the way for effective recognition and enforcement in Angola of awards rendered outside of Angola and subject to reciprocity. Angola participates in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which includes a peer review mechanism on good governance and transparency. Enforcement and protection of investors is under development in terms of regulatory, supervisory, and sanctioning powers. Investor protector mechanisms are weak or almost non-existent.

There are no informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations, and the government does not allow the public to engage in the formulation of legislation or to comment on draft bills. Procurement laws and regulations are unclear, little publicized, and not consistently enforced. Oversight mechanisms are weak, and no audits are required or performed to ensure internal controls are in place or administrative procedures are followed. Inefficient bureaucracy and possible corruption frequently lead to payment delays for goods delivered, resulting in an increase in the price the government must pay.

No regulatory reform enforcement mechanisms have been implemented since the last ICS report, in particular those relevant to foreign investors. The Diário da República (the Federal Register equivalent), is a legal document where key regulatory actions are officially published.

International Regulatory Considerations

Angola’s overall national regulatory system does not correlate to other international regulatory systems and is overseen by its constitution. Angola is not a full member of the International Standards Organization (ISO), but has been a corresponding member since 2002. The Angolan Institute for Standardization and Quality (IANORQ) within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce coordinates the country’s establishment and implementation of standards. Angola is an affiliate country of the International Electro-technical Commission that publishes consensus-based International Standards and manages conformity assessment systems for electric and electronic products, systems and services.

A government procurement management framework introduced in late 2010 stipulates a preference for goods produced in Angola and/or services provided by Angolan or Angola-based suppliers. Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) regimes are not coordinated. Angola acceded to the Kyoto Convention on February 23, 2017.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Angola’s formal legal system is primarily based on the Portuguese legal system and can be considered civil law based, with legislation as the primary source of law. Courts base their judgments on legislation and there is no binding precedent as understood in common law systems. The constitution proclaims the constitution as the supreme law of Angola (article 6(1) and all laws and conduct are valid only if they conform to the constitution (article 6(3).

The Angolan justice system is slow, arduous, and often partial. Legal fees are high, and most businesses avoid taking commercial disputes to court in the country. The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 survey ranks Angola 186 out of 190 countries on contract enforcement, and estimates that commercial contract enforcement, measured by time elapsed between filing a complaint and receiving restitution, takes an average of 1,296 days, at an average cost of 44.4 percent of the claim.

Angola has commercial legislation that governs all commercial activities but no specialized court. In 2008, the Angolan attorney general ruled that Angola’s specialized tax courts were unconstitutional. The ruling effectively left businesses with no legal recourse to dispute taxes levied by the Ministry of Finance, as the general courts consistently rule that they have no authority to hear tax dispute cases, and refer all cases back to the Ministry of Finance for resolution. Angola’s Law 22/14, of December 5, 2014, which approved the Tax Procedure Code (TPC), sets forth in its Article 5 that the courts with tax and customs jurisdiction are the Tax and Customs Sections of the Provincial Courts and the Civil, Administrative, Tax and Customs Chamber of the Supreme Court. Article 5.3 of the law specifically states that tax cases pending with other courts must be sent to the Tax and Customs Section of the relevant court, except if the discovery phase (i.e., the production of proof) has already begun.

The judicial system is administered by the Ministry of Justice at trial level for provincial and municipal courts and the supreme court nominates provincial court judges. In 1991, the constitution was amended to guarantee judicial independence. However, as per the 2010 constitution, the president appoints supreme court judges for life upon recommendation of an association of magistrates and appoints the attorney general. Confirmation by the General Assembly is not required. The system lacks resources and independence to play an effective role and the legal framework is obsolete, with much of the criminal and commercial code reflecting colonial era codes with some Marxist era modifications. Courts remain wholly dependent on political power.

There is a general right of appeal to the court of first instance against decisions from the primary courts. To enforce judgments/orders, a party must commence further proceedings called executive proceedings with the civil court. The main methods of enforcing judgments are:

  • Execution orders (to pay a sum of money by selling the debtor’s assets);
  • Delivery up of assets; and,
  • Provision of information on the whereabouts of assets.

The Civil Procedure Code also provides ordinary and extraordinary appeals. Ordinary appeals consist of first appeals, review appeals, interlocutory appeals, and full court appeals, while extraordinary appeals consist of further appeals and third-party interventions. Generally, an appeal does not operate as a stay of the decision of the lower court unless expressly provided for as much in the Civil Procedure Code.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

AIPEX is the investment and export promotion center tasked with promoting Angola’s export potential, legal framework, environment, and investment opportunities in the country and abroad. Housed within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce, AIPEX is also responsible for ensuring the application of the 2018 NPIL on foreign direct investments, entered into force on June 26, 2018.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

On May 17, 2018 Angola’s National Assembly approved the nation’s first anti-trust law. The law set up the creation of the Competition Regulatory Authority, which prevents and cracks down on actions of economic agents that fail to comply with the rules and principles of competition. The Competition Regulatory Authority of Angola (Autoridade Reguladora da Concorrência – ARC) was created by Presidential Decree no. 313/18, of December 21, 2018, and it succeeds the now defunct Instituto da Concorrência e Preços. It has administrative, financial, patrimonial and regulatory autonomy, and is endowed with broad supervisory and sanctioning powers, including the power to summon and question persons, request documents, carry out searches and seizures, and seal business premises.

The ARC is responsible, in particular, for the enforcement of the new Competition Act of Angola, approved by Law no. 5/18, of May 10, 2018 and subsequently implemented by Presidential Decree no. 240/18, of October 12. The Act has a wide scope of application, pertaining to both private and state-owned undertakings, and covers all economic activities with a nexus to Angola. The Competition Act prohibits agreements and anti-competitive practices, both between competitors (“horizontal” practices, the most serious example of which are cartels), as well as between companies and its suppliers or customers, within the context of “vertical” relations.

Equally prohibited is abusive conduct practiced by companies in a dominant position, such as the refusal to provide access to essential infrastructures, the unjustified rupture of commercial relations and the practice of predatory prices, as well as the abusive exploitation, by one or more companies, of economically-dependent suppliers or clients. Prohibited practices are punishable by heavy fines that range from one-ten percent of the annual turnover of the companies involved. Offending companies that collaborate with the ARC, by revealing conduct until then unknown or producing evidence on a voluntary basis, may benefit from significant fine reductions, under a leniency program yet to be developed and implemented by the ARC. Considering the ample powers and potentially heavy sanctions at the disposal of the ARC, companies present in (or planning to enter) Angola are well advised to consider carefully the impact of the new law on their activities, in order to mitigate any risk that its market conduct may be found contrary to the Competition Act.

Expropriation and Compensation

Under the Land Tenure Act of November 9, 2004 and the General Regulation on the Concession of Land (Decree no 58/07 of July 13, 2007), all land belongs to the state and the state reserves the right to expropriate land from any settlers. The state is only allowed to transfer ownership of urban real estate to Angolan nationals, and may not grant ownership over rural land to any private entity (regardless of nationality), corporate entities or foreign entities. The state may allow for land usage through a 60-year lease to either Angolan or foreign persons (individuals or corporate), after which the state reserves legal right to take over ownership.

Expropriation without compensation remains a common practice. Land tenure became a more significant issue following independence from Portugal when over 50 percent of the population moved to urban centers during the civil war. The state offered some areas for development within a specific timeframe. After this timeframe, areas that remained underdeveloped reverted to the state with no compensation to any claimants. In most cases, claimants allege unfair treatment and little or no compensation.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Angola is not a member state to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention), but has ratified the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Its ratification was endorsed domestically via resolution No. 38/2016, published in the Official Gazette of Angola on August 12, 2016.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Angolan Arbitration Law (Law 16/2003 of July 25) (Voluntary Arbitration Law — VAL) provides for domestic and international arbitration. Substantially inspired by Portuguese 1986 arbitration law, it cannot be said to strictly follow the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration. In contrast, the VAL contains no provisions on definitions, rules on interpretation, adopts the disposable rights criterion in regards to arbitration, does not address preliminary decisions, nor distinguish between different types of awards, and permits appeal on the merits in domestic arbitrations, unless the parties have otherwise agreed.

Angola is also a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), which can provide dispute settlement assistance as part of its political risk insurance products and eligibility for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth Opportunity Act. The United States and Angola have signed a TIFA, which seeks to promote greater trade and investment between the two nations. The U.S. Embassy is aware of one ongoing formal investment dispute involving an American company.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Although not widely implemented, the Government of Angola and public sector companies recognize the use of arbitration to settle disputes with foreign arbitration awards issued in foreign courts. In 2016, Angola took a major step in international arbitration by signing the New York Convention on recognition of foreign arbitration awards. On March 6, 2017, the Government of Angola deposited its instrument of accession to the Convention with the UN Secretary General. The Convention entered into force on June 4, 2017.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Angola is ranks 168 out of 190 on the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report on resolving insolvency. Banks are bound to comply with prudential rules aimed at ensuring that they maintain a minimum amount of funds not less than the minimal stock capital at all times to ensure adequate levels of liquidity and solvability. Insolvency is regulated by the Law on Financial Institutions No. 12/2015 of June 17, 2015. Based on this law, the BNA increased the social capital requirement for banks operating in the country by 200 percent (BNA notice 2/2015) to guard against possible damages to clients and the financial system. All monetary deposits up to 12.5 million Kwanzas (USD 27,000 equivalent) are also to be deposited into the BNA’s Deposit Guarantee Funds account (Presidential Decree 195/18 of 2018) so that clients (both local and foreign) are guaranteed a refund in case of bankruptcy by their respective bank. Article 69 of the law expressly states that it is the responsibility of the president of the Republic to create the fund, but it is silent on the rules governing its operation or the amounts guaranteed by the fund.

In 2018, based on Notice 2/2018 on the “Adequacy of Minimum Capital Stock and Regulatory Own Funds of Financial Banking Institutions,” commercial banks were required to increase their operating capital from 2.5 billion to 7.5 billion kwanzas (USD 35 million) by the end of the year. In late 2019, following results from an Asset Quality Review, the government announced plan to recapitalize the largest state-owned bank, Banco de Poupanco e Credito (BPC). The injection of capital will constitute the third capital injection into BPC by the state since 2015, which has previously received close to USD2 billion of state funds to help restructure the bank.  In early 2019, the BNA revoked the operating licenses of two private banks, Banco Mais and Banco Postal, due to their inability to recapitalize to meet new mandatory operating capital requirements. A third bank, Banco Angolano e Comércio de Negócios (BANC), was also put under administration due to its poor governance and a failure to also raise the mandatory operating capital to meet new minimum requirements.

In 2015, following the 2014 collapse of Banco Espirito Santo Angola (BESA), the subsidiary of Portugal’s Banco Espírito Santo, the State intervened and restructured BESA which now operates as Banco Economico. In August 2019, the BNA ordered Banco Economico’s shareholders to increase the bank’s capital to comply with the new BNA-imposed capital requirements no later than June 2020. While Angola’s arbitration law (Arbitration Law No. 16/03) for insolvency adopted in 2013 introduced the concept of domestic and international arbitration, the practice of arbitration law is still not widely implemented.

The law criminalizes bankruptcy under the following classification: condemnation in Angola or abroad for crimes of fraudulent bankruptcy, i.e. involvement of shareholders or managers in fraudulent activities that result in the bankruptcy, negligence bankruptcy, forgery, robbery, or involvement in other crimes of an economic nature. The Ministry of Finance, the BNA and the Capital Markets Commission (CMC) oversee credit monitoring and regulation.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The NPIL seeks to award incentives to attract and retain investment. Investment incentives in the NPIL include:

  • Eliminates the minimum investment value and the value required to qualify for incentives in foreign and local investments, previously set at USD 1,000,000 and USD 500,000 respectively. There is no more limit to invest and qualify for incentives;
  • Eliminates the obligation for foreign investors to establish a partnership with an Angolan entity with at least a 35 percent stake in the capital structure of investments in the electricity and water, tourism, transport and logistics, construction, media, telecommunications and IT sectors. Under the new law, investors will decide on their capital structure and origin.
  • Grants foreign investors “the right and guarantee to transfer abroad” dividends or distributed profits, the proceeds of the liquidation of its investments, capital gains, the proceeds of indemnities and royalties, or other income from remuneration of indirect investments related to technology transfer after proof of implementation of the project and payment of all tax dues.

Investment incentives are granted by the AIPEX, the State’s investment agency, as opposed to by the president, as mandated in the 2015 investment law. Companies need to apply for such incentives when submitting an investment application to the newly created AIPEX and the relevant ministry. The NPIL restructures the country into three economic development zones (zones A through C) determined by political and socio-economic factors, up from two as per the 2015 investment law. For Zone A, investors have a 3-year moratorium on taxes reduced between 25- 50 percent of the tax levied on the distribution of profits and dividends. For Zone B, it is between three to six years with a 50 to 60 percent tax reduction, and for Zone C between six to eight years with a tax reduction between 60-70 percent of the tax levied on distribution of profits and dividends.

  1. The State guarantees “non-public interference in the management of private companies” and “non-cancellation of licenses without administrative or judicial processes.”
  2. The State provides a new and simplified procedure for the approval of investment projects, along with the adoption of measures aimed at accelerating the contractual process. It also provides special rights projects (undefined), including easier access to visas for investors and priority in the repatriation of dividends, and capital.

Note: Angola is a signatory to the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) applicable to foreign investment.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Angola is a signatory to SADC but not a member of the SADC Free Trade Zone. Angola is analyzing and revising its tariff schedule to accommodate beneficial adjustments in regional trade under the SADC Free Trade Area (SFTA).

Under the NPIL, Angola is divided into three economic zones, zone A through C. Zone A offers a three-year tax exemption for capital tax and a reduction in the tax burden by 25-50 percent; Zone B a three to six-year tax exemption for capital tax with a reduction in the tax burden by 50-60 percent; and, for Zone C, an eight year tax exemption for capital tax with a with a 60-70 percent reduction in the tax burden.

Porto Caio is under construction in the province of Cabinda. The port is designated as a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and is slated to provide numerous opportunities for warehousing, distribution, storage, lay down area and development of oil and gas related activity. The Port will also serve as a new major gateway to international markets from the west coast of Angola, and the development will facilitate exports and render them more cost-effective for companies.

Although the government has not yet established regional or international free trade zones, on March 21, 2018 the government signed an agreement to join the AfCFTA. The AfCFTA is the result of the African Free Trade Agreement among all 55 members of the African Union, and will be the largest FTZ in the world since the emergence of the WTO. The agreement’s implementation could create a market of 1.2 billion consumers. The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has estimated a 52 percent increase in intra-African trade by 2022. Currently, intra-African trade is only 16 percent, with intra-Latin American at 19 percent, intra-Asian at 51 percent, and intra-European at 70 percent.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Angola widely observes a policy to restrict the number of foreign workers and the duration of their employment. The policy aims to promote local workforce recruitment and progression. Decree 6/01, of 2001 establishes that expatriate workers can only be recruited if the Labor Inspectorate gets confirmation from the employer that no Angolan personnel duly qualified to perform the job required is available in the local market. The same decree limits foreign employment to 36 months and temporary employment less than 90 days on the explicit authorization of the Labor Inspectorate. Employers must register an employment contract entered into with a foreign national within 30 days at the employment center. The registration includes submission of a copy of the job description approved by the Labor Inspectorate during registration of the employment contract and the payment of a registration fee of 5 percent of the gross salary plus all the benefits.

Companies must deregister upon termination of the contract. Deregistration equally applies to administration personnel and to the board of directors. Foreign employees require work permits, and no employment is authorized on tourist visas. The visa application procedure, though improved, remains complex, slow and inconsistent. Processes and requirements vary according to the labor market situation at the time of application, the type of work permit being applied for, the nationality of the applicant, the country of application, and personal circumstances of the assignee and any family dependents.

Through the NPIL Angola created the investor visa, granted by the immigration authority to foreign investors, representatives, or attorneys of an investing company, to carry out an approved investment proposal. It allows for multiple entries, and a stay of two years renewable for the same period. The NPIL liberalizes foreign investment, few instances translate to “forced localization,” and enforcement procedures for performance requirements are strictly observed in the labor, immigration, and petroleum sectors only. International oil companies are working with the government on a new local-content initiative that will establish more explicit sourcing requirements for the petroleum sector in staffing and material. Specific to the oil sector, because of the significance it represents to the Angolan economy, the Petroleum Activities Law requires Sonangol and its associates to acquire materials, equipment, machinery, and consumer goods produced in Angola.

Currently, local content regulations offer only guidelines that are loosely enforced, and companies lack clarity as to how much is enough to satisfy the Angolan government. While this situation may make it easier for foreign companies to comply with local content regulations, this lack of specificity challenges companies in their business planning. For example, it is difficult for companies to compare their competitive position against each other when competing for lucrative concessions and licenses from the government, as local content is sometimes considered during competition for government tenders. Legal guidance to get the guarantees for investors under the NPIL is strongly encouraged.

Data storage is not applicable; however, the Institute for Communications of Angola (INACOM) oversees and regulates data in liaison with the Ministry of Telecommunications. Regulations around data management including encryption are still at nascent stages.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Transparency and land property rights are critical for Angolan economic development, given that two thirds of Angolans work in agriculture and are directly dependent on land property rights. However, the Land Act (Lei de Terras de Angola) has not been revised since its approval in December 2004. While the land act is a crucial step toward addressing issues of land tenure, normalization of land ownership in Angola persists with problems such as difficulties in completing land claims, land grabbing, lack of reliable government records, and unresolved status of traditional land tenure. Among other provisions, the law included a formal mechanism for transforming traditional land property rights into legal land property rights (clean titles). During the civil war, a transparent system of land property rights did not exist, so it was crucial to re-establish one shortly after the end of hostilities in 2002.

According to the “Land Act,” the State may transfer or constitute, for the benefit of Angolan natural or legal persons, a multiplicity of land rights on land forming part of its private domain. Although, it is possible to transfer ownership over some categories of land, the transfer of State land almost never implies the transfer of its ownership, but only the formation of minor land rights with leasehold being the most common form in Angola. The recipient of private property rights from the State can only transfer those rights with consent of the local authority and after a period of five years of effective use of the land (GRA 2004 law). Weak land tenure legislation and lack of secure legal guarantees (clean titles), are the reasons given by most commercial banks for their greater than 80 percent refusal rate for loans since land is used as collateral. Foreign real-estate developers therefore seek out public-private partnership (PPP) arrangements with State actors who can provide protection against land disputes and financial risks involved in projects that require significant cash outlays to get started.

Registering parcels of land over 10,000 hectares must be approved by the Council of Ministers. Registering property takes 190 days on average, ranking 167 out of 173 according to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 survey, with fees averaging three percent of property value. Owners must also wait five years after purchasing before reselling land. There are no written regulations setting out guidelines defining different forms of land occupation, including commercial use, traditional communal use, leasing, and private use. Over the years, the government has given out large parcels of land to individuals in order to support the development of commercial agriculture. However, this process has largely been unsystematic and does not follow any formal rule change on land tenure by the State.

Before obtaining proof of title nationwide, an Angolan citizen or an Angolan legal entity must also obtain the Real or Leasing Rights (“Usufruct”) of the Land from the Instituto de Planeamento e Gestão Urbana de Luanda, an often a time-consuming procedure that can take up to a year or more. However, in the case that a company already owns the land, it must secure a land property title deed from the Real Estate Registry in Luanda. An updated property certificate (“certidão predial”) is obtained from the relevant Real Estate Registry, with the complete description of the property including owner(s) information and any charges, liens, and/or encumbrances pending on the property. The complex administration of property laws and regulations that govern land ownership and transfer of real property as well as its tedious registration process may reduce investor appetite for real estate investments in Angola. Despacho no. 174/11 of March 11, 2011 mandates the total fees for the “certidão predial” include stamp duty (calculated according to the Law on Stamp Duty); justice fees (calculated according to the Law on Justice Fees); fees to justice officers (according to the set contributions for the Justice budget); and, notary and other fees. The total fee is also dependent on the current value of the fiscal unit (UCF).

Intellectual Property Rights

Angolan law recognizes the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR). Angola’s National Assembly adopted the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Intellectual Property in August 2005, incorporating the 1979 text, and the Patent Cooperation Treaty concluded in 1970 and later amended in 1979 and 1984. The Ministry of Industry administers IPR for trademarks, patents, and designs under Industrial Property Law 3/92. The Ministry of Culture regulates authorship, literary, and artistic rights under Copyright Law 4/90. Angola is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and follows international patent classifications of patents, products, and services to identify and codify requests for patents and trademark registration.

IAPI (Instituto Angolano de Propriedade Intelectual) is the governmental body within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce charged with implementing patent and trademark law. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Environment oversees copyright law. IP infringement is widespread, most notably in the production and distribution of pirated CDs, DVDs, and other media, largely for personal consumption. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are another major area of concern.

There are currently no statistics available regarding counterfeit goods seized by the Angolan government. INADEC (Instituto Nacional de Defesa dos Consumidores), under the umbrella of the Ministry of Industry & Commerce, tracks and monitors the Angolan government’s seizures of counterfeit goods. They do not currently have a website, nor do they regularly publish statistics. They publish information on seizures of counterfeit products on an ad-hoc basis, primarily in the government-owned daily, Jornal de Angola.

Angola is not included in the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ . The U.S. Embassy point of contact for IPR related issues is Mballe Nkembe (NkembeMM@state.gov). For legal counsel, refer to Angola’s Country Commercial Guide Local Professional Services List (http://export.gov/ccg/angola090710.asp )

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Angola’s capital markets remain nascent. To respond to the need for increased sources of financing for the economy, in 2013, the Angolan government created the Capital Markets Commission (CMC). Angola’s banks are likely the most established businesses that could potentially list on an exchange. However, many Angolan banks have a high rate of non-performing loans, reported to be as high as 37 percent. Angola’s banks have struggled in recent years due to the country’s deteriorating economic environment and increasingly high rate of delinquent loans. The Governor of the BNA has stated that Angola’s banks must go through a consolidation phase and ordered an asset quality review of the banks in early 2019. So far, the BNA has revoked the licenses of three banks based on their failure to meet the mandatory new share-capital minimum requirement, will recapitalize the largest state-owned bank, and has ordered another bank’s shareholders to increase the bank’s operating capital or face potential revocation. The process may limit banks’ ability in the near-term to list on the country’s fledgling stock exchange.

The Angolan government raised USD 3 billion in its third Eurobond issue in international markets with investor demand reportedly reaching USD 8.44 billion, exceeding the government’s expectations. For its second Eurobond issue in May 2018, Angola sold a USD 1.75bn, ten year bond at a coupon interest rate of 8.25 percent and a 30 year bond worth USD 1.25bn with a yield of 9.375 percent. According to Angola’s finance ministry, the second Eurobond issuance received more than 500 investor submissions totaling USD 9 billion, three times the final sale value. In November 2015, Angola raised a USD 1.5 billion, 10-year Eurobond with a 9.5 percent yield. Plans to return to the internal bond market in 2020 have been put on hold due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing downturn in global oil prices.

The BNA has developed a market for short-term bonds, called Titulos do Banco Central, and long-term bonds, called Obrigaçoes do Tesouro. Most of these bonds are bought and held by local Angolan banks. The Obrigaçoes have maturities ranging from one to 7.5 years, whereas the Titulos have maturities of 91 to 182 days. For information on current rates, see: http://www.bna.ao/ .

Foreign investors do not normally access credit locally. For Angolan investors, credit access is very limited, and if available, comes with a collateral requirement of 125 percent, so they either self-finance, or seek financing from non-Angolan banks and investment funds. The termination of the “Angola Invest” government-subsidized funding program for micro, small and medium private enterprises (SMEs) on September 25, 2018, has further reduced funding opportunities for many SMEs. Since its inception in 2012, Angola Invest financed approximately 515 projects worth USD 377 million.

The Angolan National Development Plan provides for the liquidation of unviable state-owned enterprises, the privatization of non-strategic state enterprises and the sale of shareholding by 2022. In January 2018, the president created a commission – the State Asset Management Institute (IGAPE), to prepare and implement the privatization program (PROPRIV), with assistance from the Stock Exchange BODIVA. By April 2020, the Government had reportedly sold an estimated seven entities under its privatization initiative.

Money and Banking System

The BNA, Angola’s central bank and currency regulator has remained under considerable pressure to stabilize Angola’s economy as a high rate, currently 37 percent, of non-performing loans has crippled the banks’ ability and willingness to foster private sector lending. The BNA implemented a contractionary monetary policy, reducing local currency in circulation over fears of escalating inflation and foreign currency arbitrage. To further address these concerns, in early 2018, the government also scrapped the Angolan currency’s fixed peg to the U.S. dollar in favor of greater rate flexibility, and began regular foreign exchange auctions to banks, preventing the allocation of dollars to preferred clients. From January 2018 to December 2019, the Angolan currency lost 178 percent of its purchasing capacity against the Dollar. The Net International Reserves, despite a loss of purchasing power of more than 100 percent taking into account the price of the currency, suffered a reduction of 40 percent from 2017 to June 2019. The 178 percent devaluation from 2018 has translated into an increase in Angola’s debt, now close to 111 percent of GDP.

Angola’s agreement with the IMF for USD 3.7 billion in financial support for which it has requested an additional USD 800 million, suggests the government’s intent to reassure investors, and to diversify Angola’s source of borrowing. As a key condition of the IMF loan, Angola cannot have any new oil collateralized debt. The government also resorted to international capital markets and raised USD 3 billion in its third Eurobond issue with investor demand reportedly reaching nearly USD 8.44 billion.

There are currently 27 banks in Angola. Five banks, Banco Angolano de Investimentos (BAI), Banco Economico, Banco de Fomento Angola (BFA), Banco BIC Angola (BIC), and Banco de Poupança e Credito S.A.R.L. (BPC), control over 80 percent of total banking assets, deposits, and loans. Angolan banks focus on profit generating activities including transactional banking, short-term trade financing, foreign exchange, and investments in high-interest government bonds. Banks had until the end of 2018 to comply with the newly BNA-set USD 50 million mandatory capital start-up requirement, up from the previous USD 25 million requirement. In early 2019, the BNA revoked the operating licenses of two banks, Banco Mais and Banco Postal, for failing to increase their capital to meet the new minimum requirements. Another bank, Banco Angolano de Negocios e Comercio, is currently under BNA administration.

Angola is scheduled for its next Financial Action Task Force (FATF) mutual evaluation review in 2020/2021 which may also be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2016, the FATF adjudged that Angola had made significant progress in improving its AML/CFT regime and established the requisite legal and regulatory framework to meet its commitments in its action plan regarding strategic deficiencies the identified by the FATF during reviews in 2010 and 2013. Angola has continued to work with the regional FATF body, the Eastern and Southern African Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG), to address its remaining strategic deficiencies in anticipation of the 2020/2021 review.

Angola has been affected by the broader global de-risking trends wherein banks decide to stop lending to businesses in markets deemed too risky from an anti-money laundering and terrorist financing compliance standpoint. In December 2016, Deutsche Bank, the last international bank providing dollar-clearing services, closed its dollar clearing services in Angola. A limited number of international banks still operate in Angola and provide limited trade finance such as Germany’s Commerzbank and South Africa’s Standard Bank. In 2018, there were no further correspondent bank losses. International banks previously refrained from entering the Angolan market because of the risk of fines and other penalties, but in 2018 there was more interest, with several banks conducting independent assessments of the business climate.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Angola continues trading mostly in two currencies, the U.S. dollar and the Euro, with the Renminbi gaining greater prominence given the degree of trade with China. In a bid to deal with the foreign currency shortage and substantial foreign currency arbitrage in the parallel market, the government has opted for a managed float for its currency exchange rate. The Angolan Kwanza was pegged at a rate of 166.00 per U.S. dollar from April 2016 to January 2018 following a steep devaluation due to the slump in oil prices. On January 10, 2018, the BNA began conducting foreign currency auctions allowing the kwanza to fluctuate within an undisclosed but controlled band. Since dropping the peg to the U.S. dollar in January 2018, the Kwanza has depreciated by approximately 178 percent as at the end of December 2019 where a USD was equivalent to 462 Kwanzas.

As of November 29, 2019, the BNA’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) authorized direct sales of foreign currency between oil companies and commercial banks, and reduced banks’ foreign exchange position limit from 5.0 percent of its own funds to 2.5 percent. The controlling exchange rate is determined by the transaction rate applied on the sale. Occasionally, the BNA may also sell forex through auctions to commercial banks. Banks may charge a margin of up to 2 percent on the reference exchange rate published on the institutional website of the BNA, considered high for investors. Currently, the BNA also publishes daily for public consumption the rates at which each individual commercial bank is selling and purchasing forex.

The informal activity in the supply of foreign currency, products, and services is still winning the daily battle against the formal market, even when taking into account availability, quantity, speed, and stability. In 2019, the BNA took steps to eliminate remaining imbalances in the foreign exchange market. Commercial banks may assign foreign currency to their clients based on a schedule submitted and approved by the BNA. On the sale by banks to exchange offices and remittance companies, banks may only make foreign currency available in physical notes on a collateral basis, as they must, and at the time of sale debit the national currency account of those institutions against delivery of physical notes. Payment of remittances in any form and non-strategic imports face a lengthy wait between 90-180 days for foreign exchange. Priority is given to strategic importers of food, raw materials for construction, agriculture, medicine and the oil sector. According to the IMF, the government accumulated USD 51 million in new arrears between end-December 2018 and end-June 2019, due to constraints associated with correspondent banks transacting in U.S. dollars. The government further accumulated about USD 30 million in new arrears between end-June and end-September 2019 and was expected to accumulate an additional USD 30 million by year-end, due to the same correspondent banking constraints.

Investors cannot freely convert their earnings in kwanza to any foreign exchange rate due to limited available foreign exchange. Credit cards and other options for payment are extremely limited and money-servicing businesses (Western Union & MoneyGram) have ceased foreign outward transactions in foreign currency. From June 9, 2019, Letters of credit have been designated as the preferential payment instrument for imports.

The National Bank of Angola (BNA) Notice no. 15/19, published 30 December 2019, defines new procedures for foreign exchange operations carried out by non-residents.

According to the notice, the new procedures apply to foreign exchange transactions related to foreign direct investment – that is, foreign exchange non-resident operations carried out, alone or cumulatively, including divestment operations – in the following ways:

  • Transfer of personal funds from abroad;
  • Application of cash and cash equivalents in national and foreign currency, in bank accounts opened in financial institutions domiciled in Angola, held by foreign exchange residents, susceptible to repatriation;
  • Imports of machinery, equipment, accessories and other tangible fixed assets;
  • Incorporation of technologies and knowledge, provided that they represent an added value to the investment and are susceptible to financial evaluation;
  • Provision of supplementary capital payments or supplies to partners or shareholders;
  • Application, in the national territory, of funds in the scope of reinvestment;
  • Conversion of credits resulting from the execution of contracts for the supply of machinery, equipment and goods, as long as they are proven to be liable to payments abroad; and,
  • Foreign investment in securities or divestment of such assets, covering: i) shares; ii) obligations; iii) units of participation in collective investment undertakings and other documents representing homogeneous legal situations.

These procedures also apply to foreign exchange transactions related to foreign investment projects that have been registered with the BNA prior to 30 December 2019. However, they do not apply to investments made by non-foreign exchange residents in the oil sector, which will continue to be governed by proper legislation.

The following obligations are applicable to non-resident foreign exchange entities that intend to invest in Angola, within the scope of the new procedures:

  • They must be holders of foreign exchange non-resident accounts, opened with a banking financial institution domiciled in Angola,
  • For the purpose of receiving payments, including for the purchase of shares listed on the stock exchange, foreign currency must be sold to the investment banking intermediary financial institution, except in the case of purchase of securities denominated in foreign currency traded on a regulated market in Angola;
  • Transfer income related to a foreign direct investment is only allowed after the project has been completed and after payment of the taxes due.

The non-resident foreign exchange investor is allowed to maintain in national currency values relating to income, reimbursement of supplies or proceeds from the sale of investments to make new investments or convert to foreign currency at a future date.

Finally, the following obligations are now imposed on financial institutions that carry out transactions with non-resident foreign exchange entities:

  • Report to BNA the transfer of securities to and from abroad related to the import and export of capital and associated income, at the time of registration in the accounts of its clients who are not foreign exchange residents;
  • Require full identification and knowledge of its customers, as well as confirmation of their status as non-resident foreign exchange;
  • Transfer the financial resources designated for making investments to a specific sub-account created, that should be used only for that purpose;
  • Ensure that movements in bank accounts held by foreign exchange non-residents, in national and foreign currency, are supported by documents that allow a clear identification of the origin or destination of the funds;
  • For the purpose of assessing the legitimacy of transfers abroad of income from foreign direct investments not quoted on a stock exchange, make sure that the investment was made, through the copy of the Private Investment Registration Certificate (CRIP), among other requirements.
  • For the purpose of validating the export proceeds from the sale of securities and related income, validate the source of the credit in the bank accounts of non-resident customers.

Breach of the obligations summarized above is punishable by fines of up to AOA 150 million (USD 305,000) for individuals or up to AOA 500 million (USD 1.02 million) for legal persons.

Remittance Policies

In 2019, the Angolan government amended its anti-money laundering previously established in January 2014. The new law, Law no. 5/20, applies particularly to financial and non-financial entities, accountants, lawyers, law firm partners and auditors acting (including intermediation) in representation of clients in transactions that involve real estate’s acquisition/sale, incorporation of companies and bank accounts’ opening, management or movement, in attempts to better combat illicit remittance flows. Importantly, the new law expressly prohibits the incorporation of shell banks — banks with no physical presence in Angola nor connection to any financial group, requires reporting on capital movement in any commercial bank exceeding USD 1000, and requires enhanced scrutiny of local politically exposed persons. The subsequent drop in foreign exchange availability in Angola, beginning in 2015 due to declining petroleum revenues, has severely impeded personal and legitimate business remittances.

International and domestic companies operating in Angola face delays securing foreign exchange approval for remittances to cover key operational expenses, including imported goods and expatriate salaries. The government has improved profit and dividend remittances for most companies, including foreign airlines with withheld remittances for the sector currently valued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) at USD 4 million, down from 137 million in early 2019.

The BNA has facilitated remittances of international supplies by introducing payment by letters of credit. Also, the 2018 NPIL grants foreign investors “the right and guarantee to transfer abroad” dividends or distributed profits, the proceeds of the liquidation of their investments, capital gains, the proceeds of indemnities and royalties, or other income from remuneration of indirect investments related to technology transfer after proof of implementation of the project and payment of all taxes due. The government continues to prioritize foreign exchange for essential goods and services including the food, health, defense, and petroleum industries.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

In October 2012, former President Eduardo dos Santos established a petroleum-funded USD 5 billion sovereign wealth fund called the Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA). The FSDEA was established in accordance with international governance standards and best practices as outlined in the Santiago Principles. In February 2015, the FSDEA was recognized as transparent by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI), receiving a score of 8 out of 10. The FSDEA has the express purpose of profit maximization with a special emphasis on investing in domestic projects that have a social component (http://www.fundosoberano.ao/investments/ ). Jose Filomeno dos Santos (Zenu), son of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was appointed chairman of FSDEA in June 2013, but was removed by President Lourenco, based reportedly on poor results at the FSDEA and conspiracy with the Fund’s wealth manager, Quantum Global (QG), to embezzle FSDEA funds. Former Minister Carlos Alberto Lopes was named new head of the FSDEA. Zenu remains under investigation for money laundering, embezzlement, and fraud related to his management of the FSDEA, and is currently on trial for fraud in connection with the transfer of USD 500 million from the Angolan Central Bank to a bank in the UK. On March 22, 2019, the government freed Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, QG’s CEO, in preventive detention since September 2018, based on the insufficiency of evidence to support the collection of malfeasance charges, while it continues to build its case against him.

Half of the initial endowment of FSDEA was invested in agriculture, mining, infrastructure, and real estate in Angola and other African markets, and the other half was supposedly allocated to cash and fixed-income instruments, global and emerging-market equities, and other alternative investments. The FSDEA is in possession of approximately USD 3.35 billion of its private equity assets previously under the control of QG, and announced that the government will use USD 1.5 billion of the fund’s assets to support social programs on condition of future repayment through increased tax on the BNA’s rolling debts.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

In Angola, certain state-owned enterprises (SOEs) exercise delegated governmental powers, especially in the mining sector where the government is the sole concessionaire. Foreign investors may sometimes find demands made by SOEs excessive, and under such conditions, SOEs have easier access to credit and government contracts. There is no law mandating preferential treatment to SOEs, but in practice they have access to inside information and credit. Currently, SOEs are not subject to budgetary constraints and quite often exceed their capital limits.

SOEs, often benefitting from a government mandate, operate mostly in the extractive, transportation, commerce, banking, and construction sectors. All SOEs in Angola are required to have boards of directors, and most board members are affiliated with the government. SOEs are not explicitly required to consult with government officials before making decisions. By law, SOEs must publish annual financial reports for the previous year in the national daily newspaper Jornal de Angola by April 1. Such reports are not always subject to publicly released external audits (though the audit of state oil firm Sonangol is publicly released). The standards used are often questioned. Not all SOEs fulfill their legal obligations, and few are sanctioned.

Angola’s supreme audit institution, Tribunal de Contas, is responsible for auditing SOEs. However, the Tribunal de Contas does not make its reports publicly available. Angola’s fiscal transparency would be improved by ensuring its supreme audit institution audits SOEs, as well as the government’s annual financial accounts, and makes public its findings within a reasonable period. Publicly available audit reports would also improve the transparency of contracts between private companies and SOEs.

In November 2016, the Angolan Government revised Law 1/14 “Regime Juridico de Emissão e Gestão da Divida Publica Directa e Indirecta,” which now differentiates between ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ public debt. The GRA considers SOE debt as indirect public debt, and only accounts in its state budget for direct government debt, thus effectively not reflecting some substantial obligations in fact owed by the government. President Lourenço has launched various reforms to improve financial sector transparency, enhance efficiency in the country’s SOEs as part of the National Development plan 2018-2022 and Macroeconomic Stability Plan. The strategy included the prospective privatization of 74 SOEs that are deemed not profitable to the state. The privatization will possibly include the restructuring of the national air carrier TAAG, as well as Sonangol and its subsidiaries. The latter intends to sell off its non-core businesses as part of its restructuring strategy to make the parastatal more efficient.

Angola is not a party to the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). Angola does not adhere to the OECD guidelines on corporate governance for SOEs.

Privatization Program

The government has a plan to privatize 74 of 90 public companies by 2022 through the Angola Debt and Securities Exchange market (BODIVA) and under the supervision of the Institute of Management of Assets and State Participations (IGAPE). The privatization plan is in line with the provisions of the Government’s Interim Macroeconomic Stabilization Program (PEM), which aims to rid the government of unprofitable public institutions. The terms of reference for the privatization program are not yet public, except for seven factories located in the Special Economic Zone (ZEE). The seven industrial units with full terms of reference are:

UNIVITRO – glassworks industry; JUNTEX – plaster industry; CARTON – carton and packaging industry; ABSOR – absorbent products industry; INDUGIDET – sanitation and detergents industry; COBERLEN – blankets and linens industry; and, SACIANGO – cement bags industry. By April 2020, the Government had reportedly sold an estimated seven entities under its privatization initiative, mostly farms, and did not include the seven industrial units with full terms of reference.

The government plans to privatize part of state-owned Angola Telecommunications Company, companies in the oil and energy sector, as well as several textile industries. The government has stated that the privatization process will be open to interested foreign investors and has guaranteed a transparent bidding process. Proposals from investors for seven industrial units at the ZEE will be given special attention to those who decide to retain local workers in these units. The government created a privatization commission on February 27, 2018 and a website https://igape.minfin.gov.ao/PortalIGAPE/#!/sala-de-imprensa/noticias/5413/anuncio-de-concurso-tender-announcement  for submission of tenders. Full tender documents can be obtained by visiting the below link: http://www.ucm.minfin.gov.ao/cs/groups/public/documents/document/zmlu/mdu4/~edisp/minfin058842.zip 

Alternatively, contact igape@minfin.gov.ao. The tenders are open to local and foreign investors.

9. Corruption

Corruption remains a strong impediment to doing business in Angola and has had a corrosive impact on international market investment opportunities and on the broader business climate. Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Angola 165 out of 175 countries in its corruption level survey, improving two places from the previous year’s ranking due to ongoing efforts to reduce corruption.

Since coming into office on an anti-corruption platform, President Lourenco has led a concerted effort to restore investor confidence by prioritizing anti-corruption and the fight against nepotism. In December, the government froze the assets and accounts of Isabel dos Santos, the former first daughter, and subsequently indicted her on fraud-related charges for mismanaging and embezzling funds during her 18-month stint as chair of the state’s oil firm, Sonangol. Several other government officials were also sacked from office, detained and tried on corruption charges. On September 19, the Supreme Court ordered that Norberto Garcia, the former spokesman of the ruling MPLA party and former director of the defunct Technical Unit for Private Investment, a state institution, charged with fraud, money laundering and document falsification, be placed under house arrest in Luanda. The case dates back to November 2017 when Garcia and six foreigners allegedly tried to set up a state project in a USD 50 billion scam.

In another high-profile anti-corruption case, the trial of the former head of Angola’s sovereign wealth fund, José “Zénu” Filomeno dos Santos and his co-conspirator, former Central Bank Governor Valter Felipe, began on December 9. The former stands accused of embezzling USD 1.5billion of public money during his tenure at the Sovereign wealth fund (2013-2017), and both stand accused of fraud and embezzlement related to the illegal transfer of USD 500 million from the BNA coffers to a Credit Suisse account in London. Meanwhile, in August, a court sentenced former Transport Minister Augusto da Silva Tomás to 14 years in prison on fraud charges, but later reduced his sentence to eight years.

Angola has a comprehensive anti-corruption legal framework but implementation remains a severe challenge. In January, the government issued a general conduct guide mostly for the National Public Procurement Service, the regulatory and supervisory body of public procurement in Angola, outlining whistleblowing responsibilities for corruption and related offences in public procurement. Following approval in October, a new law on anti-money laundering, combating the Financing of Terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction came into force in January 2020, superseding Law No. 34/11, of 12 December 2011. The new law incorporates several IMF and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations. Importantly, it finally recognizes and includes politically exposed persons to be any national or foreign person that holds or has held a public office in Angola, or in any other country or jurisdiction, or in any international organization, and subjects them to greater scrutiny by the financial sector. Other significant improvements in the new law include:

  • The definition of “ultimate beneficial owner” was expanded to encompass, notably, all persons that hold, directly or indirectly, a controlling interest in a company, including the control of the share capital, voting rights or a significant influence in the company. There is no longer a minimum threshold to determine the existence of control;
  • Identification and diligence duties are now applicable to occasional transactions executed via wire transfers in an amount of more than USD 1,000, in national or foreign currency;
  • The scope of the duty to communicate suspicious transactions in cash or wire transfers has been amended and is now applicable to transactions between USD 5,000 and USD 15,000, depending on the underlying operation;
  • Payment-service providers that control the ordering and reception of a wire transfer must consider the information received from the sender and the beneficiary to determine whether there is a communication duty;
  • The Tax Authorities now have a duty to report suspicious cross-border payments.

The president approved a set of amendments to the Public Contracts Law on November 16, 2018, which imposed further requirements for the declaration of assets and income, interests, impartiality, confidentiality, and independence in the formation and execution of public contracts.  In December 2018, the Government of Angola rolled out of a national anti-corruption strategy (NACS) billed under the motto, “Corruption – A fight for All and By All.” The five-year strategy, developed in concert with the UNDP, is designed to improve government transparency, accountability, and responsiveness to citizen needs.  The NACS focuses on three pillars in the fight against corruption – prevention, prosecution, and institutional capacity building.

Crimes linked to corruption are enforced through the Public Probity Law of 2010. President Lourenco’s mandate for senior government officials requires all public officials to disclose their assets and income once every two years, and it prohibits public servants from receiving money or gifts from private business deals. The Penal Code makes it a criminal offense for private enterprises to engage in business transactions with public officials.

Angola has incorporated regional anti-corruption guidelines and into their domestic legislation, including: the SADC “Protocol Against Corruption,” the African Union’s “Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption,” and the United Nation’s “Convention against Corruption.” Angola does not have an independent body to investigate and prosecute corruption cases, and generally, enforcement of existing laws is weak or non-existent. However, the Attorney General’s office has a department for Investigation of Corruption crimes and Recovery of Assets. Three institutions – the Audit Court, the Inspector General of Finance, and the Office of the Attorney General – perform many of the anti-corruption duties in Angola. http://www.business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/sub-saharan-africa/angola/initiatives/public-anti-corruption-initiatives.aspx 

The government also passed the Law on the Repatriation of Financial Resources in June 2018, which established the terms and conditions for the repatriation of financial resources held abroad by resident individuals and legal entities with registered offices in Angola. The law exempted individuals and legal entities, who voluntarily repatriated their financial resources within a period of 180 days following the date of entry into force of the Law, by transferring the funds to an Angolan bank account, from any obligation or liability of tax, foreign exchange and criminal nature. Upon expiry of the grace period for repatriation, the Law allowed for the possibility of coercive repatriation by the government. The government estimates that USD 30 billion of Angolan assets are sheltered overseas. In early 2019, the government established the National Asset Recovery Service (SNRA), an institution linked to the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), in charge of ensuring compliance with the repatriation law.

Private sector companies have individual internal controls for ethics, compliance and tracking fraudulent activities. However, they do not have a mechanism to detect and report irregularities related to dealings with public officials. It is important for U.S. companies, regardless of their size, to assess the business climate in the sector in which they will be operating or investing, and to have an effective compliance program or measures to prevent and detect corruption, including foreign bribery. U.S. individuals and firms operating or investing in Angola, should take the time to become familiar with the relevant anticorruption laws of both Angola and the United States in order to properly comply with them, and where appropriate, they should seek legal counsel.

Angola is not a member state to the UN Anticorruption Convention or the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery. On March 26, 2018 it ratified and published in the national gazette the African Union Convention on the Prevention and Fight against Corruption and now takes legislative measures against illicit enrichment (Article 8), confiscation and seizure of proceeds and means of corruption (Article 16), and international cooperation in matters of corruption and money laundering (Article 20).

Resources to Report Corruption

Hélder Pitta Grós
Procurador Geral da Republica (Attorney General of the Republic)
Procurador Geral da Republica (Attorney General’s Office)
Travessa Antonio Marques Monteiro 22, Maianga
Telephone: 244-222-333172

10. Political and Security Environment

Angola maintains a politically stable environment under the motto “Together, we are stronger” politically motivated violence is not a high risk, and incidents are rare. President Joao Lourenco’s government seeks reform of the state and national cohesion. Local elections – “Autarquias” are scheduled to take place in 2020 with objectives to reduce asymmetries, dissemination of governance powers and equitable distribution of financial resources essential for economic and social development. However, the elections may be postponed due to the COVID-10 pandemic.

The last significant incident of political violence happened in 2010 during an attack against the Togolese national soccer team by FLEC-PM (Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda—Military Position) in the northern province of Cabinda. FLEC threatened Chinese workers in Cabinda in 2015 and claimed in 2016 that they would return to active armed struggle against the Angolan government forces. No attacks have since ensued and the FLEC has remained relatively inactive. President Lourenco has pledged to govern for all Angolans, and combat two of the country’s major problems: corruption and mismanagement of public funds.

Russia remains Angola’s premier security cooperation partner. However, a May 2017 U.S.–Angola Defense Cooperation MOU has enabled more open mil-to-mil coordination. Our security cooperation aims to build the U.S.-Angolan military relationship, address Angolan defense priorities, and develop sustainable proficiency in areas of common interest, such as maritime safety and security, civil-military operations, humanitarian assistance, medical readiness, and English language programs.

In September 2019 UN Secretary-General António Guterres held a meeting with Lourenço during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing. During the meeting, Guterres highlighted the role of Angola in the effort to maintain peace and stability in Southern Africa and the Great Lakes region.

In October 2019, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned the mass deportation of Congolese nationals, who were illegally working and residing in Angola. Angola deported thousands of Congolese nationals for allegedly exploiting diamonds and other forms of illegal trade in the northern and southern Lundas provinces.

Activist groups continuously face repression by police for online and offline activities and for using online spaces to criticize and organize protests. Social media has been a mobilizing tool for demonstrations and there are no instances of damage to property or vandalism by protestors who decry continued economic hardships, high unemployment and poverty, highlighting President Joao Lourenco’s election pledge to create jobs.

Angola engages multilaterally, through the AU, SADC, and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, to address its security and economic equities with the DRC. Angola continues to struggle with its legacy of land mines and is far from reaching its goal of becoming mine impact free by 2025. Since 1995, the United States (Angola’s largest demining donor) has invested more than USD 134 million in Angola to clear and dispose of landmines and unexploded ordnance. The United States donated USD 3.1 million in demining assistance in 2019. The Angolan government also pledged in 2019 an unprecedented USD 60 million of its own money for humanitarian demining over the next five years, largely focused on a potential corridor for tourism and sustainable development in the southeast, linked to the Okavango Delta.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The Angolan labor force has limited technical skills, English language capabilities, and managerial ability. Many employers find it necessary to invest heavily in educating and training their Angolan staff. Angola’s labor force was estimated to be 13.1 million in 2019. The literacy rate is estimated to be 70 percent (82 percent male, 60.7 percent female). According to the National Statistics Institute, in 2019, the unemployment rate in the population aged 15 and above was around 31 percent, although more than 60 percent of all jobs are in the informal sector. Eighty six percent of primary school age children attend school. The law mandates that children must attend school for six years beginning at age six. 29 percent of boys and 17 percent of girls attend high school.

There are gaps in compliance with international labor standards which may pose a reputational risk to investors. Children are sometimes employed in agriculture, construction, fishing, and coal industries. Forced labor is sometimes used in agricultural, fishing, construction, domestic services, and artisanal diamond mining sectors. Additional information is available in the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, (https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/2019-Trafficking-in-Persons-Report.pdf [16 MB] ), 2019 Country Report on Human Rights Practices (https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/), and 2018 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/angola ).

Angola’s General Labor Law (Law No. 2/00), updated in 2015, recognizes the right of workers, except members of the armed forces and police, to form and join independent unions, to collectively bargain, and to strike, but these rights are either limited or restricted. To establish a union, a minimum of 30 percent of workers from a sector at the provincial level must participate and prior authorization by authorities with accompanying bureaucratic approvals is required. Unlike workers in the private sector, civil service employees do not have the right to collective bargaining. While the law allows unions to conduct their activities without government interference, it also places some restrictions on engaging in a strike. Strict bureaucratic procedures must be followed for a strike to be considered legal. The government can deny the right to strike or obligate workers to return to work for members of the armed forces, police, prison staff, fire fighters, “essential services” public sector employees, and oil workers. The government may intervene in labor disputes that affect national security, particularly strikes in the oil sector. The definition of civil service workers providing “essential services” is broadly defined, encompassing the transport sector, communications, waste management and treatment, and fuel distribution.

Collective labor disputes are to be settled through compulsory arbitration by the Ministry of Labor, Public Administration and Social Security. The law does not prohibit employer retribution against strikers, but it does authorize the government to force workers back to work for “breaches of worker discipline” or participation in unauthorized strikes. The law prohibits anti-union discrimination and stipulates that worker complaints be adjudicated in the labor court. Under the law, employers are required to reinstate workers who have been dismissed for union activities.

The General Labor Law also spells out procedures for hiring workers. For work contracts of indefinite duration, the law provides for a basic probationary period of up to six months, during which the worker or employer can terminate the contract without notice or justification. After the probationary period ends, dismissed workers have the right to appeal to a labor court. Many employers prefer to reach a monetary settlement with workers when a dispute arises, rather than bring cases before the labor court. The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report found that fired workers with one to ten years of service received on average 13.6 weeks of salary compensation. The notice period before dismissing a worker is 4.3 weeks.

The government conducts annual surveys of the oil industry to implement a requirement that oil companies hire Angolan nationals when qualified applicants are available. If no qualified nationals apply for the position, then the companies may request the government’s permission to hire expatriates. Outside of the petroleum sector, policies to encourage “Angolanization” of the labor force, i.e. the hiring of locals, discourages bringing in expatriates. However, the associated visa processes for the oil industry are currently easier and faster due to a special process the Angolan Ministry of Petroleum offers companies in that sector. Additionally, working visas for other sectors have also become easier to obtain and the GRA has launched the investor’s visa in 2018.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

On April 10, 2019, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Finance of the government of Angola to increase trade of goods and services between the United States and Angola. Under the MOU, EXIM and the Ministry of Finance agreed to exchange information on business opportunities to further the procurement of U.S. goods and services by both state-owned and private-sector small and medium-sized businesses in Angola. Sectors for business development include energy, oil and gas development, infrastructure, railway and road transportation, supply chain infrastructure, environmental projects, agriculture, health care, water and sanitation, and telecommunications. EXIM agreed to explore options for providing the bank’s medium- and long-term guarantees on loans of up to USD 4 billion to support U.S. exports to Angola. For projects that may be eligible for EXIM support, the cooperation between the Ministry of Finance and EXIM would be directed towards qualifying such projects for approval by both institutions.

Since 1994, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), now the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), has provided investment insurance to projects in Angola. U.S. investors can apply for DFC insurance, including coverage under the “Quick Cover” program for projects valued at less than USD 50 million. DFCC’s portfolio in Angola currently totals USD 20.4 million. Since the agreement, DFC’s support has helped facilitate critical investments in the energy, services, health care, manufacturing, and financial services sectors.

Angola is a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), which provides insurance to foreign investors against such risks as expropriation, non-convertibility, and war or civil disturbance. MIGA also provides investment dispute resolution on a case-by-case basis.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2019 $100 billion www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $207 billion BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $254.3 billion BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2017 9.9% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Benin

Executive Summary

Benin has been a stable democracy since 1990, enjoying until recently a reputation for regular, peaceful, and inclusive elections. In 2019, the government held legislative elections for which no opposition party qualified to participate and which were neither fully competitive nor inclusive. Elections-related unrest in 2019 left several people dead

Benin’s overall macroeconomic conditions were positive in 2019. According to IMF estimates, GDP growth increased from 6.7 percent in 2018 to 6.9 percent in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic and Nigeria’s partial closure of its borders beginning in August 2019 are expected to slow GDP growth to 3.2 percent in 2020. Port activity and the cotton sector are the largest drivers of economic growth. Telecommunications, agriculture, energy, cement production, and construction are other significant components of the economy. Benin also has a large informal sector. The country’s GDP is roughly 51.1 percent services, 26.1 percent agriculture, and 22.8 percent manufacturing.

President Patrice Talon launched an ambitious $15 billion five-year Government Action Plan (PAG) in 2016. The PAG lays out a development plan structured around 45 major projects, 95 sector-based projects, and 19 institutional reforms.  With the goals of strengthening the administration of justice, fostering a structural transformation of the economy, and improving living conditions, the projects are concentrated in infrastructure, agriculture and agribusiness, tourism, health, and education.  The government estimates that full implementation of the PAG will result in the creation of 500,000 new jobs and a leap in national economic and social conditions. The government intended that 61 percent of the PAG be funded through public-private partnerships (PPPs), but through the end of 2019 no such partnerships had been secured. Government critics allege that the Talon administration is using the PAG in part to channel resources and contracts to administration insiders.

Benin continues efforts to attract private investment in support of economic growth. The Investment and Exports Promotion Agency (APIEX) is a one-stop-shop for promoting new investments, business startups, and foreign trade. In 2019, APIEX worked with foreign companies to facilitate new investments, though some companies reported that the agency was under-resourced and hamstrung by bureaucratic red tape in other agencies and ministries.

In June 2017, a five-year, $375 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact with Benin entered into force. The Benin Power Compact is advancing policy reforms to bolster financing for the electricity sector, attract private capital into power generation, and strengthen regulation and utility management. Through the compact MCC is expanding the capacity and increasing the reliability of Benin’s power grid in southern and northern Benin. As two thirds of Benin’s population does not have access to electricity, the compact also includes a significant off-grid electrification project via a clean energy grant facility that supports private sector investment in off-grid power systems. This follows Benin’s 2006-2011 compact, which modernized the country’s port – the principal source of government revenue – and improved land administration, the justice sector, and access to credit.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 80 of 183 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2020 149 of 190 https://www.doingbusiness.org/
Global Innovation Index 2019 123 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A http://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 $1,200 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Beninese government actively encourages foreign investment, which it views as critical for economic development and successful implementation of the $15 billion PAG. APIEX, situated in the Presidency, aims to promote foreign direct investment and reduce administrative barriers to doing business. APIEX serves as the single investment promotion center and conduit of information between foreign investors and the Beninese government. It is the technical body responsible for reviewing applications for approval under the Investment Code and the administrative authority for special economic zones (SEZs). The agency has significantly reduced stated processing times for registration of new companies (from 15 days to one day) and construction permits (from 90 to 30 days). In practice, APIEX faces capacity constraints, processing times can be longer than stated, and its website is often out of date and lacks information on the latest regulations and laws. The Investment Code, amended in 2020, establishes conditions, advantages, and rules applicable to domestic and foreign direct investment.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Beninese law guarantees the right to own and transfer private property. The court system enforces contracts, but the judicial process is inefficient and suffers from corruption. Enforcement of rulings is problematic. Most firms entering the market work with an established local partner and retain a competent Beninese attorney. A list of English-speaking lawyers and legal counselors is available on the Embassy’s website:

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In 2015, the Beninese government conducted a joint investment policy review (IPR) with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Further to a 2016 fact-finding mission, the UNCTAD Report on the Implementation of the IPR of Benin assesses progress in implementing the original recommendations of the IPR and highlights policy issues to be addressed in the investment climate. The full report may be found at: https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/investment-policy-review/23/benin 

Business Facilitation

Benin ranked 149 out of 190 countries on the 2020 World Bank Doing Business rankings, rising five spots from 2019. APIEX is responsible for facilitating business startups and reducing administrative barriers for investors and businesses. APIEX states that new businesses can be opened online through its website in as little as 24 hours (https://monentreprise.bj/ ).

In an effort to facilitate business travel and tourism, Benin implements a visa-free system for African nationals and an online e-visa system for holders of other passports (). The country is working to open four new trade offices abroad to enhance Benin’s international business opportunities. One is already underway in Shenzhen, China; others are planned for Europe, the United States, and the Middle East.

Benin’s 2017 Property Code made property registration simpler and less expensive in order to boost the real estate market, improve access to credit, and reduce corruption in the registration process. The measures apply to real personal property, estate and mortgage taxes, and property purchase receipts. In order to register property, individuals and businesses must present a taxpayer identification number (registration for which is free). Land registration and property purchase certifications are free, but there is a fee for obtaining a property title.

Benin Control – a private company operating under the supervision of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport – is charged with expediting customs clearances and minimizing processing barriers to clearing cargo at the Port of Cotonou. Benin Control makes it possible to obtain cargo clearance within as little as 48 hours after its off-loading at the Port of Cotonou, though in practice this can take longer. The reinstitution of the cargo inspection and scanning program known as PVI, first tried in 2012, resumed operations at the Port of Cotonou in 2017. Under the PVI program, Benin Control scans 10 percent of all imports, with containers selected randomly for scanning. Benin Control bills all containers exiting the Port of Cotonou – regardless of whether they are selected for scanning – at the rate of 35,000 FCFA ($68) for a 20-foot container, and 45,000 FCFA ($78) for a 40-foot container.

The government, through the state-owned Benin Water Company (SONEB) and Beninese Electric Energy Company (SBEE), provides service connections to potable water and electricity free of charge to Small and Medium Size Enterprises and Industries.  Eligible companies are responsible for paying the water and electricity meter installation fees.  Online application is available at https://www.soneb.bj/soneb15/pme-pmi-raccordement-gratuit and https://www.sbee.bj/site/demande-de-raccordement-des-pme-pmi-conditions/

Outward Investment

The Beninese government has no policies or incentives in place to encourage the country’s businesspeople to invest abroad. The Beninese government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Benin is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures. Foreign and domestic investors can find detailed information on administrative procedures applicable to investment and income generating operations at , including the number of steps, name and contact details of the entities and persons in charge of procedures, required documents and conditions, costs, processing time, and legal bases justifying the procedures. There is no rule to prevent a monopoly over a particular business sector. The Benin Private Investment Council (http://www.cipb.bj/ ) is the only business-related think-tank or body that advocates for investors. Generally, draft bills are not available for public comment though promulgated laws are available at https://sgg.gouv.bj/documentheque/lois/ . Individuals, including non-citizens, have the option to file appeals about or challenge enacted laws with the Constitutional Court.

International Regulatory Considerations

Benin is a member of WAEMU and the Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Law (OHADA) and has adopted OHADA’s Universal Commercial Code (codified law) to manage commercial disputes and bankruptcies within member countries. Benin is also a member of OHADA’s Common Court of Justice and Arbitration and the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). OHADA provisions govern bankruptcy. Debtors may file for reorganization only, and the creditors may file for liquidation only. Benin is member of the WTO and notifies all draft technical regulations to the organization’s Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Benin’s has a civil law system. The legal framework includes various legislative and regulatory texts covering family law, land law, labor law, criminal law, criminal procedure, and civil, commercial, social, and administrative proceedings. The Cotonou commercial court, created in 2017, enforces commercial laws and regulations. In 2018, Benin created an anti-terrorism, drugs, and economic crimes court (CRIET), which until recently lacked a mechanism for substantive appeal. The CRIET has convicted and sentenced several of President Talon’s detractors and political opponents, raising concerns about its independence. In February 2020, Benin created an appeals chamber within the CRIET. In general, judicial processes are slow, and challenges to the enforcement of court decisions are common. Magistrates and judges, though independent by law, are appointed by the Executive. Benin’s courts enforce rulings of foreign courts and international arbitration.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Investment Code provides the legal framework for foreign direct investment. The Code establishes conditions, advantages, and rules applicable to domestic and foreign direct investment. https://benindoingbusiness.bj/  makes available online information on foreign direct investment regulations and procedures, though its website is often incomplete and out of date. Benin is a member of OHADA’s Common Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA) and the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Investors may include arbitration provisions in their contracts in order to avoid prolonged entanglements in the Beninese courts. The United Nations investment guide for Benin (https://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/benin/ ) provides a general guide for foreign direct investment steps and procedures.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Benin’s legal framework does not address anti-trust or competition issues. The government does not have an agency or office that reviews transactions for competition-related concerns.

Expropriation and Compensation

The government is forbidden by law from nationalizing private enterprises operating in Benin.

In 2017, the government announced that it was terminating concessions for the management of four state-owned hotels (two in Cotonou and two in northern Benin), and instructed the Minister of Justice to file reparations claims against the concessionaires on the grounds that they had not fulfilled their concession agreements.

In 2012, the government took control of the private bank Banque Internationale du Benin (BIBE) stating that poor management risked leading the bank to bankruptcy and possible systemic risk to the banking sector. BIBE is still in government hands. https://www.ohada.org/index.php/fr/ohada-au-quotidien/role-des-audiences-publiques-de-la-cour-ccja  In 2012, the government seized assets belonging to the parastatal SODECO, a major cotton production company partly owned by President Patrice Talon. In 2014, the OHADA Common Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA) judged that the Beninese government had illegally seized SODECO assets. In 2016, after Talon took office, the government returned the assets to SODECO.

https://www.ohada.org/index.php/fr/ohada-au-quotidien/role-des-audiences-publiques-de-la-cour-ccja  In 2012, the government seized assets belonging to the parastatal SODECO, a major cotton production company partly owned by President Patrice Talon. In 2014, the OHADA Common Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA) judged that the Beninese government had illegally seized SODECO assets. In 2016, after Talon took office, the government returned the assets to SODECO.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Benin is a member of ICSID. Benin is a party to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Benin does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.

There is an ongoing investment dispute between the Beninese government and a U.S. immigration and aviation security company. In 2016, the U.S. company alleges the government canceled a contract for the provision of immigration security systems at Cotonou’s airport. In 2017, the U.S. company filed a request for arbitration with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). In 2019, the ICC found the government at fault for cancelling the contract and issued a $95 million judgment in favor of the U.S. company. The government is currently appealing the decision.

Since 2010, three other disputes between U.S. investors and the Beninese government were resolved in favor of the U.S. investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Benin has adopted OHADA’s Universal Commercial Code (codified law) to manage commercial disputes and bankruptcies. Benin is a member of the OHADA, CCJA, and ICSID.

Bankruptcy Regulations

OHADA provisions govern bankruptcy. Debtors may file for reorganization only, and creditors may file for liquidation only. Benin ranked 108 out of 190 in the “Resolving Insolvency” category of the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Depending on the size of the investment, investors may benefit from reduced tax liability on profits or imported industrial equipment for up to one year from the date of business registration. Investors must meet several criteria including employing a minimum number of Beninese nationals, safeguarding the environment, and meeting nationally accepted accounting standards. The Investment Control Commission monitors companies that receive these incentives to ensure compliance.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The Investment Code allows for the creation of SEZs and establishes incentives such as tax reductions for investors. There are currently three SEZs in Benin, but only one, located in southeastern Benin, is active. SEZ zone investors may benefit from reduced tax liability on profits and exemptions for import and export duties. Investors must meet several criteria including employing a minimum number of Beninese nationals, safeguarding the environment, and meeting nationally accepted accounting standards. Local entities and foreign investors enjoy the same opportunities.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

There are no government-imposed conditions on permission to invest and there is no “forced localization” policy pertaining to the use of domestic content in goods or technology. There are no requirements in place for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption.

The Benin Post and Communications Regulatory Authority (ARCEP) ensures the confidentiality of the content of all communications by the service provider or operator, whether this is information or other data the service provider obtains in the course of providing the services offered. No information may be disclosed without the written consent of ARCEP or a signed order of the competent judicial authority. Additional information may be found at www.arcep.bj .

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Land Act, amended in 2017, codifies real property rights. Land ownership disputes account for roughly 80 percent of the cases seen by Beninese tribunals. The Land Act is designed to ensure fair access to land and protect ownership rights. The Land Act establishes a transparent legal procedure for obtaining and documenting ownership, reduces property speculation in urban and rural areas, and encourages land development. The Land Act stipulates that development projects financed by international or multinational agencies cannot implement or result in forced evictions. The state is obligated to do everything possible at each stage of project development to ensure due respect of economic, social, and cultural rights recognized by international conventions and the Beninese constitution.

Secured interests in real and personal property are recognized and enforced. Secured interests in property are registered with the Land Office of the Ministry of Finance. However, it is recommended that foreign and non-resident investors buy land with title deeds and the intervention of a notary public in order to avoid land disputes that may result from the acquisition process. Large land leases for investment in rural areas are enforced by local city halls in conformity with the Land Act. Additional information regarding the acquisition of property may be found at the Beninese Land Agency’s website at https://www.andf.bj/ 

Intellectual Property Rights

The 2005 Law on Copyright and Related Rights regulates intellectual property rights. Benin is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and has acceded to WIPO treaties and conventions on copyrights and intellectual property protection. However, enforcement of intellectual property rights in Benin is constrained by the government’s limited capacity.

Benin is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Government policy supports free financial markets, subject to oversight by the Ministry of Finance and the West African States Central Bank (BCEAO). Foreign investors may seek credit from Benin’s private financial institutions and the WAEMU Regional Stock Exchange (Bureau Regional des Valeurs Mobilieres – BRVM) headquartered in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire with local branches in each WAEMU member country. There are no restrictions for foreign investors to establish a bank account in Benin and obtain loans on the local market. However, proof of residency or evidence of company registration is required to open a bank account

Money and Banking System

The banking sector is generally reliable. Thirteen private commercial banks operate in Benin in addition to the BCEAO and a planned subsidiary of the African Development Bank. Taking into account microfinance institutions, 22.5 percent of the population had access to banking services in 2018. In recent years, non-performing loans have been growing; 15 percent of total banking sector assets are estimated to be non-performing. The BCEAO regulates Beninese banks. Foreign banks are required to obtain a banking license before operating branches in Benin. They are subject to the same prudential regulations as local or regional banks. Benin has lost no correspondent banking relationships during the last three years. There is no known current correspondent banking relationship in jeopardy. Foreigners are required to present proof of residency to open bank accounts.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

All funds entering the country from abroad for investment purposes require reporting and registration with the Ministry of Finance at the time of arrival of funds. Evidence of registration is required to justify remittances of investment capital, earnings, loan/lease repayments, or royalties. Such remittances are allowed without restrictions. Funds entering the country from abroad for investment purposes must be converted into local currency. For the purposes of repatriating such funds, either the invested funds or the interest/earnings or royalties can be converted into any world currency.

The currency of Benin is BCEAO-CFA Franc (international code: XOF). XOF has a fixed parity with the Euro and fluctuates against all other currencies based on this parity. This parity was established at the time of the Euro’s creation (January 1, 1999) and has not changed since then. The parity stands at XOF 655.957= EUR 1.00, guaranteed by the French government under an arrangement between the Treasury of France and the European Union.

Remittance Policies

There have been no recent changes to investment remittance policies. Banks require documents to justify remittances related to investments. The waiting time to remit investment returns does not exceed 60 days in practice.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Benin does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

There are several wholly owned SOEs operating in the country, including public utilities (electricity and water), fixed and mobile telecommunications, postal services, port and airport management, gas distribution, pension funds, agricultural production, and hotel and convention center management. There is also a number of partially owned SOEs in Benin. Some of these receive subsidies and assistance from the government. There are no available statistics regarding the number of individuals employed by SOEs.

With the exception of public utilities (including electricity and water), pension funds, and landline telephone service for which the public telephone company retains a monopoly, many private enterprises compete with public enterprises on equal terms.

SOE senior management may report directly to a government ministry, a parent agency, or a board of directors comprised of senior government officials along with representatives of civil society and other parastatal constituencies. SOEs are required by law to publish annual reports and hold regular meetings of their boards of directors. Financial statements of SOEs are reviewed by certified accountants, private auditors, and the government’s Bureau of Analysis and Investigation (BAI). The government audits SOEs, though it does not make available information on financial transfers to and from SOEs.

SOEs are established pursuant to presidential decrees, which define their mission and responsibilities. The government appoints senior management and members of the Board of Directors. SOEs are generally run like private entities and are subject to the same tax policies as the private sector. The courts process disputes between SOEs and private companies or organizations.

Privatization Program

Foreign investors may participate in privatization programs. The Talon administration has targeted divestiture programs rather than total privatization of state-owned enterprises.  The state-owned telecommunications company, Benin Telecom Infrastructure, is targeted for either a divestiture program or dissolution by 2021.  With support from MCC, the state-owned electricity utility, Société Beninoise d’Energie Electrique (SBEE), is managed privately through a management contract through 2023, even though the government retains full ownership.  The government is pursuing major transactions to attract private investment into thermal and solar power generation, as well as natural gas supply for power generation. In 2017, the government signed a three-year renewable management contract for the Port of Cotonou with the Belgian firm Port of Antwerp International (PAI).  PAI took over management of the port in May 2018. The move was intended to improve port management and attract foreign investors to fund a planned project to modernize and expand the port.

9. Corruption

Benin has laws aimed at combatting corruption, though corruption remains a recurring problem in areas including public administration, government procurement, customs and taxation, and the judiciary. The ANLC is the lead government entity on corruption issues and has the authority to refer corruption cases to court. The ANLC also has the authority to combat money laundering, electoral fraud, and economic fraud in the public and private sectors. Benin’s State Audit Office is also responsible for identifying and acting against corruption in the public sector. The CRIET processes cases related to economic crimes, which can include corruption. In 2018, the National Assembly approved the lifting of parliamentary immunity of a small number of opposition parliamentarians accused of corruption or embezzlement during their past positions in former governments.

Bribery is illegal and subject to up to ten years’ imprisonment, but enforcement is uneven. Private companies often establish their own codes of conduct.

Beninese procurement law allows for open and closed bid processes. Contracts are often awarded based on government solicitations to short-listed companies with industry-specific expertise, often identified based on companies’ commercial activities conducted in other overseas markets. The government often uses sole sourcing for projects, including for PAG implementation, and in these cases does not publish procurement requests before selecting a vendor. Foreign companies have expressed concerns about unfair treatment, biased consideration, and improper practices specific to the process of selecting short-listed companies.

Benin is a signatory of the UN Anticorruption Convention and the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency or agencies responsible for combating corruption:

NAME: JeanBaptiste Elias
TITLE: President
ORGANIZATION: ANLC
ADDRESS:01 BP 7060 Cotonou, Benin
TELEPHONE NUMBER: +229 21 308 686
EMAIL ADDRESS: anlc.benin@yahoo.fr

NAME: Ms. Blanche Sonon
TITLE: President
ORGANIZATION: Social Watch
ADDRESS: 02 BP 937, Cotonou, Benin
TELEPHONE NUMBER: +229 21042012 229 95961644
EMAIL ADDRESS swbenin@socialwatchbenin.org;

10. Political and Security Environment

Benin has been a stable democracy since 1990, enjoying until recently a reputation for regular, peaceful, and inclusive elections. In 2018, the National Assembly adopted and the government implemented stringent rules for political parties to qualify to participate in legislative elections. In 2019, the government held legislative elections for which no opposition party qualified to participate and that were neither fully competitive nor inclusive. The National Assembly is currently made up exclusively by two pro-government parties. Elections-related unrest in 2019 left several people dead. The largest security issues facing Benin are the threat of terrorism spilling across its porous northern borders and piracy offshore in the Gulf of Guinea.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The government adheres to internationally recognized rights and labor standards. Benin’s constitution guarantees workers’ freedom to organize, assemble, and strike. Government authorities may declare strikes illegal if they are deemed a threat to public order or the economy and may require those on strike to maintain minimum services. In 2018, the Constitutional Court reinstated a law prohibiting public employees in the defense, health, justice, and security sectors from striking, and a new law limited strikes to a maximum of 10 days per year for private-sector workers and public employees not covered by the existing ban. Approximately 75 percent of salaried employees belong to unions. There are several union confederations. Unions are obliged to operate independently of government and political parties, but in practice often act to further political aims. Benin’s labor code, as revised in 2017, is favorable to employers.

The official unemployment rate in Benin in 2018 was 2.3 percent, though estimates of actual unemployment figures are much higher. Unskilled and skilled labor and qualified professionals are generally available. Nearly 90 percent of youth between the ages of 15 and 29 work in the informal sector. The standard legal workweek is 40 hours and payment of overtime is allowed.

In 2017, the government adopted a law on the framework for private sector and government employment, termination of employment, and placement of labor in Benin.  The law sets a maximum limit of three to nine months’ salary (calculated using the last 12 months of salary) to be paid to an employee in case of abusive termination of employment or layoffs.  If fired on legitimate grounds, but short of being caught red-handed doing something unlawful, an employee with a minimum of one year on the job is entitled to receive two months’ salary as severance pay.  The law also allows for multiple renewals of limited time contracts. Under the former law, private companies who dismissed employees for unsatisfactory performance were routinely sued.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

The DFC offers financial underwriting and other products for companies wishing to invest in Benin.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) $13,933 2019 2018 $13,155 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2018 $2 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2018 21.6% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 

*Benin National Institute of Statistics and Economic Analysis (INSAE)

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions) 2018
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 2,323 100% Total Outward 401 100%
France 1,129 48.6% France 196 48.9%
Togo 561 24.1% Senegal 77 19.2%
Cote d’Ivoire 262 11.3% Cote d’Ivoire 47 11.7%
Morocco 204 8.8% Mali 45 11.2%
Senegal 167 7.2% Kenya 36 8.9%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Burkina Faso

Executive Summary

Burkina Faso welcomes foreign investment and actively seeks to attract foreign partners to aid in its development.  It has partially put in place the legal and regulatory framework necessary to ensure that foreign investors are treated fairly, including setting up a venue for commercial disputes and streamlining the issuance of permits and company registration requirements.  More progress is needed on diminishing the influence of state-owned firms in certain sectors and enforcing intellectual property protections.  Burkina Faso scored 56.7, a 2.7 points decrease for fiscal health, in the 2020 Heritage Foundation Economic Freedom Index and ranked 85 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Index.

The gold mining industry has boomed in the last seven years, and the bulk of foreign investment is in the mining sector, mostly from Canadian firms.  Moroccan, French and UAE companies control local subsidiaries in the telecommunications industry, while foreign investors are also active in the agriculture and transport sectors.  In June 2015, a new mining code was approved with the intent to standardize contract terms and better regulate the sector, but the new code is not yet fully operational.  In 2018, the parliament adopted a new investment code that offers many advantages to foreign investors. This code offers a range of tax breaks and incentives to lure foreign investors, including exemptions from value-added tax on certain equipment.  Effective tax rates as a result are lower than the regional average, though the tax system is complex, and compliance can be burdensome.  Opportunities for U.S. firms exist in the energy sector, where the government has an ambitious plan for the installation of new power capacity in both traditional and renewable sources.

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country and the world’s seventh poorest country according to the 2019 UN Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Index, ranked at 182 out of 189 countries.  With a population of 20.28 million inhabitants in June 2019, an estimated 44 percent live under the poverty line.  Some 80 percent of the country’s population is engaged in agriculture—mostly subsistence—with only a small fraction directly involved in agribusiness. There is a significant foreign investment interest in the growing security sector, and since Burkina Faso broke off relations with Taiwan in May 2018, a growing number of Chinese development projects. The government remains committed to a market-based economy without the establishment of any barriers to trade.  Between 2006 and 2015, the national power utility’s (Société Nationale de l’Eléctricité du Burkina) customer base and consumption doubled; however, supply can only meet the demand in non-peak periods.  The GoBF has set an ambitious goal of increasing the access rate to 40 percent by 2020.  The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Board of Directors, on June 17, approved the second compact for Burkina Faso to focus on addressing the primary constraint to economic growth: the high cost, poor quality, and low access to electricity.  The compact aims to improve energy infrastructure, generation capacity, and source diversification—it will also support Burkina Faso’s increased participation in regional power markets and development of a potential MCC regional investment.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 85 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 151 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 117 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 NA https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 $670 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

In his policy statement delivered on February 18, 2019 at the National Assembly, the newly appointed Prime minister Christophe Dabire focused on the resolution of Burkina Faso’s economic difficulties and offered six measures to boost economic activity and improve the business and investment climate.  He also promised that the government would strengthen reforms, including those contained in the minimum matrix of business climate reform, in order to improve Burkina Faso’s Doing Business ranking and foster the development of the private sector.

The World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report (DB/2019) announced a slight drop for Burkina Faso in its ranking for “ease of doing business for small and medium-sized businesses” from 148th place out of 190 in 2018 to 151st in 2019.

The government of Burkina Faso adopted the National Program for Economic and Social Development (PNDES) with the aim to structurally transform the Burkinabe economy in order to generate strong, sustainable, resilient, and inclusive growth and thus create decent jobs for all and improve social well-being.  The total amount of funding required for the implementation of the PNDES is CFAF 15,395.4 billion, or about USD 27 billion.  Of this sum, it is expected that 63.8 percent (CFAF 9,825.2 billion or USD 17 billion) of the amount be mobilized by Burkina’s own resources, namely the mobilization of taxes. The other 36.2 percent (CFAF 5,570.2 billion or USD 10 billion) represents the need for funding from Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects, the mobilization of funds from the Burkinabe diaspora and technical and financial partners, and  voluntary contributions.

Article 8 of the investment code stipulates there is to be no discrimination against US foreign investors.  However, in order for any foreign investor to benefit from the exemptions provided for by the investment code, they are required to submit a request to the General Directorate for the Promotion of the Private Sector.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Burkina Faso is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Corporate Law in Africa (OHCLA).  All the Uniform Acts enacted by this organization are applicable in the country. Regarding business structures, OHCLA allows most forms of companies admissible under French business law, including: public corporations, limited liability companies, limited share partnerships, sole proprietorships, subsidiaries, and affiliates of foreign enterprises.  With each scheme, there is a corresponding set of related preferences, duty exceptions, corporate tax exemptions, and operation-related taxes.

From 1995 to 2018, Law 062-95, which was amended several times, governed investments in Burkina Faso.  However, in order to adapt this code to the new exigencies of the world economy and to respond to the fierce competition between states to attract foreign investment, the National Assembly adopted a new Investment Code by Law 038 on October 30, 2018.  It replaces Law 062-95 of December 14, 1995, which had several shortcomings, including the non-coverage of investments in renewable energies and hydraulics.  According to Article 5 of the Investment Code, certain sectors of activity may be subject to restrictions on foreign direct investment. Foreign companies wishing to invest in these sectors must follow a specific procedure specified by decree.  Burkina Faso has not established a procedure to scrutinize foreign direct investment.  Under the investment code, all personal and legal entities lawfully established in Burkina Faso, both local and foreign, are entitled to the following rights: fixed property; forest and industrial rights; concessions; administrative authorizations; access to permits; and participation in government procurement process.

The investment code establishes a special tax and customs regime for investment agreements signed by the state with large investors (between 100,000,000 FCFA and 1,000,000,000 FCFA).  This scheme provides significant tax benefits.  U.S. investors are not specifically targeted regarding ownership or control mechanisms.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In March 2013, the GoBF created the Burkina Faso Investment Promotion Agency (API-BF).  The establishment of the Presidential Council fulfilled recommendations of a 2009 UNCTAD Investment Policy Review.  The website is www.investburkina.com .

To simplify the registration process for companies wishing to establish a presence in Burkina Faso, the government created eight enterprise registration centers called Centres de Formalités des Entreprises, known by their French acronym as CEFOREs.  The CEFOREs are one-stop shops for company registration.  On average, a company can register its business in nine days according to the Doing Business report 2019.  The CEFOREs are located in Ouagadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, Ouahigouya, Tenkodogo, Koudougou, Fada N’Gourma, Kaya, Dedougou and Gaoua.

In 2018, Burkina Faso strengthened protections for minority investors by enhancing access to shareholder actions and by increasing disclosure requirements on related-party transactions.  The 2019 Doing Business report ranked Burkina Faso 149th of 190 in minority investor protection.

Other sites of interest:

Chamber of Commerce business registration: http://cci.bf/?q=fr/creation-dentreprise 

Mining Chamber of Commerce: http://chambredesmines.bf/ 

Investment Promotion Agency of Burkina Faso or l’Agence de Promotion des Investissements du Burkina Faso (API-BF): http://www.investburkina.com 

Tax and administrative procedures: https://burkinafaso.eregulations.org/ 

World Bank Investing Across Borders: http://iab.worldbank.org/data/exploreeconomies/burkina-faso 

Among the 21 countries covered by the World Bank’s Investing across Sectors indicators in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, Burkina Faso is one of the more open economies to foreign equity ownership.  Most of its sectors are fully open to foreign capital participation, although the law requires companies providing mobile or wireless communication services to have at least one domestic shareholder.  Furthermore, the state automatically owns 10 percent of the shares of all companies active in the mining sector.  The government is entitled to nominate one member of the board of directors for such companies.  Select additional strategic sectors are characterized by monopolistic market structures.  In particular, the oil and gas sector, and the electricity transmission and distribution sectors.

Outward Investment

The Burkinabe Government tries to promote outward investment via the Investment Promotion Agency of Burkina Faso or l’Agence de Promotion des Investissements du Burkina Faso (API-BF), which sits under the Presidential Council for Investment (Conseil Presidentiel pour l’Investissement).  The API-BF’s mission is to promote the economic potential of Burkina Faso to attract investment and spur economic development.

Burkina Faso currently imposes no restrictions for investors interested in investing abroad, within the framework of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) regional markets.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The government of Burkina Faso aims for transparency in law and policy to foster competition.  By law, prices of goods and services must be established according to fair and sound competition.  The government believes that cartels, the abuse of dominant position, restrictive practices, refusal to sell to consumers, discriminatory practices, unauthorized sales, and selling at a loss are practices that distort free competition.

At the same time, the price of some staple goods and services are still regulated by the government, including fuel, essential generic drugs, tobacco, cotton, school supplies, water, electricity, and telecommunications.

There are regulatory authorities for government procurement, for electronic communication and posts, for electricity, and for quality standards.

Provinces and municipalities have the power to regulate in their jurisdiction, but that regulation has a minimal effect on business entities.  There are several regulatory bodies at the national level and they usually internalize regulations enacted by international organizations.  Regulations exist at the supra-national level mostly through WAEMU and ECOWAS.

Burkina Faso’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms.  Since January 2018, Burkina Faso as an Organization for the Harmonization of Corporate Law in Africa (OHCLA) member state adopted the revised version of the OHCLA accounting system.  It is composed of the Uniform Act on Accounting and Financial Law (AUDCIF); the OHADA General Accounting Plan (PCGO); the SYSCOHADA application guide, and the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) application guide. The OHCLA accounting system complies with the IFRS norms.

There is no online Regulatory Disclosure. However, the regulations of the parliament allow the various commissions to hear civil society organizations wishing to share information to inform parliamentarians when they are examining bills.

International Regulatory Considerations

Burkina Faso is a member of the West African Economic Monetary Union (WAEMU) and the Economic Community of West African States.  There is a supranational relationship between these organizations and their state members.  Burkina Faso is also a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Corporate Law in Africa (OHCLA).  As such, Uniform Laws adopted by the OHCLA are automatically part of the national legal system.

The Government of Burkina Faso regularly notifies all the draft technical barriers to the relevant WTO Committee.  In the October 2017 Trade Policy Review, the WTO congratulated WAEMU countries for their continued efforts to improve their international trading environment, especially through the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).  Burkina Faso has begun the ratification process of the TFA, but it has not yet completed it.  However, WAEMU and ECOWAS members already implement many of the TFA provisions.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The legal system of Burkina Faso is the civil law. Contracts must always be performed in good faith. Burkina Faso has commercial courts that judge commercial cases. Commercial law is constituted by the uniform acts of the OHADA. The Commercial Code governs all matters that are not covered by the OHADA law.

The Burkinabe judiciary is independent despite press reports of cases of corruption of judges.  The Disciplinary Commission of the Judiciary has sanctioned corrupt judges. There are three degrees of jurisdiction in Burkina Faso allowing the loser to appeal a decision rendered in first instance.  In the event of a dispute over the execution of a contract, the plaintiff must first abstain a judgment from a court first and if the loser does not execute, the winner can retain a bailiff.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The investment code adopted by law 038-2018 demonstrates the government’s interest in attracting FDI to create industries that produce export goods and provide training and jobs for its domestic workforce.  The code provides standardized guarantees to all legally established firms operating in Burkina Faso, whether foreign or domestic.  It contains four investment and operations preference schemes, which are equally applicable to all investments, mergers, and acquisitions.

Burkina Faso’s regulations governing the establishment of businesses include most forms of companies admissible under French business law, including public corporations, limited liability companies, limited share partnerships, sole proprietorships, subsidiaries, and affiliates of foreign enterprises.  With each scheme, there is a corresponding set of related preferences, duty exceptions, corporate tax exemptions, and operation-related taxes.

Under the investment code, all personal and legal entities lawfully established in Burkina Faso, both local and foreign, are entitled to the following rights: fixed property, forest and industrial rights, concessions, administrative authorizations, access to permits, and participation in state contracts.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The National Commission for Competition and Consumption (Commission Nationale pour la Concurrence et la Consommation) reviews competition matters.  Some competition matters are under the aegis of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU).  Law No. 016-2017/AN of 27 April 2017 on organizing competition in Burkina Faso governs the competition sector.  This law is intended to create a free and transparent market, a guarantee of the development of a market economy driven by competitive and wealth-creating businesses.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Burkinabe constitution guarantees basic property rights.  These rights cannot be infringed upon except in the case of public necessity, as defined by the government.  This has rarely occurred.  Until 2007, all land belonged to the government but could be leased to interested parties.  The government reserves the right to expropriate land at any time for public use.  In instances where property is expropriated, the government must compensate the property holder in advance, except in the event of an emergency.

In 2007, Burkina Faso drafted a national land reform policy that recognizes and protects the rights of all rural and urban stakeholders to land and natural resources.  It also clarifies the institutional framework for conflict resolution at a local level, establishes a viable institutional framework for land management, and strengthens the general capacities of the government, local communities and civil society on land issues.

A 2009 rural land management law provides for equitable access to rural lands in order to promote agricultural productivity, manage natural resources, encourage investment, and reduce poverty.  It enables legal recognition of rights legitimated by traditional rules and practices.  In rural areas, traditional land tenure rules have long governed land transactions and allocations.  The 2009 law reinforces the decentralization and devolution of authority over land matters and provides for formalization of individual and collective use rights and the possibility of transforming these rights into private titles.

In 2012, the government revised the 2009 law, marking the end of exclusive authority of the state over all land.  It includes provisions to recognize local land use practices.  The new law provides conciliation committees to resolve conflicts between parties prior to any legal action.  There are several property rights recognition and protection acts, such as land charters, individual or collective land ownership certificates, and loan agreements that govern the nature, duration and counterparties for transfer rights between a landowner and a third party.

The first (2010-2014) Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact supported the establishment of local authorities and the issuance of titles as part of the land tenure reform process.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

The ICSID Convention entered into force for Burkina Faso on October 14, 1966.  In the event that an amicable settlement of a dispute between the government and an investor cannot be reached, the investment code requires that arbitration procedures be submitted to international arbitration under the rules outlined by the 1965 Convention of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), of which Burkina Faso is a member.  When the ownership of a company does not meet the nationality requirements laid out by Article 25 of the Convention, the code specifies that the dispute be resolved in accordance with the dispositions of the supplementary mechanisms approved by ICSID in September 1978.

Burkina Faso has been a member of the New York Convention since March 23, 1987.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Burkina Faso is a party to the Washington Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards and outlines arbitration procedures in its investment code as a means of solving investment disputes.  BITs signed by Burkina Faso provide for international arbitration.  Burkinabe courts accept international arbitration as a means for settling investment disputes between private parties.  Longstanding disputes that remain unresolved after administrative jurisdictional hearings may be submitted to arbitration.  Burkinabe courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards. The United States has not signed a BIT with Burkina Faso.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Mediation and conciliation are available and encouraged in Burkina Faso.  In 2006, Burkina Faso introduced specialized commercial chambers in the general courts and in 2007 opened the Arbitration, Mediation and Resolution Center (Centre d’Arbitrage, de Mediation et de Conciliation de Ouagadougou (CAMCO)) under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  (http://www.camco.bf/ ).  If a dispute is not settled by the CAMCO, the case can be referred to international bodies such as the International Chamber of Commerce of Paris.

The parliament adopted the Law number 047-2017 laying down modalities for intervention by the state jurisdictions on arbitration in Burkina Faso.  Burkina Faso is not a member of the Apostille Convention.  Consequently, any arbitral award rendered abroad should receive an exequatur before enforcement.

In 2016, a foreign mining company addressed an arbitration request to the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Court of Arbitration. The complaint stems from a dispute over the Tambao deposit in the northeastern corner of Burkina Faso. Prior to requesting arbitration in the Paris-based international court, the disputing parties seized the CAMCO.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Since Burkina Faso is a member of the OHADA, the Uniform Act on Bankruptcy is applicable.

There is no credit bureau in Burkina Faso.  The World Bank’s 2019 “Doing Business” report ranked Burkina Faso 107 out of 190 countries for Resolving Insolvency.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The 2018 investment code demonstrates the government’s interest in attracting FDI to create industries that produce export goods and provide training and jobs for its domestic workforce.  The code provides standardized guarantees to all legally established firms operating in Burkina Faso, whether foreign or domestic.  It contains five investment and operations preference schemes, which are equally applicable to all investments, mergers, and acquisitions.

Burkina Faso’s regulations governing the establishment of businesses include most forms of companies admissible under French business law, including: public corporations, limited liability companies, limited share partnerships, sole proprietorships, subsidiaries, and affiliates of foreign enterprises.  With each scheme, there is a corresponding set of related preferences, duty exceptions, corporate tax exemptions, and operation-related taxes.

Under the investment code, all personal and legal entities lawfully established in Burkina Faso, both local and foreign, are entitled to the following rights: fixed property, forest and industrial rights, concessions, administrative authorizations, access to permits, and participation in state contracts.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

There are no foreign trade zones or free ports in Burkina Faso.  The Burkinabe investment code prohibits discrimination against foreigners.  American firms not registered in Burkina Faso can compete for contracts on projects financed by international sources such as the World Bank, U.N. organizations, or the African Development Bank.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) refers to a continental geographic zone where goods and services move among member states of the AU with no restrictions. The AfCFTA aims to boost intra-African trade by providing a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement among the member states, covering trade in goods and services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy. To date, 30 countries have both signed and approved ratification of the AfCFTA Agreement. Of the 55 AU member states, only Eritrea has yet to sign. The operational phase of the AfCFTA was subsequently launched during the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Niamey, Niger on July 7, 2019. The AfCFTA will be governed by five operational instruments:  the Rules of Origin; the online negotiating forum; the monitoring and elimination of non-tariff barriers; a digital payments system and the African Trade Observatory.  A digital payments system was supposed to start on July 1, 2020, but as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, this start date has been  postponed (a new date is yet to be confirmed by the African Union Commission).

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The GoBF does not mandate local employment, but in recent years has encouraged investors to promote local employment and support local economies.  The GoBF does not require investors to purchase materials from local sources or to export a certain percentage of output.  However, regarding the mining sector, according to the article 101 of the mining code, “Holders of mining title or authorization and their subcontractors give preference to Burkinabe enterprises for any contract of provision of services or supplies of goods in equivalence of price, quality and time.” The GoBF does not impose “offset” requirements, which dictate that major procurements be approved only if the foreign supplier invests in Burkinabe manufacturing, research and development, or service facilities in areas related to the items being procured.  Burkina Faso does not have “forced localization” policies.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Since the 2009 land tenure reform law, the government of Burkina Faso has been engaged in an effort to issue titles recognizing land ownership rights.  The first Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact focused on beginning this process in 47 communes, with plans for the government to expand the effort throughout the country.

Only about 5,000 land titles have been granted countrywide since 1960, according to the National Land Observatory, and the majority of those were issued pursuant to the first Millennium Challenge compact.  Obtaining a title is the last step in the process of land acquisition and is preceded by obtaining a use permit or an urban dwelling permit, developing the land, and paying applicable fees.  The title-holder becomes the owner of the surface and the subsoil.

Mortgages exist in Burkina Faso both for land and for structures.  Rules governing mortgages are set at the regional level by the West African Economic and Monetary Union, specifically under the Organization for the Synchronization of Business Rights in Africa (Organisation pour l’Harmonisation en Afrique des Droits des Affaires (OHADA).  Liens are not widely used.

Intellectual Property Rights

Burkina Faso’s legal system offiers protection for intellectual property rights (IPR), including  patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and semiconductor chip design.  In practice, however, government enforcement of IPR law is lax.  Burkina Faso is a destination point for counterfeit medicines, which can  be purchased readily on the street in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso.

Burkina Faso is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the African Intellectual Property Organization (AIPO).  The national investment code guarantees foreign investors the same rights and protection as Burkinabe enterprises for trademarks, patent rights, labels, copyrights, and licenses.  In 1999, the government ratified both the WIPO Copyrights Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT).  In 2002, Burkina Faso was one of 30 countries that put the WCT and WPPT treaties into force.  The government has also issued several decrees and rules to implement the two treaties.

The implementation of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is under the purview of two ministries.  The first is the Office of Copyrights (le Bureau Burkinabe des Droits d’Auteurs, or BBDA) under the Ministry of Art, Culture and Tourism, which has the lead for copyright and related rights.  The National Directorate of Industrial Property under the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Handicrafts has the lead for industrial property issues.  These two authorities have the technical competence to identify needs.  Arrangements are underway to assess the needs for the implementation of the TRIPS Agreement in Burkina Faso.

Statistics on the seizure of counterfeit goods are available upon request from the relevant agency.  For example, the BDDA tracks seizures  pertaining to artistic material, and the  the National Directorate of Industrial Property tracks seizures pertaining to pharmaceuticals..

Burkina Faso is not cited in the United States Trade Representative  (USTR) Special 301 Reports or the Notorious Markets List.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The government of Burkina Faso is more focused on attracting FDI and concessionary lending for development than it is on developing its capital markets.  Net portfolio inflows were estimated at around 1.67 percent of GDP in 2018.  While the government does issue some sovereign bonds to raise capital in the WAEMU regional bond market, in general the availability of different kinds of investment instruments is extremely limited.

Money and Banking System

The banking system is sound, relatively profitable and well capitalized, but credit is highly concentrated to a small number of clients and a few sectors of the economy, according to the IMF’s March 2018 Country Report.  Only 15 percent of the population has a checking account.  Like all member states of WAEMU, Burkina Faso is a member of the Central Bank of West African States.  Many foreign banks have branches in the country.  The traditional banking sector is composed of twelve commercial banks and five specialized credit institutions called “établissements financiers.”  The use of mobile money is becoming more prevalent.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Burkina Faso is a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU, or UEMOA when referred to by its French acronym), whose currency is the CFA franc (XOF), or FCFA.  The FCFA is freely convertible into euros at a fixed rate of 655.957 FCFA to 1 euro.  Investors should consider the advantages offered by the WAEMU, which allows the FCFA to be used in all eight member countries: Senegal, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Benin, Guinea Bissau, Niger, and Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso’s investment code guarantees foreign investors the right to the overseas transfer of any funds associated with an investment, including dividends, receipts from liquidation, assets, and salaries.  Such transfers are authorized in the original currency of the investment.  Once the interested party presents the request for transfer, accompanied by all relevant bank documents, Burkinabe banks transfer the funds directly to the recipient banking institution.  Foreign exchange is readily available at all banks and most hotels in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso.

Remittance Policies

The GoBF is not expected in the near future to change its current remittance policy concerning purchasing foreign currency in order to repatriate profits or other earnings.

As a member of a regional currency union (WAEMU), Burkina Faso does not engage in currency manipulation.

Burkina Faso is a member of the Intergovernmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), a FATF-style regional body.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Burkina Faso does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Privatization Program

GoBF announcements for privatization bids are widely distributed, targeting both local and foreign investors.  Bids are published in local papers, international magazines, mailed to different diplomatic missions, e-mailed to interested foreign investors, and published on the Internet on sites such as http://www.dgmarket.com .

9. Corruption

Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index indicates that Burkina Faso ranks 85 out of 180 countries.  The State Supreme Audit Authority (ASCE-LC) is the leading government anti-corruption body that publishes an annual report documenting financial irregularities, embezzlement, and improper use of public funds in various ministries, government agencies, and state-run companies.  In 2018, the ASCE-LC opened at least two high profile corruption investigations against the Ministers of Defense and Infrastructure, still under review. The Burkinabe government continues to grant access within its own ministries to the non-governmental watchdog National Network to Fight against Corruption (REN-LAC) that examines the management of private and public-sector entities and publishes annual reports on corruption levels within the country.

Legislation requires government officials, including the president, lawmakers, ministers, ambassadors, members of the military leadership, judges, and anyone charged with managing state funds, to declare their assets as well as any gifts or donations received while in office.  Infractions are punishable by a maximum jail term of 20 years and fines of up to USD 41,670. In May 2020, former Minister of Defense, Jean-Claude Bouda, was arrested on “money laundering” and “illicit enrichment” charges following a complaint by the National Anti-Corruption Network.  On June 18, State Prosecutor Harouna Yoda announced that the Deputy Director General of Customs, William Alassane Kaboré, was placed under “judicial control,” for acts of illicit enrichment and money laundering amounting to 1.3 billion CFA (USD 2.2 million).  Additionally, investigations are underway on the mayor of Ouagadougou and some magistrates who allegedly tried to bury this case.

According to public perception, civil servants who most commonly engage in corruption include customs officials, members of the police force and gendarmerie, justice officials, healthcare workers, educators, tax collectors, and civil servants working in government procurement.

One of the main governmental bodies for fighting official corruption is the Superior Authority of State Control (ASCE), an entity under the authority of the Prime Minister.  ASCE has the authority to investigate ethics violations and mismanagement of public funds in the public sector, including state civil service employees, local and public authorities, state-owned companies, and all national organizations involved with public service missions.  ASCE publishes an annual report of activities, which provides details on its investigations and issues recommendations on how to resolve them.  Many of its findings are followed by judicial action.

The Autorité de Régulation de la Commande Publique (ARCOP), established in July 2008, is the regulatory oversight body that ensures fairness in the procurement process by monitoring the execution of all government contracts.  ARCOP may impose sanctions, initiate lawsuits, and publish the names of fraudulent or delinquent businesses.  It also educates communities benefiting from public investment monies to take a more active part in monitoring contractors.  ARCOP works with the media to strengthen journalists’ capacity to investigate suspected fraud cases.  Since 2012, the media has noticeably increased its coverage of high-profile corruption cases.

The Reseau National de Lutte Contre la Corruption (REN-LAC) publishes an annual report on the state of corruption in the country, and has established a wide range of anti-corruption initiatives and tools.  REN-LAC has a 24-hour hotline that allows it to gather information on alleged corrupt practices anonymously reported by citizens. African Parliamentarians’ Network against Corruption also has a local chapter in Burkina Faso and cooperates with REN-LAC.

As a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Burkina Faso has agreed to enforce a regional law against money laundering and has issued a national law against money laundering and financial crimes.

Burkina Faso has taken steps to fully adopt regional and international anti-corruption frameworks, and the country ratified the UN Convention against Corruption in October 2006.

However, the World Bank rating for control of corruption for Burkina Faso has declined since 2003 from the 56th percentile to the 33rd percentile.  This means that while Burkina Faso was once rated much more favorably than its regional peers for limiting corruption, it is now close to the average for sub-Saharan African countries.

Resources to Report Corruption

REN-LAC hotline: (+226) 8000 1122

Or contact:

Sagado NACANABO
Executive Secretary
REN-LAC
Telephone: +226 25 36 32 15

Luc Marius Ibriga
Contrôleur Général d’Etat
Autorité Supérieure de Contrôle d’Etat et de la Lutte contre la Corruption (ASCE-LC)
Telephone: +226 25 30 10 91 or +226 25 33 60 39

10. Political and Security Environment

Violent extremist elements remain active in Burkina Faso and throughout the region. They have specifically targeted Westerners in attacks and kidnappings. Terrorists may conduct attacks anywhere with no warning. Targets include hotels, restaurants, police stations, customs offices, military posts, and schools. There have been over 550 terrorist incidents in Burkina Faso since 2015, including ambushes of security forces and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. VEOS have also targeted civilians and worshippers including Christians and Muslims. In addition to attacking police stations, customs offices, military posts, and schools, extremists have attacked Ouagadougou three times since January 2016.  On March 2, 2018, extremists attacked the French Embassy and Burkina Faso’s military headquarters in downtown Ouagadougou. Eight security force personnel, including soldiers and police officers, were killed, and over 80 others were injured. In August 2017, a small group of armed men attacked the Aziz Istanbul Café, a restaurant in downtown Ouagadougou, and killed approximately 19 people. Extremists attacked the Cappuccino café and Splendid Hotel in the heart of Ouagadougou’s downtown on January 15, 2016.  The Government of Burkina Faso has declared a state of emergency due to insecurity in parts of 6 out of 135 administrative regions.

Since 2015, 680 events including 261 battles, 81 riots, and 322 violent incidents against civilians  resulted in 2,772 fatalities, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (Acled).  Some of these attacks target local and foreign companies, including attacks against security forces escorting convoys of mining company employees, as well as hijackings of company vehicles and kidnappings of company personnel.

In the past 13 months, Post has upgraded the public travel advisory three times to reflect deteriorating security in various regions of the country. Burkina Faso is rated as “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” with areas of “Level 4: Do Not Travel”. The “Level 4” areas have increased from just a portion of the northern Sahel Region in early 2018, to include the Est Region (except Gnagna Province) in September 2018, and again in January 2019 to include all of the Est Region, Sahel Region, and portions of the Centre-Est Region and regions in western Burkina Faso bordering Mali.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Burkinabe workers have a reputation as hardworking and dedicated employees.  There is a scarcity of skilled workers, mainly in management, engineering, and the electrical trades.  While unskilled labor is abundantly available in Burkina Faso, skilled labor resources are limited.  Construction, civil engineering, mining, and manufacturing industries employ the majority of the formal labor force.  According to the UNDP in 2018 11 percent of parliamentary seats were held by women, and six percent of adult women had reached at least a secondary level of education compared to 12.1 percent of their male counterparts. For every 100,000 live births, 371 women die from pregnancy related causes; the adolescent birth rate is 104.3 births per 1,000 women ages 15-19. Female participation in the labor market is 58.5 percent compared to 75.1 percent for men.

Burkinabe law allows workers, except for essential workers such as magistrates, police, military, and other security personnel, to form and join independent unions of their choice without previous authorization, and to bargain collectively.  The law provides for the right to strike, but also limits this right with pre-strike requirements or restrictions (including notice submission and government’s requisition power to secure minimum service in essential services).

Public servants are also entitled to engage in bargaining.  In recent months, a series of public sector unions have gone on strike to demand better living and working conditions.  However, increasing labor demands across multiple ministries have begun to put stress on an already strained public finance system, and have affected the tax collection processes.  Although President Kabore has announced the intention to present a global labor deal (as opposed to the piecemeal settlement of strikes in different sectors that has been the case until now), it is not clear that any progress is being made on this front. The Minister of Public Service has decided to put a new salary scale for more justice and fairness in the remuneration of civil servants.

It is the GoBF’s policy to increase employment opportunities for Burkinabe workers.  Therefore, in professions where there are too many registered and unemployed Burkinabe, a job-seeker card will not be issued to non-nationals.  When non-nationals are hired, the Director of Labor authorizes their employment contract.  According to the 1967 decree, statements must be made to the Regional Inspector of Work and Social Rules before the start-up of any new enterprise.

Burkina Faso has undertaken reforms of labor policy to make the labor market more flexible while ensuring workers’ rights, including workers’ safety and health.  To promote local employment, the government has established several financing instruments targeted at firms interested in obtaining start-up monies.  These instruments include Fonds National d’Appui à la Promotion de l’Emploi – FONAPE (Employment Promotion Support Fund), Fonds d’Appui au Secteur Informel – FASI (Informal Sector Support Fund), Fonds d’Appui aux Activités Génératrices de Revenus des Femmes – FAARF (Women’s Income Generating Activities Support Fund), Fonds d’Appui aux Initiatives des Jeunes – FAIJ (Youth Initiative Support Fund), and Fonds Burkinabe de Développement Economique et Social – FBDES (Burkinabe Fund for Social and Economic Development).

In the event of a reduction in personnel, the labor code requires the employer to first dismiss employees with the least training and seniority.  The employer must advise employees of termination at least 30 days in advance.  Workers terminated in a general workforce reduction have re-employment priority over other applicants for a two-year period.  Employees terminated for reasons other than theft or flagrant neglect of duty have the right to termination benefits.

To date, Burkina Faso has approved and ratified 43 conventions of the International Labor Organization, including conventions on Freedom of Association and the Right to Organize, Abolition of Forced Labor, and the Worst Forms of Child Labor.  Mainly the Ministry of Civil Service, Labor, and Social Security and a labor court enforce the labor code.  Unions are well organized, independent from the government, and defend employee interests in industrial disputes.  Workers know their rights and do not hesitate to seek redress of grievances.

Despite the government’s substantial efforts to reduce child labor in the past few years, 42 percent of children in Burkina Faso continue to engage in child labor, particularly in agriculture.  The worst forms of child labor take place in mining.  Cotton and gold are included on the U.S. government’s Executive Order 13126 List of Goods Produced by Forced and Indentured Child Labor.

The 1982 Commercial Sector Collective Agreement divides employees (laborers, artisans, and senior staff) into eight categories with minimum basic pay rates from 25,000 FCFA (about USD 45) per month.  Conditions for the employment of workers by enterprises are provided in Decree no. 98 of 1967.  An employer should ask job candidates for their job-seeker registration card issued by the Office of Employment Promotion, which is part of the Ministry of Civil Service, Labor, and Social Security

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

Burkina Faso has not benefitted from any DFC programs thus far.  Burkina Faso is a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2019 $15,746 www.worldbank.org/
en/country
 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 16.9% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 
  
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 3,322 100% Total Outward 143 100%
Canada 1,091 N/A Mali 33 N/A
Barbados 662 N/A Senegal 30t N/A
France 283 N/A Côte d’Ivoire 24t N/A
United Kingdom 250 N/A Togo 20 N/A
Mali 178 N/A Benin 18 N/A
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Burundi

Executive Summary

Burundi is a landlocked country in Central Africa and is one of the six member states of the East African Community (EAC). A socio-political and economic crisis associated with the 2015 national elections, followed by a severe economic downturn, exacerbated the poor fundamentals of an already difficult investment climate. Although a modest recovery is underway, economic growth remains insufficient to create employment for Burundi’s rapidly growing population. For almost two-thirds of the population living below the poverty line (2017 estimates), Burundi remains one of the world’s most impoverished countries, with approximately 90 percent of the population reliant on subsistence farming and a youth unemployment rate particularly high (about 65 percent).

  • Burundi’s landlocked location and infrastructure constraints limit transportation of goods and services. Electricity demand significantly exceeds capacity and the transmission system is poorly maintained, leading to rolling blackouts. Although activity has increased in the mining sector, the scale of the commercially exploitable resources remains unclear. Scarcity of skilled labor and low labor productivity limit growth in all sectors.
  • The Government of Burundi (GoB) seeks to attract more foreign investment. Various initiatives are underway to modernize and diversify agricultural production, build power plants (Jiji and Mulembwe hydro plant power already implemented), improve access to the country (rehabilitation of the Port of Bujumbura is underway ), increase regional trade by strengthening the transport network and improving the quality of human resources. However, poor governance and poor infrastructure, corruption, financial restrictions and capital controls that limit the expatriation of foreign currency, a low-skilled workforce and limited/unreliable economic statistics often limit foreign direct investment (FDI).
  • Since 2008, members of the executive branch have granted large discretionary exemptions to private foreign companies by presidential decree or ministerial ordinance in order to attract FDI. These direct government-to-company agreements undermine the Burundian tax law and the investment code. In addition to reducing revenues for the state, these exemptions disadvantage private companies already operating in Burundi by granting advantages to select competitors. The corporate tax rate is 30 percent, with reductions for companies that employ certain numbers of Burundian nationals.
Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 165 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 166 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/
en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 128 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 N/A https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 280 USD http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Burundi (GoB) is generally favorable to FDI and seeks investment as a means to promote economic growth. Uneven implementation of laws and regulations, however, limits the predictability of the environment for Burundian and foreign investors alike. The GoB has not implemented laws, regulations, or economic or industrial strategies that limit market access or discriminate against foreign investors. There is a minimum foreign initial investment of USD 50,000, which does not apply to domestic investors. An overview of the legal framework for foreign investment can be found at http://www.eatradehub.org/burundi_investment_policy_assessment_2018_presentation 

Based on the Burundi Investment Code enacted in 2008, the government established the Burundi Investment Promotion Agency (API) in 2009. API’s main objective is to boost local investment and attract foreign investment, especially for projects serving long-term development goals and improving competitiveness. API provides investors with information on investment and export promotion, assists them with legal formalities, including obtaining the required documents, and intervenes when laws and regulations are not properly applied. API also designs reforms required for the improvement and the ease of doing business environment and ensures that the impact of investments on development is beneficial and sustainable.

The GoB conducts dialogue with national and foreign investors to promote investment. API is the initial and primary point of entry for investors, but government ministries meet regularly with private investors to discuss regulatory and legal issues. For example, at the beginning of 2020, the API brought together stakeholders in the horticultural sector with the aim of creating a platform of professionals responsible for supporting farmers in order to promote exports of horticultural products. The Burundian horticultural sector being confronted with several challenges related especially to non-compliance with the requirements of the export market, the API allowed the stakeholders to brainstorm ideas on the basis of which a plan support and supervision measures for producers will be developed and submitted to the authority to support this sector.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic companies have the same rights to establish and own businesses in the country and engage in all forms of activities. However, there are restrictions on foreign investments in weaponry, ammunition, and any sort of military or para-military enterprises. There is no other restriction nor are there any sectors in which foreign investors are denied the same treatment as domestic firms. There are no general limits on foreign ownership or control.

Article 63 of the 2013 mining code stipulates that the GoB must own at least 10 percent of shares in any foreign company with an industrial mining license and state participation cannot be diluted in the event of an increase in the share capital.

Burundi does not maintain an investment screening mechanism for inbound foreign investment.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

No investment policy review from a multilateral organization has taken place in the last three years. The most recent review was performed in 2010 by UNCTAD.

Business Facilitation

In addition to fiscal advantages provided in the investment code, Burundi has implemented reforms, including reinforcing its single window for starting a business, simplifying tax procedures for small and medium enterprises, launching an electronic single window for business transactions, and harmonizing commercial laws with those of the East African Community.

The Investment Promotion Agency (API) is a government authority in charge of promoting investment, improving the business climate and facilitating market entry for investors in Burundi. API offers a range of services to potential investors, including assistance in acquiring the licenses, certificates, approvals, authorizations, and permits required by law to set up and operate a business enterprise in Burundi. API has set up a one-stop shop to facilitate and simplify business registration in Burundi. For now, investors must be physically present in country to register with API.

The business registration takes approximately four hours and costs 40,000 Burundian frances (around USD 21). For more details and information on registration procedures, time and costs, investors may visit API’s website on https://www.investburundi.bi/ .

There is no specific mechanism for ensuring equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities.

Outward Investment

The host government does not have mechanisms for promoting or incentivizing outward investment. The host government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Although parts of the government are working to create more transparent policies for fostering competition, Burundi lacks clear rules of the game. Many policies for foreign investment are not transparent, and laws or regulations on the books are often ineffective or unenforced. Burundi’s regulatory and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms on paper, but a lack of capacity or training for the staff and political constraints sometimes limit the regularity and transparency of their implementation.

Rule-making and regulatory authority is exercised exclusively at the national level. Relevant ministries and the Council of Ministers exercise regulatory and rule-making authority, based on laws passed by the Senate and National Assembly. In practice, government officials sometimes exercise influence over the application and interpretation of rules and regulations outside of formal structures. The government sometimes discusses proposed legislation and rule-making with private sector interlocutors and civil society, but does not have a formal public comment process. There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or private sector associations.

Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are generally transparent or consistent with international norms on paper but are unevenly implemented in practice.

Draft bills or regulations are not subject to a public consultation process. There are no conferences that involve citizens in a consultation process to give them an opportunity to make their comments or contributions, especially at the time of project development, and, even if this were the case, the public does not have access to the detailed information needed to participate in this process.

Burundi does not have a centralized online location where key regulatory actions are published; however, regulatory actions are sometimes posted on the websites of GoB institutions (typically that of the Office of the President or ministries).

Burundi has sectoral regulatory agencies covering taxes and revenues, mining and energy, water, and agriculture. Regulatory actions are reviewable by courts. There have been no recent reforms to the regulatory enforcement system.

The government generally issues terms of reference and recruits private consultants who prepare a study on the draft legislation for review and comment by the private sector. The government analyzes these comments and takes them into consideration when drafting new regulations. New regulations can be issued by a presidential decree or Parliament can make them into a law. This mechanism applies to laws and regulations on investment.

Information on public finances and debt obligations (including explicit and contingent liabilities) is published in the Burundi Central Bank’s Reports and on its website: https://www.brb.bi/ ; however, some publications are not up to date.

International Regulatory Considerations

Burundi is a part of the East African Community (EAC), a regional economic bloc composed by six member states, the republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The EAC Integration process is anchored on four pillars: Customs Union, Common Market, Monetary Union, and Political Federation. Each member state must harmonize its national regulatory system with that of the EAC. At the moment, several milestones have been realized under the EAC Pillars; some countries are ahead of others, but the process of harmonization of regulatory systems (national and regional) continues to progress, as does regional integration (progress of the East African Customs Union, the creation of the Common Market and the implementation of the Monetary Union Protocol, etc.).

Burundian law and regulations reference a number of standards, including the East African Standards, Codex Alimentarius Standards, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and its own standards. ISO remains the main reference.

The country joined the WTO on July 23, 1995. According to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism, Burundi has not notified the WTO Committee on TBT of all draft technical regulations.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The country’s legal system is civil (Roman), based on German and French civil codes. For local civil matters, customary law also applies. Burundi’s legal system contains standard provisions guaranteeing the right to private property and the enforcement of contracts. The country has a written commercial law and a commercial court. The investment code offers plaintiffs recourse in the national court system and to international arbitration.

The judicial system is not effectively independent of the executive branch. A lack of capacity hinders judicial effectiveness, and judicial procedures are not rigorously observed.

The investment code offers plaintiffs recourse in the national court system and to international arbitration when necessary.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

There were no major laws, regulations, or judicial decisions pertaining to foreign investment in the past year. In 2009, the GoB created an Investment Promotion Authority (API) in charge of promoting investment and facilitating market entry for investors in Burundi. API offers a range of services to potential investors, including assistance in acquiring the licenses, certificates, approvals, authorizations, and permits required by law to set up and operate a business enterprise in Burundi. In 2014, API created a follow-up mechanism to make sure that investors are implementing projects for which they received tax exemptions and other advantages provided in the investment code.

In 2018, the Council of Ministers reviewed draft legislation updating the investment code and then referred it to a technical committee for review and improvement; it remains a work in progress. Among other changes, the draft contains new measures to ensure the protection of the property of foreign investors and penalties for malfeasance by foreign investors.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

There is no Burundian agency in charge of reviewing transactions for competition-related concerns.

Expropriation and Compensation

Burundian law allows the GoB to expropriate property for exceptional and state-approved reasons, but the GoB is then committed to provide a legal prior fair compensation allowance based on the fair market value.

There are no recent cases involving expropriation of foreign investments nor do any foreign firms have active pending complaints regarding compensation in Burundian courts.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Burundi is a full member of ICSID Convention since 1969 and became the 150th country to sign the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention). Burundi’s commercial law allows enforcement of judgments in foreign courts by local courts.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Burundi is a signatory of International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in which international arbitration of investment disputes is recognized. Burundi has no bilateral investment treaty with the United States.

There have been limited instances of foreign investors seeking restitution from the GoB over allegations of breach of contract and corruption.

In cases involving international elements, the GoB accepts international arbitration and recognizes and enforces foreign arbitral awards. There is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

In rare cases involving international elements, the GoB accepts international arbitration and recognizes and enforces foreign arbitral awards. In commercial disputes between private parties, international arbitration is accepted as a means of settlement provided one of the parties is an extra-national. In 2007, the GoB created a Center for Arbitration and Mediation (CEBAC) to handle such disputes, but it is not very active.

There is no operational commercial arbitration body in the country besides CEBAC. Foreign arbitral awards are recognized, but local courts are not legally equipped to enforce them. No Burundian private entity has been involved in a foreign arbitration. In the past, one registered case involved the GoB and a private gold refining company. The ICSID ruling was enforced by GoB, which lost the case.

Although there are complaints about the discriminatory and opaque nature of Burundian court processes in general, there are no known cases involving State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in investment disputes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Burundi has two laws governing or pertaining to bankruptcy: Law N°1/07 of March 15, 2006, on bankruptcy and Law N°1/08 of March 15, 2006, on legal settlement of insolvent companies. Under Burundian law, creditors have the right to file for liquidation and the right to request personal or financial information about the debtors from the legal bankruptcy agent. The bankruptcy framework does not require that creditors approve the selection of the bankruptcy agent and does not provide creditors the right to object to decisions accepting or rejecting creditors’ claims.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The current Investment Code grants various potential fiscal and customs benefits to investors including: three or more years of tax-free operation; exemption of charges on property transfer; exemptions from duties on raw materials, capital goods, and specialized vehicles; tax exemptions for goods used to establish new businesses; exemptions from customs duties if investment goods are made within the EAC or COMESA; a corporate tax rate of 30 percent with a reduction to 28 percent if 50-200 Burundians are employed and to 25 percent if more than 200 are employed; and free transfer of foreign assets and income after payment of taxes due.

The GoB does not issue guarantees, but does co-finance foreign direct investment projects, albeit typically on an in-kind basis, such as by granting land for facilities.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Burundi already belongs to the trading blocs of the EAC (East African Community), the CEPGL (Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries), COMESA (Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa), the Economic Community of the States of Central Africa (CEEAC). The GoB recently adopted new laws on the free trade area to accelerate its integration into other trading blocs such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) between COMESA, EAC and SADC (Southern Africa Development Community). GoB also embarked on the path of harmonizing its policies and legal framework within regional regulations in order to consolidate its regional integration, improve its competitiveness and take better advantage of external economic potentials. However, as the enabling regulations do not yet exist, Burundi does not have trade zones/free ports/trade facilitation that are operational until now.

One of the objectives on Burundi’s agenda is urgent integration into AfCTA, one of the largest free trade areas in the world since the formation of the World Trade Organization with a total of 55 member states since July 2019. The AfCFTA aims to stimulate intra-African trade (BIAT) and Burundi wants to share in these gains. Burundi and Tanzania are the only countries within the East African Community that have not yet ratified the agreement. The GoB has already set up an ad hoc committee to accelerate the process of integration within AfCTA, and negotiations are underway with a view to ratifying the instruments of this agreement in the very near future. Burundi expects tangible benefits from this large continental market (1.2 billion people with a GDP of over USD 2.5 trillion and a purchasing power of more than USD 4 trillion) due to its strategic location and resource endowment.

In addition, GoB has established its first Special Economic Zone (ZESB) in order to enhance growth and development after the breakdown of cooperation with several European countries. ZESB is still under implementation on the Warubondo site (a strategic location of 5.43 square km straddling between Burundi and neighboring DRC with easy access to Bujumbura city, Bujumbura International Airport, Bujumbura Port and Lake Tanganyika). ZESB is a result of a business partnership between GoB and private foreign investors and its main objective is to revive the industrial sector and to promote exports. The economic model behind is that this zone must be a window for foreign investors where all the products produced within the zone will bear the label “Made in Burundi”.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The current government policy for both domestic and foreign companies is mandatory employment of local workers unless it is not possible to find a local candidate with the required skills or expertise. The number of expatriate employees is limited to 20 percent of the total workforce. There is no policy mandating foreign companies to appoint local personnel to senior management or boards of directors.

Burundian visa requirements are not excessively onerous and do not generally inhibit the mobility of foreign investors and their employees. Since 2015, Burundi has removed the possibility for visitors to apply for a visa upon arrival at the airport unless authorized by the PAFE (immigration authority). Travelers to Burundi must apply for visas in one of the Burundian missions abroad. A foreigner holding a residency visa is permitted to work in Burundi. A two-year residence visa (renewable) costs USD 500 and it can only be issued after making a refundable deposit of USD 1,500 in a local bank (BANCOBU). There are no government/authority-imposed conditions on permission to invest except for a minimum investment requirement of USD 50,000 applicable to foreign investors.

There are no requirements that investors purchase from local sources. However, the mining law requires a commitment from the investor to recruit staff or subcontractors of Burundian nationality as a precondition for granting a mining license, with mandatory quotas in place at this time. The GoB imposes no performance requirements on investors as a condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding their investments or for access to tax and investment incentives.

There are no laws requiring foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption except for a law requiring that companies share user information with law enforcement authorities during terrorism investigations; this law applies equally to Burundian and foreign companies. There are no laws that prevent companies from transmitting data outside the country.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interests in both real and movable property are nominally recognized under Burundian law (2011 land code). The Burundi land code, adopted in 2011, recognizes the right to property and protection for Burundians and for foreigners. Foreigners enjoy the same rights and protection as nationals, subject to the principle of reciprocity (which means that the foreign country must in return recognize the same rights for Burundians). The state can give property to foreigners for industrial, commercial, cultural use, can rent them out, but full ownership is reserved for Burundians. The legal system and the investment code are designed to protect and facilitate the acquisition and disposition of all property rights.

The Land Titles Service registers real estate and security instruments, such as mortgages. Property titles are accepted as a guarantee (mortgages) by commercial banks, but documents for properties located outside the capital city of Bujumbura are less easily accepted because of multiple conflicts and crimes related to the land in rural areas (more than 80 percent of the litigations in the courts and tribunals are conflicts over land).

Land titling in Burundi has historically been a lengthy, opaque and centralized process although the Burundian Land Code appears simple, transparent and inexpensive. As a result, some applicants (those with limited financial resources or contacts) fail to title their land while others (wealthy ones or those with good contacts) bribe land titling agents to speed up the procedure. To address these issues, in December 2019, GoB implemented several initiatives aimed at: (1) informing the population on the procedure for registering land and obtaining title deeds; (2) establishing in all provinces of the country one-stop windows where persons interested in titling land have access to all necessary government offices to carry out the titling; (3) combating, in accordance with the law, all forms of corruption related to the properties registration process. The GoB has been slow to decentralize land titling for financial reasons and it is likely that the government will still need financial resources to make its initiatives a reality.

The legal system and the investment code do not differentiate local and foreign investors regarding land acquisition or lease. However, land acquisition is based on reciprocity between Burundi and the investor’s home country, obliging a foreign country to recognize the same rights for Burundians in the foreign country as the foreigners of their country enjoy in Burundi.

Properties in urban and rural areas must be registered. However, according to estimates, more than 90 percent of houses and land in rural areas are not registered and around 80 percent of the litigations in the Burundian courts and tribunals are conflicts over land. When a property has been legally purchased, it cannot be legally confiscated by the state except when it is the subject of an expropriation procedure in accordance with legal and regulatory procedures.

Intellectual Property Rights

Burundi has adopted the 1995 World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of International Property Rights (TRIPS), which introduced global minimum standards for the protection and enforcement of virtually all intellectual property rights (IPR). The legal system and the investment code aim to protect and facilitate the acquisition and disposition of all property rights, including intellectual property rights IPR. The law also guarantees protection for patents, copyrights, and trademarks. However, there is no record of enforcement action on intellectual property IPR infringement violations. No IPR-related law has been enacted during the past year and no bills are pending.

Agents of Burundian institutions in charge of the fight against piracy and counterfeiting (Burundian Revenue Office and the Ministries of Trade and Public Health) have already benefited from various sources of support in terms of capacity building on industrial property rights and the fight against piracy and counterfeiting on the part of multilateral partners, but these institutions lack the tools needed for detecting counterfeits. Although these institutions have already committed themselves to operate reforms in this sector (a multisectoral committee responsible for promoting procedures to combat counterfeiting and piracy and monitoring has been set up), they still need to set up a database of recognized trademarks, in which all the information on trademarks registered at customs is compiled and to require this procedure for all companies or representatives of multinationals to be effective.For now, the Burundi Bureau of Standardization (BBN) is the state authority responsible the monitoring of the quality of consumer products on the market; however, this Bureau lacks the necessary expertise and resources to be effective.  Counterfeiters who are apprehended are fined and their products are seized. There are no statistics available on seizures of counterfeit goods. Burundi is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Market List.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Although there are no regulatory restrictions on foreign portfolio investment, Burundi does not have capital markets that would enable it. Capital allocation within Burundi is entirely dependent on commercial banks.

The country does not have its own stock market. There is no regulatory system to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment. There is insufficient liquidity in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions. Existing policies do not actively facilitate nor impede the free flow of financial resources into product and factor markets.

There is no regulation restricting international transactions. In practice, however, the government restricts payments and transfers for international transactions due to a shortage of foreign currency.

In theory, foreign investors have access to all existing credit instruments and on market terms. In practice, available credit is extremely limited.

Money and Banking System

Burundi has very limited banking services penetration according to the most recent national survey on financial inclusion conducted by the central bank. In this 2016 survey, the Bank of the Republic of Burundi (BRB) found a penetration level of approximately 22 percent.  Several local commercial banks have branches in urban centers. Micro-finance institutions mostly serve rural areas. The Burundian government is a minority shareholder in three banks.The banking sector’s soundness has improved with capitalization and liquidity ratios above regulatory standards and profitability indicators on the rise. However, bank portfolio quality remains a concern, with the level of non-performing loans (NPLs) reaching nine percent when five percent is the benchmark rate among East African Community states. The sector also suffered from shortages of foreign currency following the Central Bank’s establishment of de facto capital controls in 2019.

The financial sector includes 12 credit institutions, 37 microfinance institutions, 15 insurance companies, three social security institutions and three payment institutions. In April 2020, a new youth investment bank began operations. Two other banks under creation are an agricultural bank and a bank for women. All three aim at reducing unemployment by creating job opportunities. The banking sector remains predominant with 82.5 percent of total assets, while microfinance institutions and insurance companies represent 11.2 percent and 6.4 percent respectively. Financial intermediation continues to increase, the total assets of the financial sector as a percentage of GDP being 52.1 percent in 2018 compared to 49.3 percent in 2017. The banking market is dominated by the three largest and systemically important banks: Credit Bank of Bujumbura (BCB), Burundi Commercial Bank (BANCOBU), and Interbank Burundi (IBB).Foreign banks are allowed to establish operations in the country.  Foreign banks operating in the country include ECOBANK (Panafrican Bank-West Africa), CRDB (Tanzanian Bank), DTB and KCB (both Kenyan Banks).  The central bank directs banking regulatory policy, including prudential measures for the banking system.  The country has kept all its foreign corresponding banks during the last three years. Foreigners and locals are subject to the same conditions when opening a bank account; the only requirement is the presentation of identification.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

According to the law, after paying taxes, there are no restrictions on expatriating funds associated with investment. In practice, foreign investors have encountered difficulties in converting funds associated with investments into foreign currency due to de facto capital controls implemented by the BRB in 2019.

According to the GoB, funds associated with an investment can be converted into a freely usable currency at a legal market rate, pending their availability. Due to a shortage of foreign currency, the central bank prioritizes companies in specific strategic industries for access to foreign exchange accommodation. In practice, the Burundian franc is not freely convertible at the official government rate.

The BRB publishes the daily exchange rate on its website each morning. In practice, the national currency (BIF) fluctuates, and the government has imposed de facto capital controls to prevent abrupt exchange rate movements; there is a gap between the official rate and a floating parallel market rate.

Remittance Policies

The government has not passed any new laws regarding a change to investment remittances policies. The average delay for remitting investment returns (once all taxes have been paid) is three months due to general inefficiency in the banking sector and the rarity of such transactions in an environment with very little foreign direct investment.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Burundi does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

There are five SOEs in Burundi with 100 percent government ownership: REGIDESO (public utility company), ONATEL (telecom), SOSUMO (sugar), OTB (tea), and COGERCO (cotton). No statistics on assets are available for these companies as their reports are not available to the public. Board members for SOEs are appointed by the GoB and report to its ministries. The GoB has a minority (40 percent) share in Brarudi, a branch of the Heineken Group, and in three banking companies.

There is no published list of SOEs.

SOEs have no market-based advantages and compete with other investors under the same terms and conditions; however, Burundi does not adhere to the OECD guidelines on corporate governance for SOEs.

Privatization Program

In 2002, Burundi entered an active phase of political stabilization, national reconciliation and economic reform. In 2004, it received an emergency post-conflict program from the IMF and the World Bank, paving the way for the development of the Strategic Framework for Growth and Poverty Alleviation (PRSP). After the 2005 elections, the GoB made the decision to convert several state-owned enterprises different sectors of the economy to private investment, including foreign investment. The Burundian government, considering coffee a strategic sector of its economy, decided to opt for the privatization of the coffee sector first in an effort to modernize it. However, following the crisis of 2015, the GoB decided to suspend immediately the privatization program. At that time, it had not yet privatized other sectors such as tea or sugar. In late 2019, the GoB retook control of the coffee sector, citing as its rationale perceived mismanagement on the part of the privatized company during the 2015-2019. It is unclear if or when the privatization program will continue.

The privatization program was open to all potential buyers, including foreigners, and there was no explicit discrimination against foreign investors at any stage of the investment process. Public bidding was mandatory. The process is transparent and non-discriminatory. When the government intends to sell a business or shares in a business, offers are published in local newspapers.

9. Corruption

The government has an anti-corruption law and an enforcement organization, the Anti-Corruption Brigade, responsible for enforcing this legislation. Cabinet members, parliamentarians, and officials appointed by presidential decree have immunity from prosecution on corruption charges, insulating them from accountability. Laws designed to combat corruption do not extend to family members of officials or to political parties.

Article 60 of the April 2016 law “Bearing Measures for the Prevention and Punishment of Corruption and Related Offenses” regulates conflicts of interest, including in awarding government procurement. Burundian legislation criminalizes bribery of public officials, but there is no specific requirement for private companies to establish internal codes of conduct.

Burundi is a signatory to the UN Anti-Corruption Convention and the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery. Burundi has also been a member of the East African Anti-Corruption Authority since joining the EAC in 2007. The country does not provide protections to NGOs involved in investigating corruption.

A number of U.S. firms have specifically noted corruption as an obstacle to direct investment in Burundi. Corruption is most pervasive in the award of licenses and concessions, which takes place in a non-transparent environment with frequent allegations of bribery and cronyism. Customs officials are also reportedly corrupt, regularly extorting bribes from exporters and importers.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:

Name: Roger Ndikumana
Title: Commissaire Général
Organization: Anti-Corruption Brigade
Address: PO Box 890 Bujumbura
Telephone Number: (+257) 22 25 62 37
Email Address: brigadeanticorruption@yahoo.fr

Contact at a “watchdog” organization (international, regional, local, or nongovernmental organization operating in the country/economy that monitors corruption, such as Transparency International):

Name: Gabriel Rufyiri
Title: President
Organization: OLUCOME
Address: 47, Chaussée Prince Louis Rwagasore, n°47, 1st Floor
Telephone Number: (+257) 22 25 20 20 /22 25 89 00
Email Address: rufyirig@gmail.com / olucome2003@gmail.com

10. Political and Security Environment

Burundi has experienced cycles of ethnic and political violence since its independence in 1962. Periods before and after national elections have often been marked by political violence and civil disturbance. During the reporting period, the political turmoil associated with the 2015 elections and failed coup has ceased, but tensions and uncertainties related to the upcoming 2020 elections remain.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Unskilled local labor is widely available, while there are shortages for skilled workers in some sectors; no statistics are available on the shortage of specialized labor skills. According to government policy, the hiring of nationals should be prioritized except in cases in which no local expertise is available. Formal sector employment is limited, and official figures for unemployment are unreliable. Observers believe that there is widespread youth unemployment on the order of 65 percent.

According to the investment code, any new enterprise is required to take into account environmental issues and employee rights in its investment and business plan. The government has taken no comprehensive measures to implement policies or international standards regarding responsible business practices. The government routinely engages investors about including public and community benefits in investment projects, but has no clearly defined standards.

There have not been any high-profile or controversial instances of private sector impact on human rights in the recent past. No reliable information is available on the maintenance and enforcement of domestic laws with respect to labor and employment rights, consumer protections, and environmental protections. There are no known examples of labor laws being waived in order to attract or retain investment.

The labor code allows for employers to respond to fluctuating market conditions with layoffs of workers. Labor laws do not differentiate between layoffs and firing for severance. The government has a social insurance program that provides limited coverage to workers laid off for economic reasons.

Burundi is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and its domestic labor law is in compliance with international labor standards. Workers’ unions are legally authorized, and there are laws and regulations that prohibit child and forced labor and any kind of discrimination. In practice, child labor occurs, and some union activity is restricted. Burundi has ratified all of the ILO fundamental conventions protecting workers’ rights; however, protection of core labor rights continues to be inadequate. Although the Labor Code prohibits acts of anti-union discrimination, it does not prescribe adequate penalties sufficient to deter such acts. In the private sector, labor-management relations are usually conducted according to international standards that allow for collective bargaining. Burundi’s Labor Inspectorate has the authority to settle disputes between workers and employers, which can also be managed through civil judicial procedures. No strikes that posed an investment risk occurred during the past year. No new labor laws were enacted or drafted during the reporting period; however, the Labor Inspectorate is currently working on revising the Labor Code.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2018 3,248* 2018 3,037 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2018 6.8* 2018 7.1 UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 

* BRB (Bank of the Republic of Burundi), 2017 Annual Report (at official exchange rate).

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
No detailed information is available on the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) website and no information is available on outward direct investment from Burundi.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
No detailed information is available on the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) website and no information is available on outward direct investment from Burundi.

Cameroon

Executive Summary

Cameroon continues to implement an Extended Credit Facility from the IMF but has fallen behind on most of the reforms outlined in the agreement.  In May, the IMF approved the disbursement of a $226 million Rapid Credit Facility to support the “urgent balance of payment needs” stemming from the COVID-19 crisis.  A resurgent Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa in the country’s Far North Region, combined with separatist violence in the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest Regions, continue to undermine Cameroon’s security and distract the government from needed economic reforms and infrastructure improvement.  In January 2020, Cameroon lost its eligibility in the African Growth and Opportunities Act due to human rights concerns.  Collapsing oil prices in early 2020 and the economic slowdown related to COVID-19 will hamper public finances and growth prospects, which will limit the government’s ability to make much-needed investments in physical infrastructure, education, and health.

Foreign investment continues to focus on extractive industries and infrastructure, most notably minerals and energy.  The government regularly calls for expanded international investment in utilities and myriad state-owned enterprises but has little appetite for removing bureaucratic impediments and tackling corruption.

Cameroon has a unique mix of natural resources and geography that make it attractive to investment.  The country shares a 1,000-mile border with Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, and is the economic engine of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC).  Cameroon is a bilingual country, with significant swathes of the population speaking French and English.  Continued conflict in the two Anglophone regions and the incursion of Boko Haram and ISIS-WA in the Far North undermine the country’s security.  State-owned companies with monopolistic power often function as regulators in various sectors and distort the business climate.  Cameroon struggles with rampant corruption which pervades an inefficient and slow public administration.  The result is underinvestment in infrastructure, education, and health.

Sectors that have historically attracted significant investment are:

Extractive Industry (Oil/Gas, Mining, Timber)

Cameroon has been an oil exporter since 1977.  Oil production has stagnated as prices fluctuated, but the country can count on untapped gas reserves estimated at 3.5 billion cubic meters, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  The government dominates the sector and generally operates a revenue-sharing business model with foreign investors.  Cameroon also has dozens of deposits of valuable minerals, including gold, cobalt, magnesium, nickel, iron, and bauxite.  Cameroon’s immense tropical rainforests contain valuable hardwoods and softwoods.

Agriculture

The Cameroonian government has invested heavily in agriculture over the past 30 years, with minimal results.  Cameroon is often described as the breadbasket of Central Africa because it supplies foodstuffs to Nigeria and CEMAC members.  Market opportunities exist in the transformation of raw crops into finished or semi-finished products.  Access to credit, poor infrastructure, securing land rights, and ongoing fighting between separatists and government security forces in the cocoa and coffee-growing regions are significant obstacles.

Information & Communication Technology

Information and communication technology is the fastest growing economic sector in Cameroon, though internet penetration is still one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa.  The mobile sector is still concentrated in the hands of four companies, including the state-owned Cameroon Telecommunication (CAMTEL), which also functions as the market regulator.  Despite CAMTEL’s monopoly on the communication backbone, including underwater fiber optic cables, faster internet broadband and 3G-4G offer lucrative investment opportunities.

Banking and Finance

The financial sector of Cameroon has 15 banks, 26 insurance companies, a state pension fund, and a state-owned mortgage bank.  In addition, the country has over 400 microfinance institutions, a state-owned postal bank, and a nascent stock market based in Douala.  According to the International Monetary Fund, total financial assets represent 40 percent of national GDP, two-thirds of which is held by banks.  Less than 15 percent of Cameroonians have access to financial services.  There are investment opportunities in subsectors of the financial industry, particularly in conventional banking, risk protection, or in the increasingly popular mobile money business.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 153 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/
country/CMR
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 167of 190 https://www.doingbusiness.org/
content/dam/doingBusiness/country/
c/cameroon/CMR.pdf
Global Innovation Index 2019 115 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 USD 14 https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/factsheet.cfm?Area=404&UUID
=c39e7aa0-5372-457c-95c7-c7c9e2699ca7
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 USD 1,468 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GNP.PCAP.KD?locations=CM

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government of Cameroon has stated that it considers FDI an important pillar of its development strategy.  Many Cameroonian institutions have bodies that work to attract FDI, with mixed results.  Parliament, the Executive Branch, and donors have sought to improve framework laws and regulations to attract investors.  In presenting the 2020 budget at the National Assembly, the Prime Minister emphasized the government’s commitment to increasing FDI, though few reforms have been passed.

By law, the government does not prohibit or limit foreign investors, whether in the ability to establish an investment (market access) or to operate in the market.  Investors interested in Cameroon can enter any sector of the economy provided they comply with regulations.  Though not official policy, tax authorities tend to target foreign companies for increased scrutiny.

The Cameroon Investment Agency (IPA) was launched in 2010.  IPA implements government policies to promote and facilitate all forms of direct investment in Cameroon. It examines investment proposals, assists with visa applications for foreign investors, and helps in the accreditation of companies.  IPA can enable access to related public facilities, simplify administrative procedures, and guide investors through the legal compliance processes.  IPA also offers incentives and can reward investors with additional support if they meet certain employment and export requirements.

The state agency helps companies launch their business projects.  As of the first quarter of 2020, the IPA has signed 89 conventions with private enterprises.  Companies must commit to creating local jobs.

Business lobby groups such as GICAM and Enterprise Cameroon maintain a dialogue with the government through the Cameroon Business Forum, a platform supported by government and donors.  For the past three years, the American Chamber of Commerce has not been invited to participate in the Forum.  GICAM, which is comprised of mostly local businesses, was increasingly critical of the government in 2019.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Despite an active government presence in most sectors of the economy, private entities – both domestic and foreign – can create and own businesses that engage in all forms of legal remunerative activities.  They can also enter into joint ventures and public-private partnerships with the government.  There are no general economy-wide (statutory, de facto, or otherwise) limits on foreign ownership or control.

Cameroon has no laws or regulations that prescribe outright prohibition on investment, equity caps, mandatory domestic joint venture partners, licensing restrictions, or mandatory Intellectual Property/technology transfer requirements.  Cameroon has a screening process, which is applicable to all domestic and foreign investments.  This screening process ensures that investors meet the criteria, such as employment and export quantities, to qualify for private investment incentives.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

OECD and UNCTAD have not conducted an investment policy review for Cameroon.  The WTO performed an IPR in 2013 for the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC).  In the report, the WTO criticized CEMAC countries for not doing enough to encourage trade between each other, promoting state-owned monopolies, and relying on price controls.

In June 2017, Cameroon signed a three-year Extended Credit Facility agreement with the IMF.  The program included structural reforms to accelerate and consolidate growth and control spending.  Under the terms of the agreement, the IMF has conducted five policy reviews.  Copies of the reviews can be found on the IMF website:

The IMF expressed satisfaction on the progress of the implementation of reforms while urging the country to implement stronger measures on budget transparency and improvement of the business climate.  In the area of public expenditure, the World Bank published a review  in late 2018.  The review examines public expenditure data over a period of 10 years with the objective of assisting Cameroon in the restoration of fiscal stability.

Business Facilitation

According to the World Bank’s Investing Across Borders Report, it takes 14 procedures and 82 days to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company in Douala.  This process is lengthier and more complex than regional and global averages.  While only two additional steps are required of foreign companies compared to domestic ones, these steps add an additional 48 days to the overall establishment process.  A declaration of foreign investment to the Ministry of Finance is mandatory 30 days prior to the beginning of the establishment process.  In addition, if the company wants to engage in international trade, registration in the importers’ file is required to obtain an automated customs systems number (Système Douanier Automatisé, or “sydonia”).  This number facilitates the entry and exit of goods produced by the company.  The authentication of the parent company’s documentation abroad is required only to establish a subsidiary.  Foreign-owned resident companies that wish to maintain foreign currency bank accounts in Douala must obtain prior approval.  The Minister of Finance issues such authorization, which is subject to approval from the Bank of Central African States as per Section 24 of the exchange control regulations.  This approval takes on average 38 days to obtain.  There is a minimum paid-in capital requirement of CFA 1,000,000 (~USD 1,700) for establishing LLCs.

In April 2016, with the support of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the European Union, Cameroon launched an online business registration website called mybusiness.cm .  The platform simplifies the business creation process and amplifies entrepreneurship promotion policies.  The site presents real time data on business creation.

Outward Investment

The Cameroonian government does not promote or incentivize outward investment nor does it  restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Cameroon has good laws, most of which are consistent with international business and legal norms.  Weak implementation and investigating capacity, a lack of understanding of international business practices, and corruption in the judiciary limit the effectiveness of the rule of law.  In many circumstances, judicial loopholes persist, leading to arbitrary interpretations of the texts.

Some government ministries, though not all, consult with the general public and private sector organizations through targeted outreach to stakeholders, such as business associations or other groups.  There is no formal process for such consultations.  Ministries do not report the results of consultations, but it is not believed that such processes disadvantage U.S. or other foreign investors.

Cameroon’s National Assembly and Senate pass laws.  The President proposes bills and then executes laws.  Though there is technically a separation of powers, the Presidency is the supreme rule-making and regulatory authority.  Regions and municipalities have little additional regulatory authority beyond that of the central government.  Cameroon is a member of CEMAC and is thus subject to its regulations, though implementation is a weak point.  CEMAC’s central bank, BEAC, controls monetary policy and is the de facto finance regulator, in coordination with the Ministry of Finance.

Cameroon does not meet the minimum standards of fiscal transparency.  Many of the state-owned enterprises do not have public accounts.  There are only three publicly listed companies on the Douala Stock Exchange.  All three use the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) accounting system, which does not conform with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) standards.

Draft bills and regulations are not made available for public comment.  The website for the Office of the Prime Minister (www.spm.gov.cm ) contains PDF versions of most new regulatory actions published in the Cameroon Tribune, the country’s newspaper of record.

Cameroon has administrative courts that specialize in the application and enforcement of public laws.  From a strictly legal perspective, the Supreme Court has oversight on enforcement mechanisms, but a lack of separation of powers prevents the judiciary from carrying out its responsibilities. There have been no new regulatory or enforcement reforms announced since the last Investment Climate Statement.

Ministries and regulatory agencies do not develop forward regulatory plans, i.e., a public list of anticipated regulatory changes or proposals intended to be adopted/implemented within a specified period.  Ministries do not have a legal obligation to publish the text of proposed regulations before their enactment.  There is no period of time set by law for the text of the proposed regulations to be publicly available.  There is no specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by other individual agencies or government bodies.

The National Institute of Statistics (INS) conducts surveys and produces statistics, which are meant to inform policy decisions.  Some of these statistics are cited in government documents when ministries are drafting legislative proposals or during parliamentary debates. Quantitative analysis conducted by the INS have often been used by multilateral lenders such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank.  However, scientific or data-driven assessments of new regulations are limited; public comments are not the main drivers of regulations.

Cameroon does not meet the minimum standards of fiscal transparency due in large part to the opacity of state-owned companies.  A public national budget is produced each year, but there is little adherence to the document.  Thanks to the IMF’s Extended Credit Facility conditionality, information on public debt is fairly reliable and available.

International Regulatory Considerations

Cameroon is a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). In theory, CEMAC regulations supersede those of individual members, though recent reforms by CEMAC’s central bank, BEAC, have met stiff resistance from individual member states, including Cameroon.

The government requires use of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) accounting system.  No other norms or standards are referenced in the country’s regulatory system.

Cameroon joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) on December 13, 1995 and was previously a member of the General Agreement on Taxes and Tariffs.  On March 11, 2019, Cameroon was suspended from the WTO for failure to meet its designated 180 million Central African Franc (USD 308,000) contribution to the organization.  The government of Cameroon is expected to notify all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Cameroonian legal system is a legacy of French, German (Codified Laws), and English (Common law) colonization.  There is also the traditional ethnological legal system, which varies for each ethnic group.  The government wants to harmonize these different legal traditions to equip Cameroon with laws that are applicable across the country and to reduce the need to navigate different legal systems.  This project, however, is being met with stiff resistance from English-speaking lawyers, who claim that the initiative will undermine their heritage.

In terms of standards, Cameroon’s commercial legal system follows the OHADA rules, which are supposed to be aligned with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).  Enforcement is weak partly because of lack of capacity.  Cameroon does not train enough specialized judges in the commercial and economic fields.  Consequently, poor enforcement of laws and accounting standards tends to create confusion for foreign investors.  Despite efforts to align OHADA standards to international norms, government accounting regulations remain obsolete in the context of rapid developments in international finance and capital markets.

To circumvent the problem, U.S. enterprises and investors often maintain two sets of accounting records, one in accordance with U.S. GAAP or suitable international standards, and another set to address the OHADA standards and government reporting requirements.

The judicial system is not independent of the executive branch.  The executive regularly interferes in judiciary matters.  The current judicial process is not procedurally competent, fair, or reliable.  Endemic corruption, lack of funding, and political considerations makes the courts unable to function as independent arbiters of disputes.

Arbitration is becoming the solution of choice to solve business disputes in Cameroon.  Arbitration is in the OHADA corporate law.  Since OHADA is a supra national law, Cameroon is bound by its decisions.

Regulations and enforcement actions are appealable, and they are adjudicated in the national court system.  Due to the court’s lack of objectivity, few businesses attempt to appeal unfavorable rulings.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign direct investments are governed by Law No. 2013/004 of 18 April 2013, which defines incentives for private investment in Cameroon, while proposing generic and special incentives and affirming the government’s responsibilities with regard to private investors.  The law remains valid for domestic and foreign investors.  Additional laws and regulations that refer to specific economic sectors are available on the website of the Ministry of Finance (http://www.minfi.gov.cm/index.php/en/documents ).

The 2020 finance law, passed in December 2019, is the main new legal instruments to have been published  in the past year.  It contains new taxes and two exonerations notably on the Value Added Taxes.  Full implementation is expected over 2020, and many of the results are not fully understood.  The text of the law can be found here .

The Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency is the primary or “one-stop-shop” website for investment that provides relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors (https://investincameroon.net/en/ ).

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The National Competition Commission handles anti-competition and anti-trust disputes.  In some cases, the regulator of a specific economic sector can play the anti-trust role.  State-owned companies are often granted monopoly or monopsony status in their markets.

Expropriation and Compensation

Decree N°.85-9 of 4 July 1985 and the subsequent implementation of Decree N°.87-1872 of December 16, 1987, lay down the procedure governing expropriation for public purposes and conditions for compensation.  Some of the provisions of these legal texts were repealed by Instruction n°005/I/Y.25/MINDAF/D220 of December 29, 2005.  Essentially, for the general public interest, the State may expropriate privately owned land.  The laws also lay down the formalities to be observed within the context of the procedure, both at the central and local levels.

In recent years, the government of Cameroon has expropriated property in the context of the construction of large infrastructure projects such as roads and hydroelectric dams.  The government has a compensation process in place to meet the losses of those affected by such decisions.

Despite weakness in the actual implementation and execution of laws on the ground, compensation after expropriation generally follows a due process.  There are no cases of indirect expropriation, confiscatory tax regimes, or regulatory actions that deprive investors of substantial economic benefits from their investments.  However, serious allegations of corruption have plagued compensation procedures over the last decade.  These incidents, often carried out by civil servants, have undermined trust in the process.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Cameroon ratified the “International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes” (ICSID) Convention on January 3, 1967 and the New York Convention on February 19, 1988.  There is no specific domestic legislation providing for enforcement under the 1958 New York Convention and for the enforcement of awards under the ICSID Convention.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The OHADA-signatory nations adopted a uniform act on arbitration (the Uniform Act) on March 11, 1999.  The Uniform Act sets out the basic rules applicable to any arbitration, where the seat of arbitration is located in an OHADA member state.  The Uniform Act is based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) model law.  It supersedes the national laws on arbitration of the OHADA states.  Cameroon’s arbitration law is contained in its code of civil and commercial procedure in the third volume, Articles 576 to 601.

Cameroon has a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with the United States.  There have been no claims against the BIT since it came into force in 1989.  While there have been disputes between Cameroonian partners and U.S. companies, few have risen to the level of requiring arbitration.  Misunderstandings between partners have led to conflicts, but such cases have been infrequent over the past 10 years.

Local courts may recognize foreign arbitral awards issued against the government, but they are not well equipped to enforce such decisions.  Post is aware of several such awards against state-owned companies that have not been enforced.  In general, foreign investors complain more about administrative harassment or bottlenecks, and less about extrajudicial actions.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The OHADA system serves both as domestic and primary reference legislation for alternative dispute resolution but is rarely used.  GICAM, the country’s largest business lobby group, has an arbitration center based in Douala.  In principle, local courts have the power to recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government if found at fault.

As a treaty, the OHADA prevails over domestic laws.  An international arbitration award can prevail especially if operating through the OHADA framework.  The Common Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA) enforced under OHADA are both an arbitration institution and a judicial court, with a remit covering all the OHADA states.

Judicial processes are bureaucratic, expensive, time-intensive, and lengthy.  This is true even for domestic and state-owned companies, which like their foreign competitors, also suffer from the weaknesses of the legal system and are not guaranteed any better treatment in case of dispute.

In a prominent November 2019 case, the general manager of a state-owned hydrocarbon distribution company complained that debts owed by the state-owned electricity company, in combination with frequent power cuts, had caused millions of dollars in financial losses.  Instead of addressing the issue or seeking arbitration, the company fired the manager.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Cameroon has bankruptcy laws which recognize the right of creditors, the equity of shareholders and other types of liabilities.  Bankruptcy is not criminalized unless it can be proven that it is a deliberate collusion to avoid tax or mislead investors.  In 2020, Cameroon stands at 129 in the World Bank’s ranking of 190 economies on the ease of resolving insolvency.  According to data collected by Doing Business 2019, resolving insolvency takes 2.8 years on average and costs 33.5 percent of the debtor’s estate, with the most likely outcome being that the company will be sold piecemeal.  The average recovery rate is 15.8 cents on the dollar.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Cameroon’s 2013 investment law lists several types of investment incentives for investors and specifies the conditions that they have to meet, in order to benefit from those incentives.  This law specifies incentives available to Cameroonian or foreign legal entities, whether or not established in Cameroon, conducting business therein, or holding shares in Cameroonian companies, with a view to encouraging private investment and boosting national production.  For example, during the establishment phase (which cannot exceed five years), the new code provides for exemptions from VAT and duties on key services/assets (including an exemption from stamp duty on the lease of immovable property).  During the operation phase (which cannot exceed 10 years), further exemptions from, or reductions of, other taxes (including corporate tax), duties (such as stamp duty on loans), and other fees are granted.  Overall, the law seeks to facilitate, promote, and attract productive investment in order to develop activities geared towards strong, sustainable, and shared economic growth as well as job creation.  In a context where businesses have to navigate between national and regional incentives, U.S. companies and investors must seek local and regional expertise if they plan to operate in the CEMAC region.

Common incentives are granted to investors during the establishment and operation phases.  During the operation phase, which may not exceed 10 years, the investor may enjoy exemptions from or reductions of payment of several taxes, duties, and other fees including corporate tax, tax on profit and stamp duty on loans.  In addition, any investor may benefit from a tax credit provided he or she meets one of the following criteria:  (1) employs at least five graduates each year, (2) combats pollution, and (3) develops public interest activities in rural areas.

The investor shall enjoy the following benefits during establishment phase, which may not exceed five years, with effect from the date of issuance of the approval:

  • Exemption from stamp duty on establishment or capital increase;
  • Exemption from stamp duty if immovable property used exclusively for professional purposes and that is part of an integral part of the investment program;
  • Exemption from transfer taxes on the acquisition of immovable property, land and buildings essential for the implementation of the investment program;
  • Exemption from stamp duty on contracts for the supply of equipment and construction of buildings and installations, that is essential for the implementation of their investment program;
  • Full deduction of technical assistance fees in proportion to the amount of the investment made, calculated on the basis of the total amount of the investment;
  • Exemption from VAT on the provision of services related to the execution of the project and obtained from abroad,
  • Exemption from stamp duty on concession contracts;
  • Exemption from business license tax;
  • Exemption from taxes and duties on all equipment and materials related to the investment program;
  • Exemption from VAT on the importation of equipment and materials;
  • Immediate removal of equipment and material related investment program during clearance operations.
  • The right to open in Cameroon and abroad local and foreign currency accounts and to carry out transactions on such accounts;
  • The right to freely use and or keep abroad funds acquired or borrowed abroad, and to freely use such;
  • The right to freely keep abroad dividends and proceeds of any kind from capital invested, as well as proceeds from the liquidation or sale of their assets;
  • The right to directly pay abroad non-resident suppliers of goods and services essential for conduct of business; and,
  • Free transfer of dividends and proceeds from the sale of shares in case of disinvestment.

Also, with respect to foreign staff employed by the investor and resident in the Republic of  Cameroon, they shall enjoy free conversion and free transfer to their country of origin of all or part of amounts due them, subject to prior payment of various taxes and social security contributions to which they are liable in compliance with the regulations in force.  Finally, the government shall institute facilities necessary for  the establishment of a specific visa and a reception counter at all airports throughout the national territory for investors, subject to their presentation of a formal invitation from the body in charge of investment promotion of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.

There are additional incentives in priority economic sectors.  In addition to the above-mentioned incentives, specific incentives may be provided to enterprises, which carry out investments that contribute to the attainment of the following priority objectives:

  • Development of agriculture, fisheries, livestock, and plant, animal or fishery product packaging activities;
  • Development of tourism and leisure facilities, social economy and handicraft;
  • Development of housing, including social housing;
  • Promotion of agroindustry, manufacturing industries, industry, construction materials, iron and steel industry, construction, maritime and navigation activities;
  • Development of energy and water supply; encouragement of regional development and decentralization;
  • The fight against pollution and environmental protection;
  • Promotion and transfer of innovative technologies and research and development;
  • Promotion of exports; and,
  • Promotion of employment and vocational training.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

In Cameroon, Foreign Trade Zones (FTZ) are demarcated and fenced geographic areas, with controlled access, where some standard trade barriers, tariffs, quotas, or other bureaucratic requirements are lifted or lowered to attract investments.  Cameroon passed a special law instituting FTZ in 1990.  Applications for an authorization to establish an industrial free zone are submitted to the National Office for Industrial Free Zones.  The authorization to establish an Industrial Free Zone is granted by the Minister in Charge of Industrial Development.  Some of the benefits of the FTZ are built into commercial, fiscal, custom, and labor codes.  The status of FTZ has not changed since the last reporting period.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The government of Cameroon does not mandate local employment except as an incentive to entice foreign investment.  The government of Cameroon encourages investors to create jobs and employ local labor.

There are no compulsory or legal requirements on senior management and boards of directors either, although local managers can facilitate the understanding of the domestic business environment.

Prospective investors and their employees can travel to Cameroon on standard intentional visas. The fees may vary per country of application.  Once they settle in Cameroon, they can apply for long term residence permits.

The government of Cameroon applies the visa reciprocity rules to a limited extent, but companies have in the past complained about the difficulty of obtaining work permits or the fact that work visas expire after six months and frequently are single entry.  Longer term work permits are now said to be available, but they have not been issued to our interlocutors unless included as residency work permits, a different category with more complicated application procedures.  The government does not impose rules on the recruitment of senior management nor excessively onerous visa, residence, work permit, or similar requirements inhibiting mobility of foreign investors and their employees

The government does not impose conditions on permission to invest in Cameroon.  The government gives incentives to investors to transform local raw materials, goods and services in their production or their projects.  There is no “forced localization” policy.

Enforcement procedures for performance requirements are not yet standardized, but the government generally develops terms of reference on a case by case basis for contract performance.  The government has not stated intentions to maintain, increase, or decrease performance requirements.

Investment incentives, described above, are available to both domestic and foreign investors.   Foreign information technology providers are not required to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption, but they can be required to provide them in cases of cybercrime under the national cybercrime law. Post is unaware of any measures designed to prevent or impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside of Cameroon.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights are recognized by law, but Cameroon’s weak judiciary makes enforcement sporadic.  For mortgage transactions between two private parties, a proper contract is required for the agreement to be binding and enforceable in the courts.  Liens have to be recorded in the contract.  A registry of land title exists in Cameroon.  The land rights of indigenous peoples, tribes, and farmers are recognized in the Constitution.  Existing legislation does not discriminate against foreign landowners.

Records from the Ministry of State Property and Land Tenure (French acronym “MINDAF”) indicate that land registration rates have not significantly increased since colonial times.  Between 1884 and 2005, only 125,000 title deeds were issued.  On average, this represents approximately 1,000 titles per year, covering less than 2 percent of the land in Cameroon.  In 2009, a study by the African Development Bank (AfDB) identified other distinctive patterns in land ownership.  For example, formal land registration is more common in urban (60 percent) than in rural areas.

Land disputes are common between Cameroonian citizens.  The disputes are generally caused by non-respect of commercial sales contracts or by informal sales of land.  Illegal occupations of lands are also common.  Globally, Cameroon stands at 177 in the ranking of 190 economies on the ease of registering property in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020.

Intellectual Property Rights

The legal structure for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and corresponding enforcement mechanisms are weak.  IPR infringement  is especially common in the media, pharmaceuticals, software, and print industries.  Theft is common. To secure a trademark registration right, a Cameroon attorney must prepare and file a trademark application  with the African Organization for Intellectual Property Rights (OAPI). The courts are responsible for enforcement.

There were no new IPR-related laws or regulations enacted during the previous year.  The government seizes and publicly burns counterfeit goods. These actions are not documented systematically, and no cumulative data exists on the seizures.  Cameroon is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR)  Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.  For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Cameroonian government is open to portfolio investment. With the encouragement of the International Monetary Fund and the regional Central Bank, Cameroon and other members of the CEMAC region have designed policies that facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.

The Financial Markets Commission (CMF) of Cameroon physically merged with the Libreville-based Central African Financial Market Supervisory Board (CONSUMAF) in February 2019. CEMAC heads of state mandated the regional Central Bank to conduct additional mergers (regulations and regulators, stock exchanges trading and listing, central depositories, settlement banks) by 30 June 2019.  The project has suffered delays but remain on course to turn the Douala Stock Exchange (DSX) into a regional stock exchange for six countries.  The DSX has struggled to win the support of private enterprises and currently has three stock and five bonds listed.  Private enterprises are wary of the oversized role that Cameroonian government, which generally suffers from many dysfunctions, are playing in the administration of the exchange.

Cameroon’s financial sector is underdeveloped, and government policies have limited bearing on the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.  Foreign investors can get credit on the local market, and the private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments.  Cameroon is connected to the international banking payment system.

CEMAC’s central bank, known by its French acronym BEAC, works with the International Monetary Fund on monetary policies and fiscal reform. BEAC respects IMF Article VIII by refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.   Despite generally respecting Article VIII, BEAC has instituted several restrictions on payments in an effort to boost foreign exchange reserves.  Throughout much of 2019, financial institutions and importers complained of a backlog of requests for foreign exchange.  BEAC is currently negotiating with several international oil companies about repatriation of revenues before external payments.  While the situation has improved over the last six months, investors should be aware that timely repatriation of profits may be a stumbling block.

Money and Banking System

Less than 15 percent of Cameroonians have access to formal banking services.  The Cameroonian government has often spoken of increasing access, but no coherent policy or action has been taken to alleviate the problem.  Mobile money, introduced by local and international telecom providers, is the closest tool to banking services that most Cameroonians can access.

The banking sector is generally healthy.  Large, international commercial banks do most of the lending.  One local bank, Afriland, operates in multiple other countries.  Most smaller banks deal in small loans of short duration.  Retail banking is not common.  According to the World Bank, non-performing loans were 10.31 percent of total bank loans in 2016.  The Cameroonian government does not keep statistics on non-performing assets.  Cameroon’s largest banks are:

1st Afriland First Bank (USD 3 billion)

2nd: Societe Generale Cameroon (USD 2.5 billion)

3rd -Banque Internationale Du Cameroun Pour L’epargne Et Le Credit (USD 2.1 billion)

4th EcoBank (USD 1.4 billion)

5th BGFI Bank Cameroon (USD 918 million)

6th Union Bank of Africa Cameroon (USD 811 million)

(Source: Jeune Afrique, December 2019)

Cameroon is part of the six-member Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), which maintains a central bank, known by its French acronym, BEAC.  The current governor of BEAC is Abbas Mahamat Tolli (from Chad).

Foreign banks are allowed to establish operations in Cameroon.  Most notably, Citi and Standard Chartered have operated in Cameroon for more than 20 years.  They are subject to the same regulations as locally developed banks.  Post is unaware of any lost correspondent banking relationships within the past three years.

There are no restrictions on foreigners establishing bank accounts, credit instruments, business financing or other such transactions.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

In 2019, BEAC tightened regulations on foreign exchange as reserves plummeted in the aftermath of the 2014 oil shock. The IMF estimates that the volume of foreign exchange assets illegally held outside the CEMAC zone by local firms and institutions at five trillion CFA (USD 8.3 billion). This is about the same amount of foreign reserves in CEMAC countries’ current account on June 30, 2019. While tightening the rules did not mean legal restrictions, each request for a foreign exchange transaction required a “dossier” that would include various documents.  The documents required vary based on the type of transaction to demonstrate the “legitimacy” of the planned purchase in foreign exchange that BEAC would approve.  The formal list of required documents from BEAC includes a significant number of required supporting documents.

The IMF has stated that forex transactions of less than one million U.S. dollars only require approval by local BEAC representatives in each country and should take place in a matter of days.  Forex transactions exceeding one million USD require approval from BEAC headquarters in Yaoundé and should occur in no more than 48 hours.  Banks and other financial institutions complain that requests are often rejected on minor technical grounds.  In practice, approved requests often take more than two weeks to process.

As of May 2020, BEAC is requiring international oil companies to repatriate all proceeds from the sale of oil and gas and then submit an application in order to receive dollars or euros.  Several Ministers of Finance and/or Energy in CEMAC countries have assured oil companies that they do not need to comply with the regulation, creating uncertainty for the operators.

In theory, funds associated with any form of investment can be freely converted into any world currency , but the current BEAC restrictions are causing currency conversion concerns at financial institutions and oil companies.

The Central African CFA Franc is the currency of six independent states in Central Africa: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.  It is administered by the BEAC and is currently pegged at roughly 656 CFA to one Euro.

Remittance Policies

Apart from the tightening of foreign exchange rules in 2019, post is unaware of any recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies that either tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances.

There are no time limitations on transactions beyond the classic banking transactions timeline.   BEAC regulates remittances policies and banking transactions.  Foreign investors can remit through convertible and negotiable instruments through legal channels recognized by BEAC, subject to the recent issues mentioned above.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Cameroon does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Cameroon has at least 200 SOEs.  Roughly 70 percent of SOEs are profit-oriented, though most are a net negative on government finances.  Some provide public services.  Many SOEs are so dominant in their markets that they act as de facto regulators, specifically in telecommunications and media.  The Government of Cameroon has over 130 state-owned companies in which it has majority ownership, and which operate in key sectors of the economy including agribusiness, energy, and mining.  SOEs are also present in real estate, transportation, services, information & communication, finance, and travel.

In 2017, the National Assembly voted into law a new regulation to govern SOEs.  The stated objective is to improve the services offered and the competitiveness of public companies, in line with the development objectives of the country.  Some of the innovations of this law include the diversification of the investment universe of SOEs, modern control through reporting requirements, and compliance with modern governance principles.  As of 2020, it does not appear that any of these objectives have been completed.

SOEs competing in the domestic market receive non-market based advantages from the Cameroonian government.  They receive taxpayer subsidies, and in many markets, serve as de facto regulators.  They also have a history of accumulating unpaid tax arrears while at the same time benefitting from preferential access to land and to public funds through State interventions.

The Supreme Audit Chamber of Cameroon indicates in its yearly reports that SOEs are not financially transparent.  Only about 22 percent of these structures publish financial accounts.  Other reports have highlighted corruption cases involving managers of SOEs and unveiled inefficiencies, severe dysfunctions, and opacity of the management of SOEs.  These problems are exacerbated by the fact that over the past years, the government has not imposed any performance targets, productivity requirements, and quality of service standards nor any significant budget constraints on SOEs.  The governing boards and senior executive teams are political appointees and connected individuals.  The SOEs have means to avoid tax burdens levied on private enterprises, receive specialized consideration for subsidies, and enhanced operating budgets, and obtain generally preferential treatment from the government (including courts).

Privatization Program

Cameroon enacted major privatization policies in the 1990s and early 2000s with the encouragement of international donors such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.  The process has been stalled for over a decade, but market pressures continue to mount for additional privatization efforts.  We estimate that 30 companies have undergone some form of privatization since 2004.  The government has openly discussed privatization of the national airline, telecommunications company, the oil sector, and agribusinesses, but little has occurred.

In general privatization appears to be on hold.  The government favors Public Private Partnerships or some variations of outsourcing of/contractual management, with the State retaining some ownership of assets or of the business, rather than outright privatization.  In some cases, the State also prefers to take participation in ventures, such as mining companies, rather than creating a state-owned company.  Yet, in at least one case, the government has appeared to be reversing privatization.  This is the case for the country’s water provider, CAMWATER.  Until 2019, the government had outsourced distribution to a private operator. In April 2019, the State regained control of infrastructure management, distribution and commercialization of potable water throughout the country, and there are no indications that this situation will change in 2020.

Foreign investors can and do participate in the privatization programs.  According to some analysts, of the 30 State-owned companies were privatized before 2004, foreign bidders won the majority (22).  For example, British private equity firm owns the controlling share in ENEO, the country’s electricity monopoly.

The public bidding on tender offers is transparent.  They are advertised in the media, but the actual process of awarding contracts may still be tainted by corruption, particularly on large projects.  The listing of public tenders in the Cameroon Tribune newspaper and publication of which firms received the contract do not guarantee a fully transparent process of awards.

9. Corruption

Corruption is punishable under sections 134 and 134 (a) of the Pena1 Code of Cameroon.   Despite these rules, corruption remains endemic in the country.  In 2019, Cameroon ranked 153 (of 180 countries) in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.  Arrests of high-ranking officials for corruption are widely viewed as political.

Anti-corruption laws are applicable to all citizens and institutions throughout the national territory. If Cameroon has laws or regulations to counter conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement, Post is unaware of them.  U.S. firms indicate that corruption is most pervasive in government procurement, award of licenses or concessions, transfers, performance requirements, dispute settlement, regulatory system, customs, and taxation.

The National Anti-corruption Commission (CONAC) recently began encouraging private companies to establish internal codes of conduct and ethics committees to review practices.  Post is unaware of how many companies have instituted either program.  Bribery of government officials remains common.  While some companies use internal controls to detect and prevent such bribery, Post is unaware of how widespread these internal controls are.

Cameroon is signatory to the United Nations and the African Union anti-corruption initiatives, but the international initiatives have practical limited effects on the enforcement of laws in the country.  Post is unaware of any NGO’s involvement in investigating corruption.  The government prefers the state-controlled anti-corruption commission, CONAC, to investigate potential cases. U.S. firms indicate that corruption is most pervasive in government procurement, award of licenses or concessions, transfers, performance requirements, dispute settlement, regulatory system, customs, and taxation.

Resources to Report Corruption

NAME:  Rev. Dieudonné MASSI GAMS
TITLE:  Chairman
ORGANIZATION:  National Anti-Corruption Commission
ADDRESS:  B.P. 33200 Yaoundé Cameroon
TELEPHONE NUMBER:  (+237) 22 20 37 32
EMAIL ADDRESS: www.conac-cameroun.net
infos@conac-cameroun.net

NAME:  Barrister Charles NGUINI
TITLE:  Country Representative
ORGANIZATION:  Transparency International Cameroon
ADDRESS:  Nouvelle route Bastos, rue 1.839,  BP : 4562 Yaoundé
TELEPHONE NUMBER:  (+237) 33 15 63 78
EMAIL ADDRESS: transparency@ti-cameroon.org

10. Political and Security Environment

Cameroon faces several security challenges.  An armed secessionist uprising is entering its fourth year in the English speaking Southwest and Northwest Regions.  Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa are resurgent in the Far North Region.  In the Adamoua and East Regions, a wave of kidnappings and the presence of refugees from the Central African Republic has led to increased military presence.  Terrorists and secessionist alike have targeted economic assets in order to affect political change.  The country is growing increasingly more politicized and insecure.

In the Anglophone regions, secessionists leaders have claimed responsibility on social media, for the arsons that destroyed hospitals, schools, bridges and roads. Secessionists have also posted videos of executions and beheading on the internet while also claiming several kidnappings for ransom. Human rights organizations have accused soldiers for burning down houses in many villages. In the Far North of Cameroon, Boko Haram fighters have looted villages and cattle and also kidnapped and abused women.  Consequently, several infrastructures projects have grounded to a halt.

Cameroon is growing increasingly insecure.  While the government has made platitudes toward resolving the Anglophone crisis, little of note has actually been done.  Security forces are stretched thin, allowing Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa to maintain a footprint in the country’s Far North Region.  Political dissent is immediately stamped out.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

In Cameroon, over 50 percent of the population is under 25.  The official unemployment is around 4 percent, although youth unemployment may be as much as 75 percent.  Empirical research puts the rate of unemployment at 11.5 percent. The majority of youth who are qualified are under-employed in the informal sector.  Unskilled labor is prevalent in the agricultural and service sector, and under-employment is prevalent in manufacturing, commerce, technician or technical trades, and mid-management jobs.  Officially, unemployment rate hovers around 4 percent based on International Labor Organization (ILO) standards, but the reality is that it this rate is much higher.  Under-employment is even higher and remains a real challenge for Cameroon, with rates of 12.3 percent and 63.7 percent, respectively, for visible and invisible under-employment according to academic research.

There are shortages of technical trade skills, for example, for maintenance and repair of industrial machinery, in every sector of the economy.  Truck and automotive maintenance is widely practiced in the informal sector.  Rudimentary or artisanal agriculture, fishing, and textile manufacture economic sectors are still in need of significant development, and a lack of skilled workers tends to be the norm across the country.

The government of Cameroon does not require foreign companies to hire nationals.  However, foreign nationals are required to obtain work permits prior to formal employment.  While foreign nationals are automatically issued work permits for companies of the industrial free zones regime, their number may not exceed 20 percent of the total work force of a company after the fifth year of operation in Cameroon if benefiting from the Industrial Free Zone (IFZ) regime.

Although union and contract agreements vary widely from sector to sector, in general, Cameroon functions as an “employment at will” economy, and labor laws differentiate between layoffs and firing.  Layoffs are not caused by the fault of the employees.  Layoffs are often considered as alternative solutions to dismissing workers based on performance fault or economic grounds. There is no special treatment of labor in special economic zones, foreign trade zones, or free ports.

While the Labor Code applies to Enterprises of the Industrial Free Zone (IFZ) regime, some matters are governed by special provisions under the 1990 law establishing IFZ.  These include the employer’s right to determine salaries according to productivity, free negotiation of work contracts, and automatic issuance of work permits for foreign workers.  The Ministry of Labor monitors labor abuses, health and safety standards, and other related issues, but enforcement is poor.  Labor laws are waived through the regime of Industrial Free Zones to attract or retain investment.  As indicated earlier, the waivers include the employer’s right to determine salaries according to productivity, free negotiation of work contracts, and automatic issuance of work permits for foreign nationals.

There are independent labor unions and others that are affiliated with the government under existing laws and regulations.  Over 100 trade unions and 12 union confederations operate in the country.  However, the labor union movement is highly fractured and somewhat ineffective in promoting workers’ rights.  Some union leaders accuse the government and company managers of promoting division within trade unions to weaken them, as well as protecting non-representative trade union leaders with whom they can negotiate more easily.

Cameroon’s labor dispute resolution mechanisms are outlined in the labor code.  The procedure differs depending on whether the dispute is individual or collective.  Individual disputes fall under the jurisdiction of the civil court dealing with labor matters in the place of employment or residence of the worker.  The legal procedure is initiated after the labor inspector fails to settle the dispute amicably out of the court system.  Settlement of collective labor disputes is subject to conciliation and arbitration, and any strike or lock-out started after the procedures have been exhausted and have failed is deemed legitimate.  While the conciliation procedure is conducted by the labor inspector, arbitration of any collective dispute that has not been settled by conciliation is handled by an arbitration board, chaired by the competent judicial officer of the competent court of appeal.  Workers who ignore procedures to conduct a legal strike can be dismissed or fined.  For more information from the ILO, see here .

Strikes occur regularly, and are generally repressed by the police, though they are often due to lack of payment by the employer and are resolved quickly.  No strike occurred that posed an investment risk.

Cameroon labor code lays down principles of labor laws regarding employment, dismissal, remedies for wrongful dismissal, compensation for industrial injuries, and trade unions.  But most jobs do not have binding contracts and employers generally seem to have the upper hand in labor disputes.  There is informality even in the formal sector, which is against the law.  Because of this landscape, it is important for U.S. companies to ensure compliance with the local labor laws and to abide by international best practices.  There were no new labor related laws or regulation enacted during the last year.  Post is unaware of any pending draft bills.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

The Cameroonian government has expressed strong interest in working with the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation.  The government has experience working with OPIC and U.S. EXIM Bank and has rudimentary understanding of the requirements.

The Government of the Republic of Cameroon and OPIC signed an Investment Guarantee in 1967.  DFCC has one operational program in Cameroon.  In January 2018, a delegation of executives from OPIC visited Cameroon to evaluate an ophthalmology hospital, funded by OPIC, which treats 18,000 cataract cases every year.  An OPIC team visited a local cocoa and coffee producer in Nkongsamba in late 2018.  In 2019, the Cameroon Ministry of Economy and Regional Planning wrote to the Mission to request a meeting with the economic affairs officer to discuss a workshop on DFC programs. In 2020, the Ministry of Economy had plans to visit the United States and meet with DFC to discuss investment opportunities in Cameroon.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $37,700 2018 $38,675 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2018 $14 https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)  N/A N/A N/A N/A
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2018 18.8% https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 
 

* Source for Host Country Data: 2019 Cameroon Finance Bill, page 13 (converted at $1=600 Central African Francs)

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Côte d’Ivoire

Executive Summary

Côte d’Ivoire offers a fertile environment for U.S. investment, and the Ivoirian government is keen to deepen its commercial cooperation with the United States.  The Ivoirian and foreign business community in Côte d’Ivoire considers the 2018 investment code generous with incentives and few restrictions on foreign investors.  Côte d’Ivoire continues structural reforms to improve the business climate, including by executing major projects under the 2016-2020 National Development Plan (NDP) and the 2019-2020 social program (PSGouv).  But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will affect current and future investments, causing delays and postponements, cost increases, and logistics issues.

U.S. businesses operate successfully in the following Ivoirian sectors:  oil and gas exploration and production; agriculture and value-added agribusiness processing; power generation and renewable energy; IT services; digital economy; banking; insurance; and infrastructure.  In 2019, Côte d’Ivoire improved in the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking of 190 countries, moving from 122 to 110.  Improvements in the business environment included the implementation of a single taxpayer identification number system for business creation, introduction of an online case management system to process cash refunds of Value Added Tax, and making contract enforcement easier by publishing reports on commercial court performance and progress of cases.

Economically, Côte d’Ivoire is among Africa’s fastest growing economies and is the largest economy in francophone Africa.  Also home to the headquarters of the African Development Bank, Côte d’Ivoire attracts regional migrant labor and a significant expatriate professional community.  The IMF initially projected GDP growth to continue at 7.3 percent in 2020, led by growth in the industrial and service sectors. With the negative effects of COVID-19 on the country’s economic output, however, the IMF revised its projection to 2.7 percent, though still positive.

Despite improvements, doing business with the government remains a significant challenge.  The government has awarded a number of sole source contracts without competition and at times disregarded objective evaluations on competitive tenders.  An overly complicated tax system and a slow, opaque government decision-making process hinder investment.  Other challenges include weak access to credit for small businesses, corruption, and the need to broaden the tax base to relieve some of the tax-paying burden on businesses.

Following a credible and peaceful election in 2015 in which President Ouattara was overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term, the country adopted a new constitution in 2016 and established an upper legislative house (Senate) in April 2018.  Fraud and violence in certain locations marred legislative and municipal elections in 2018.  The lack of consensus in the composition of the Independent Electoral Commission, controversial reforms to the electoral code and amendments to the constitution, and the judicial exclusion of major opposition candidates from the 2020 presidential race, have aggravated the country’s internal political divisions.  On the other hand, President Ouattara’s announcement that he will not seek a third term – which, he argued, he could have done because of the new constitution – could contribute to institutionalizing democracy.

Côte d’Ivoire suffered a terrorist attack in March 2016 in the popular tourist town of Grand Bassam.  Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for this attack and continues to pose a major terrorism threat on the northern borders.  Côte d’Ivoire has since improved its domestic and international coordination efforts to combat the increasing the terrorist/violent extremist threat from the Sahel, and contributes to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali.

Ivoirian women are not legally prohibited from starting businesses, acquiring credit, or buying property.  They nonetheless have historically faced discrimination, including lack of access to credit, that has hindered women’s business ownership.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 106 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 110 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/
en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 103 of  129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 -$261 https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 $1,600 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government actively encourages Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and is committed to doubling it over the next several years.  Foreign companies are free to invest and list on the regional stock exchange Bourse Regionale des Valeurs Mobilieres (BRVM), which is based in Abidjan and covers the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU).  WAEMU members are part of the Regional Council for Savings and Investment, a regional securities regulatory body.

In most sectors, there are no laws that limit foreign investment.  There are restrictions on foreign investment in the health sector, law and accounting firms, and travel agencies.  There are regulations designed to control land speculation in urban areas, but they do not prevent foreigners from owning land.  Freehold land tenure in rural areas is difficult to negotiate, however, and can inhibit foreign investment.  Land tenure disputes exist all over the country owing to the lack of formal private land ownership in most areas.  Companies that wish to purchase land must have the property surveyed before obtaining title.  Surveying is tightly controlled by a small oligopoly of companies and can often cost more than the value of the parcel of land.  Most businesses, including agribusinesses and forestry companies, circumvent the complicated land purchase process by acquiring long-term leases instead.

The Ivoirian government’s investment promotion agency, the Center for the Promotion of Investment in Côte d’Ivoire (CEPICI), promotes and attracts national and foreign investment.  Its services are available to all investors, provided through a one-stop shop intended to facilitate business creation, operation, and expansion.  CEPICI ensures that investors receive incentives outlined in the investment code, and facilitates access to industrial land.  More information is available at http://www.cepici.gouv.ci/ .

Côte d’Ivoire maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors through various business networks and platforms, such as CEPICI, the Ivoirian Chamber of Commerce (CCI-CI), the association of large enterprises (CGECI), and the bankers’ association.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors generally have access to all forms of remunerative activity on terms equal to those enjoyed by Ivoirians.  The government encourages foreign investment, including state-owned and public firms that the government is privatizing, although in most cases the state reserves an equity stake in the new company.

There are no general, economy-wide limits on foreign ownership or control, and few sector-specific restrictions.  There are no laws specifically directing private firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control in those firms, and no such practices have been reported.

Banks and insurance companies are subject to licensing requirements, but there are no restrictions designed to limit foreign ownership or to limit establishment of subsidiaries of foreign companies in this sector.  Investments in health, law and accounting, and travel agencies are subject to prior approval and require appropriate licenses and association with an Ivoirian partner.  The Ivoirian government has, on a case-by-case basis, mandated using local providers, hiring local employees, or arranging for eventual transfer to local control.

The government does not have an official policy to screen investments and its overall economic and industrial strategy does not discriminate against foreign-owned firms.  There are indications in some instances of preferential treatment for firms from countries with longstanding commercial ties to Côte d’Ivoire.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Côte d’Ivoire has not conducted an investment policy review (IPR) through the OECD.  The WTO last conducted a Trade Policy Review in July 2012 and it can be found at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp366_e.htm .

UNCTAD does not provide an IPR report for Côte d’Ivoire, though there are statistics on FDI in the UNCTAD country profile at https://unctadstat.unctad.org/countryprofile/generalprofile/en-gb/384/index.html .

The Government of Côte d’Ivoire provides information about sector policies and business opportunities in publicly available reports.  More information can be found at: http://www.cepici.gouv.ci/en/  or at: www.gcpnd.gouv.ci/ .

Business Facilitation

To improve the business environment, and as part of its successful efforts to secure a Compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the government completed a series of reforms using the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index as a reference.  These included:  accelerating the business creation process to 24 hours and issuing construction permits within 26 days, establishing a one-stop shop for external trade, and establishing a single tax-declaration form.  In 2019, Côte d’Ivoire improved its Doing Business ranking from 122nd  to 110th place.

Côte d’Ivoire’s online information portal containing all documents dedicated to business creation and registration (https://cotedivoire.eregulations.org/ ) is managed by CEPICI.  All the necessary documentation for registration is available online.  The one-stop shop for business registration takes 24 hours and has all the agencies under a single roof, giving a simplified approach to business creation.  Foreign investors have noted the one-stop shop has been very successful in speeding up registration.

Women have equal access to the registration process, and there have not been any reports of discrimination in that regard.

Outward Investment

Côte d’Ivoire does not promote or incentivize outward investment.  

The government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The government has taken steps to encourage a more transparent and competitive economic environment.  The IMF, World Bank, EU, and other large donors continue to urge the government to make further reforms.  The government aims for transparency in law and policy to foster competition and provide clear rules of the game and a level playing field for domestic and foreign investors.  Transparency of the Ivoirian regulatory system, however, is a concern as both foreign and Ivoirian companies complain that new regulations are issued with little warning and without a period for public comment.

There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations.

Regulatory authority and decision-making exist only at the national level.  Sub-national jurisdictions do not regulate business.  For most industries or sectors, regulations are developed through the ministry responsible for that sector.  In the telecommunications, electricity, cocoa, coffee, cotton, and cashew sectors, the government has established control boards or independent agencies to regulate the sector and pricing.  Companies have complained that rules for buying prices determined by the agriculture commodity regulatory agencies tend to be opaque and prices are arbitrarily set without reference to world prices.

Côte d’Ivoire’s accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are consistent with international norms, though both foreign and Ivoirian businesses often complain about the system’s lack of clarity and the government’s poor communication.  Côte d’Ivoire is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Law (OHADA), which is common to 16 countries and adheres to the WAEMU accounting system.  In accounting, companies use the WAEMU system, which complies with international norms and is a source of economic and financial data.

Draft legislation and regulations are not published or made available for public comment.  The government, however, often holds public seminars and workshops to discuss proposed plans with trade and industry associations.

Regulatory actions are published in the Journal Officiel de la Republique de Côte d’Ivoire (Official Journal of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire), which is available for purchase at newsstands, and by subscription on the Journal’s website http://www.sgg.gouv.ci/jo.php  and at https://abidjan.net/ .

The Autorité Nationale de Régulation des Marchés Publics (National Regulatory Authority for Public Procurement; ANRMP), polices transparency in public procurement and private sector compliance with public procurement rules.  Consumers, trade associations, private companies, and individuals have the right to file complaints with ANRMP to hold the government to its own administrative processes.

The U.S. government does not have any knowledge of recent regulatory system reforms, including enforcement reforms, that have been announced since the last ICS report.  The government has fully implemented regulatory reforms announced in prior years, with the goal to create an enabling business environment, foster competition, and build investor confidence in the economy.

Public and private institutions tasked with controlling and regulating various sectors make regulatory enforcement mechanisms available to the public.

Regulatory bodies regularly publish and promote access to their data for the business community and development partners, , allowing for scientific and data-driven reviews and assessments.  Quantitative analysis and public comments are made available.

The Ivoirian government promotes transparency of public finances and debt obligations (including explicit and contingent liabilities) with the publication of this information through the following websites:

http://budget.gouv.ci/main/index 

https://www.tresor.gouv.ci/tres/fr_FR/rapport-de-la-dette-publique/ 

International Regulatory Considerations

The Ivoirian government incorporates WAEMU directives into its public procurement bidding policy, processes, and auditing.  Recent changes include separating auditing and regulating functions, transitioning from a national to a regional system of procurement for intellectual services, and increasing advance payment for the initial procurement of goods and services from 25 to 30 percent.  The ANRMP regulates public procurement with a view to improving governance and transparency.  It has the authority to sanction entities that do not comply with public procurement regulations.

Ivoirian laws, codes, professional association standards, and regional body membership obligations are incorporated in the country’s regulatory system.  The private sector often follows European norms, to take advantage of the Ivoirian trade agreement with the EU, one of Côte d’Ivoire’s largest markets.

Côte d’Ivoire has been a WTO member since 1995 but has not notified all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade.  Côte d’Ivoire signed the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in December 2013 and ratified it in December 2015.  The government has made efforts to implement the TFA requirements.  The government established the National TFA Committee (NTFC) to coordinate TFA implementation.  The USAID trade facilitation program has strengthened the capacity of the NTFC.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Ivoirian legal system is based on the French civil law model.  The law guarantees to all the right to own and transfer private property.  Rural land, however, is governed by a separate set of laws which make ownership and transfer very difficult.  The court system enforces contracts.

Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to OHADA, which provides common corporate law and arbitration procedures for the 16 member states.  The Commercial Court of Abidjan adjudicates corporate law cases and contract disputes.  Mediation is also available through the Ivoirian legal framework in addition to the Commercial Court and the Arbitration Tribunal.  Following the recommendations of business associations and commercial law experts, in August 2017, the government established the Court of Appeals of the Commercial Court of Abidjan.  The IMF recommended the creation of other commercial juridical bodies in the interior of the country, though these have not yet been established and the Commercial Court of Abidjan retains jurisdiction for the entire country.

The Ivoirian judicial system is ostensibly independent, but magistrates are sometimes subject to political or financial influence.  Judges sometimes fail to prove that their decisions are based on the legal or contractual merits of a case and are often seen to rule against foreign investors in favor of entrenched interests.  The greatest complaint from investors is the slow dispute resolution process.  Cases are often postponed and appealed without a reasonable explanation, moving from court to court for years or even decades.  Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable and adjudicated through the national court system.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The 2018 Investment Code is the primary law governing investment conduct.  The code does not restrict foreign investment or the repatriation of funds.  The code offers a mix of fiscal incentives, combining tax exoneration and tax credits to encourage investment.  The government also offers incentives to promote small businesses and entrepreneurship, low-cost housing construction, factories, and infrastructure development, which the government considers key to the country’s economic development.  Some sectors have additional laws which govern investment activity in those sectors.  In mining, for example, the Mining Code allows a period for holding permits for ten years with a possibility to extend for two more years on a limited permit area of 400 square kilometers.

The CEPICI provides a one-stop shop website to assist investors.  More information on Côte d’Ivoire’s laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements can be found at:

www.apex-ci.org/

www.cepici.gouv.ci/

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Small Business Promotion, through the Commission on Anti-Competition Practices, is responsible for reviewing competition–related concerns under the 1991 competition law, which was updated in 2013.  ANRMP is responsible for reviewing the awarding of contracts.

No significant competition cases were reported over the past year.

Expropriation and Compensation

Private expropriation to force settlement of contractual or investment disputes continues to be a problem.  Local individuals or local companies, using what appear to be spurious court decisions, have challenged the ownership of some foreign companies in recent years.  On occasion, the government has blocked the bank accounts of U.S. and other foreign companies because of ownership and tax disputes.

There is no history of public expropriations.

In cases of illegal expropriations, Ivoirian law affords claimants due process.  Even so, perceived corruption and lack of capacity in the judicial and security services have resulted in poor enforcement of private property rights, particularly when the entity in question is foreign and the plaintiff is Ivoirian or a long-established foreign resident.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and a signatory to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

In cases where the firm does not meet the nationality conditions stipulated by Article 25 of the Convention, the code stipulates that the dispute be resolved within the provisions of the supplementary mechanisms approved by the ICSID.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to investment agreements subject to binding international arbitration of investment disputes.  Côte d’Ivoire recognizes and has been known to enforce foreign arbitral awards, but enforcement is inconsistent.

Côte d’Ivoire does not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) or a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States.

In the past 10 years, foreign investors have had investment disputes, which often have been resolved through arbitration or amicable settlement.  There have been no reported disputes involving U.S. firms in the past 10 years.  As Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, local courts are obliged to enforce foreign arbitral awards.

The U.S. government is not aware of any history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors, including U.S. firms.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Abidjan-based regional Joint Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA) provides a means of solving contractual disputes.  The arbitration tribunal has the ability to enforce awards more quickly, but the use of the tribunal in lieu of the court system has been limited.

Côte d’Ivoire is a member of OHADA, whose provisions adopted in 1999 have replaced domestic law on arbitration.  The unified law is based on the UNICITRAL model law.

Judgments of foreign courts are recognized but difficult to enforce in local courts.  To avoid working through the Ivoirian legal system, some investors stipulate in contracts that disputes must be settled through international commercial arbitration.  Yet, even if stipulated in the contract, decisions reached through OHADA are sometimes not honored by local courts.

The U.S. government is not aware of cases in which Côte d’Ivoire’s domestic courts have shown preferential treatment for state-owned enterprises involved in investment disputes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

As a member of OHADA, Côte d’Ivoire has both commercial and bankruptcy laws that address the liquidation of business liabilities.  OHADA is a regional system of uniform laws on bankruptcy, debt collection, and rules governing business transactions.  OHADA permits three different types of bankruptcy liquidation:  an ordered suspension of payment to permit a negotiated settlement; an ordered suspension of payment to permit restructuring of the company, similar to Chapter 11; and the complete liquidation of assets, similar to Chapter 7.  Creditors’ rights, irrespective of nationality, are protected equally by the Act.  Bankruptcy is not criminalized.  Court-ordered monetary settlements resulting from declarations of bankruptcy are usually paid out in local currency.  Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 85 out of 190 countries for ease of resolving insolvency, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report.

The joint venture Credit Info – Volo West Africa manages regional credit bureaus in the WAEMU.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The 2018 Investment Code offers a mix of fiscal incentives, combining tax exoneration and tax credits focusing on agriculture, agro-business, tourism, health, and education.  These include a full exoneration of customs duties or suspended VAT, and tax exemptions to business operations in some remote areas, with incentives based on the type of investment, phase of operation, local content, and participation.  There are also incentives to promote small businesses and entrepreneurship, low-cost housing construction, factories, and infrastructure development, which the government considers key to the country’s economic development.  The Investment Code, the Petroleum Code, and the Mining Code delineate incentives available to new investors in Côte d’Ivoire.

The government occasionally guarantees loans or jointly finances foreign direct investment projects.  This is not a common practice.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Created in 2008, the Ivoirian free trade zone (FTZ) for information technology and biotechnology (VITIB) is located in the town of Grand Bassam.  In 2014, VITIB established the Mahatma Gandhi Technology Park at Grand Bassam.  Bonded warehouses do exist, and bonded zones within factories are allowed.  High port costs and maritime freight rates have inhibited the development of in-bond manufacturing or processing, and there are consequently no general foreign trade zones.

An FTZ also exists at the Port of Abidjan specifically for fish processing.  In force since December 2005, this FTZ is reserved for companies which earn at least 90% of their turnover from exports.  Eligible companies are exempt from all duties and taxes, including on imported and exported goods and services.  They also enjoy preferential rates for water, electricity, telephone, and fuel supplied by public or semi-public establishments.   A fee applies to FTZ companies, the amount of which is fixed by decree.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The government strongly encourages investors and firms to hire Ivoirian employees, but this is not a requirement.

The 2018 Investment Code guarantees the freedom to designate senior management and board members.

Citizens of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries can legally work in Côte d’Ivoire without additional permissions and do not need a residency permit.  For other nationalities, visas, work, and residency permits are required.  The investment promotion agency CEPICI facilitates the visa and permit process.  The process is not onerous and does not inhibit the ability of foreign investors and their employees to enter and exit the country.

There are no government-imposed conditions on permission to invest, including tariff and non-tariff barriers.

The government does occasionally place conditions on location, local content, equity ownership, import substitution, export requirements, host country employment, and technology.  For example, the Ivoirian government required that one U.S. fast food franchise use locally-sourced key ingredients, which it is able to do.  The government also makes use of a number of tax exemptions and customs exonerations to incentivize companies to do more value-added processing in Côte d’Ivoire.

There are no performance requirements for investments.

Cellular telephone companies must meet technology performance requirements to maintain their licenses.  The U.S. government does not know of any requirements that Côte d’Ivoire imposes on foreign information technology firms to give the government source code or provide access to encryption.

There are no requirements that prevent or unduly impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business related data.  Data transmission or transfer is subject to prior authorization of the telecom regulatory board Autorité de Régulation des Télécommunications (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Côte d’Ivoire; ART-CI).

Côte d’Ivoire’s law on data protection requests prior declaration or authorization by ART-CI for any data processing.  ART-CI is responsible for the oversight of local data storage.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Ivoirian civil code provides for the enforcement of private property rights, and the government has undertaken reform efforts to secure property rights.  Mortgages and liens exist.  Secured interests in property are enforced by the Land Registry Office of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.  In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 112 out of 190 countries for registering property.

Foreign and/or nonresident investors who wish to lease land must obtain a permit for the development of the site, as well as a prefectural or sub-prefectural order recognizing occupation of the site.

The Audace Institute, an independent Ivoirian think tank, estimates that 96 percent of land does not have a clear title.  The government has committed to titling all private land by 2026.  The government has made efforts to raise awareness on land titling throughout the country and to streamline procedures for obtaining land titles.  In 2018, the World Bank approved a program to build institutional capacity needed to support the implementation of the national rural land tenure security program, and register customary land rights in selected rural areas.  The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development requires that all land to be titled be professionally surveyed.  The surveying, which must be performed by one of the few companies authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to execute land surveys in Côte d’Ivoire, can cost more than the value of the land.  The status of the land from which thousands of Ivoirians fled during the 2011 post-election conflict has not been resolved.  Much of that land is now occupied by persons who do not hold title, many of whom are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from neighboring countries to the north of Côte d’Ivoire.  A lack of title and a conflict between modern land tenure law and traditional practice hinders resolution of land tenure disputes.

It is not necessary to occupy legally purchased property in order to retain title.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Ivoirian Civil Code includes measures to protect intellectual property rights (IPR), but the government has limited resources for their enforcement.  The government’s Office of Industrial Property is charged with ensuring the protection of patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and commercial names.  Patents are valid for 10 years, with the possibility of two extensions of five years each.  Trademarks are valid for 10 years and are renewable indefinitely. Copyrights are valid for 50 years.  The Ivoirian Copyright Office has a labeling system in place to prevent counterfeiting and to protect audio, video, literary, and artistic property rights in music and computer programs.  While Ivoirian IPR law is in conformity with standards established by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the country lacks customs checks at its porous borders, limiting the law’s impact.

The government has not adopted any IPR-related laws or regulations in the past year.

By law, the government must protect intellectual property on both exported and imported goods. Customs has the power to seize imported products that violate IPR laws even if installed with other equipment, including equipment detained, marketed, or illegally supplied.  Such seizures, generally of counterfeit consumer goods (increasingly medicines), are routinely publicized on government websites and media outlets, although statistics on seizures are unavailable.  The intellectual property office’s police unit has sometimes conducted raids on retail outlets and street vendors to confiscate pirated CDs and DVDs and instituted legal proceedings against counterfeiters.  IPR violations are prosecuted, and penalties vary from imprisonment of three months to two years and fines from 100,000 to 5,000,000 CFA (USD 166 to 8,333 based on an average exchange rate of 600 CFA to one U.S. dollar).

Côte d’Ivoire is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR)Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Government policies generally encourage foreign portfolio investment.

The Regional Stock Exchange (BRVM) is located in Abidjan and the BRVM lists companies from the eight countries of the WAEMU.  The existing regulatory system effectively facilitates portfolio investment through the West African Central Bank (BCEAO) and the Regional Council for Savings Investments (CREPMF).  There is sufficient liquidity in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions.

Government policies allow the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.

The BCEAO respects IMF Article VIII on payment and transfers for current international transactions.

Credit allocation is based on market terms and has increased to support the private sector and economic growth, specifically for large businesses.  Foreign investors can acquire credit on the local market.

Money and Banking System

As of May 2020, there were 27 commercial banks and two credit institutions in Côte d’Ivoire.  Banks are expanding their national networks, especially in the secondary cities outside Abidjan, as domestic investment has increased up-country.  The total number of bank branches has more than doubled from 324 in 2010 to 694 branches in 2018 (latest data available).  Alternative financial services available include mobile money and microfinance for bill payments and transfers.  Many Ivoirians prefer mobile money over banking, but mobile money does not yet offer the same breadth of financial services as banks.

Most Ivoirian banks are compliant with the BCEAO’s minimum capital requirements.  Some public banks have large numbers of nonperforming loans.  The government is restructuring and privatizing the commercial banking sector in order to remove low performers from government accounts.

The estimated total assets of the five largest banks are around USD 10 billion and account for 49 percent of bank assets.

The BCEAO is common to the eight member states of the WAEMU and manages banking regulations.

Foreign banks are allowed to operate in Côte d’Ivoire; at least one has been in Côte d’Ivoire for decades.  They are subject to the WAEMU Banking Commission’s prudential measures and regulations.  Côte d’Ivoire did not lose any correspondent banking relationships in the past three years.  No known correspondent banking relationships are in jeopardy.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no restrictions on the transfer or repatriation of capital and income earned, or on investments financed with convertible foreign currency.  Once an investment is established and documented, the government regularly approves the remittances of dividends and/or repatriation of capital.  The same holds true for requests for other sorts of transactions (e.g. imports, licenses, and royalty fees).

Funds associated with investments funded with convertible currency are freely convertible into any world currency.

Côte d’Ivoire is a member of the WAEMU, which uses the West African Franc (XOF), also called the CFA.  The French Treasury holds the international reserves of WAEMU member states and supports the fixed exchange rate of 655.956 CFA to the Euro.  In December 2019, the Ivoirian President as chairman of WAEMU announced the forthcoming transition from the CFA to another common regional currency to be called the Eco; details about the timeline or modalities of the change have not yet been published.

Remittance Policies

There are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies.

There are no time limitations on remittances.  Total personal remittances received by Ivoirians were about USD 335 million in 2019 or 0.7 percent of GDP.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Côte d’Ivoire does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Companies owned or controlled by the state are subject to national laws and the tax code.  The Ivoirian government still holds substantial interests in many firms, including the refinery SIR (49 percent), the public transport firm (60 percent), the national television station RTI (98 percent), the national lottery (80 percent), the national airline Air Côte d’Ivoire (58 percent), and the land management agency Agence de Gestion Fonciere AGEF (35 percent).  Total assets of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were USD 796 million and total net income of SOEs was USD 116 million in 2018 (latest figures).  Of the 82 SOEs, 28 are wholly government owned, 12 are majority owned, seven are with a blocking minority, and 35 are minority shares.  Each SOE has an independent board.  The government has begun the process of divestiture for some SOEs (see next section).  The Ivoirian government is an active participant in the banking, agri-business, mining, and telecom industries.

The published list of SOEs is available at https://dgpe.gouv.ci/index.php?p=portefeuille_etat 

SOEs competing in the domestic market do not receive non-market based advantages from the government.  They are subject to the same tax burdens and policies as private companies.

Côte d’Ivoire does not adhere to OECD guidelines for SOE corporate governance (it is not a member of OECD).

Privatization Program

The government began a program in 2013 – not yet completed – to privatize a quarter of public enterprises, including: approximately 15 public or semi-public enterprises, banks, and USD 232 million of investments the government holds in Industrial Promotion Services (IPS)-Aga Khan Foundation projects.  The government has completed privatization of the Societe Ivoirienne de Banque (now Attijariwafa-bank), the sugar company Sucrivoire, and the cotton firm Compagnie Ivoirienne de pour le Developpement du Textile (Ivoirian Company for Textile Development).  At the urging of the IMF, the government is privatizing Versus Bank, NSIA Bank, and the housing finance bank BHCI.

Contracts for participation in this program are competed through a French-language public tendering process, for which foreign investors are encouraged to submit bids.  No website on privatizations exists.

9. Corruption

Corruption is a concern for businesses.  In 2013, the Ivoirian government issued Executive Order number 2013-660 related to the prevention and the fight against corruption.  The High Authority for Good Governance covers corruption issues and requires that all public officials submit asset declarations at the beginning and end of their tenures in office.  The country’s financial intelligence office, CENTIF, has broad authority to investigate suspicious financial transactions, including those of government officials.  Despite the establishment of these bodies and credible allegations of widespread corruption, there have been few charges filed, and few prosecutions and judgments against prominent people for corruption.  The former Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, now an opposition presidential candidate, was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to 20 years in prison on April 28, 2020.  The domestic business community generally assesses that these watchdog agencies lack the power and/or will to actively combat corruption.

Anti-corruption laws extend to family members of officials and to political parties.

The country’s Code of Public Procurement No. 259 and the associated WAEMU directives cover conflicts-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.

Under the Ivoirian Penal Code, a bribe by a local company to a foreign official is a criminal act.

Some private companies use compliance programs or measures to prevent bribery of government officials.  U.S. firms underscore to their Ivoirian counterparts that they are subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Côte d’Ivoire ratified the UN Anti-Corruption Convention, but the country is not a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (which is open to non-OECD members).  In 2016, Côte d’Ivoire joined the Partnership on Illicit Finance, which obliges it to develop an action plan to combat corruption.

There are no special protections for NGOs involved in investigating corruption.

Corruption in many forms is deeply ingrained in public and private sector practices and remains a serious impediment to investment and economic growth in Côte d’Ivoire.  Many companies cite corruption as the most significant obstacle to investment in Côte d’Ivoire.  It has the greatest impact on judicial proceedings, contract awards, customs, and tax issues.  Lack of transparency and failure to follow the government’s own tender procedures in the awarding of contracts lead businesses to conclude bribery was involved.  Businesses have reported encountering corruption at every level of the civil service, with some judges appearing to base their decisions on bribes.  Clearance of goods at the ports often requires substantial “commissions,” and the Embassy has heard anecdotal accounts of customs agents rescinding valuations that were declared by other customs colleagues in an effort to extract bribes from customers.  The demand for bribes can mean that containers stay at the Port of Abidjan for months, incurring substantial demurrage charges, despite having the paperwork in order.

No local industry or non-profit groups offer services for vetting potential local investment partners.

Resources to Report Corruption

These contacts at agencies are responsible for combating corruption:

Inspector General of Finance
(Brigade de Lutte Contre la Corruption)
Lassina Sylla
Inspector General
TELEPHONE: +225 20212000/2252 9797
FAX: +225 20211082/2252 9798
HOTLINE: +225 8000 0380
http://www.igf.finances.gouv.ci/ 
info@igf.finances.gouv.ci

High Authority for Good Governance
(Haute Autorite pour la Bonne Gouvernance)
N’Golo Coulibaly
President
TELEPHONE: +225 22479 5000
FAX: +225 2247 8261

Police Anti-Racketeering Unit
(Unite de Lutte Contre le Racket –ULCR)
Alain Oura
Unit Commander
TELEPHONE: +225 2244 9256
info@ulcr.ci

10. Political and Security Environment

President Alassane Ouattara was elected to a second term in 2015.  In 2016, the country adopted a new constitution, creating the position of Vice-President, and a Senate, which first convened in April 2018.  During and/or after recent elections, such as in 2010 and 2018, demonstrations and protests by political parties were common and occasionally led to vandalism and clashes with security forces.  Unions also engage in protests that sometimes become violent.  The lack of consensus on the composition of the country’s independent electoral commission, the contentious reform of its electoral code, and the exclusion of key opposition figures from the presidential race have aggravated political divides within the country.

Côte d’Ivoire’s security situation has significantly improved since its 2010-2011 post-electoral violence.  In early 2017, some Ivoirian soldiers mutinied, demanding payment of bonuses.  The government responded by largely acceding to their demands and pledging to improve living and working conditions for armed and security forces, which it has steadily done over the ensuing years.  Côte d’Ivoire suffered a terrorist attack in March 2016 in the popular tourist town of Grand Bassam.  Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack and continues to pose a major terrorism risk to the region.  Côte d’Ivoire continues to improve its domestic security approach and international cooperation to combat the increasing terrorism/extremist threat emanating from the Sahel over the past years.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The official unemployment rate is 2.8 percent, with higher unemployment in urban areas.  The unemployment rate among those aged 14-24 is 3.9 percent.  Forty seven percent of the non-agricultural workforce is employed in the informal economy.  Official statistics fail to fully account for the large informal economy throughout the country, and do not accurately portray the general dearth of well-paying employment opportunities.  Foreign workers from neighboring countries constitute a significant part of the work force, especially in agriculture.  Despite the government’s efforts, child labor remained a widespread problem in rural and urban areas, particularly on cocoa and coffee plantations, as well as in artisanal gold mining areas, and in domestic work.

There are significant shortages of skilled labor in higher education fields including information technology, engineering, finance, management, health, and science.  The Ivoirian government is working with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to build and develop four technical and vocational training centers.

Labor laws favor the employment of Ivoirians in private enterprises, and state that any vacant position must be advertised for two months.  If after two months no qualified Ivoirian is found, the employer may recruit a foreigner provided it plans to recruit an Ivoirian to fill the position in the next two years.  The foreign employee must be given a labor contract.

There are no restrictions on employers adjusting employment in response to fluctuating market conditions.  Employees terminated for reasons other than theft or flagrant neglect of duty have the right to termination benefits.  Unemployment insurance and other social safety programs exist for employees laid off for economic reasons, but for the 85 percent of workers employed in the informal sector, this is not an option.

Labor laws are not waived to attract or retain investment.

Collective bargaining agreements are in effect in many major business enterprises and sectors of the civil service.  A prolonged teachers’ strike in 2019 was submitted for settlement but due to the fractured nature of the teachers’ unions, not all parties agreed to the decision.

Labor disputes are submitted to the labor inspector for amicable settlement before engaging in any legal proceedings.  If this attempt to settle the dispute fails, then the labor court can be engaged to resolve the dispute.

No strike has posed an investment risk during the last year.

There are no gaps with international labor standards in law or practice that pose a reputational risk to investors.

The government did not adopt any new labor related laws or regulations in 2019.  In 2017, the government passed a law forbidding most forms of child labor for children under 12 and restricting it for minors aged 13 to 17.  The law’s passage put Ivoirian law on par with ILO standards for child labor.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

There are currently no DFC projects in Côte d’Ivoire, but DFC continues to look for opportunities, particularly in energy and infrastructure.

In 2017, the Ivoirian government ratified its investment incentive agreement with OPIC (DFC’s predecessor).

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2018 $43 billion www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 -$495 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2018 23.8% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 
  
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward Amount 100% Total Outward Amount 100%
France $8,428 22% Burkina Faso $1,904 19%
Canada $1,830 12% Cayman Islands $217 19%
Morocco $790 9% Liberia $205 11%
Mauritius $460 5% Mali $154 8%
United Kingdom $452 5% Senegal $152 8%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Executive Summary

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the second largest country in Africa and one of the richest in the world in terms of natural resources.  With 80 million hectares (197 million acres) of arable land and 1,100 minerals and precious metals, the DRC has the resources to achieve prosperity for its people.  Despite its potential, the DRC often cannot provide adequate security, infrastructure and health care to its estimated 84 million inhabitants, of which 75 percent live on less than two dollars a day.

The accession of Felix Tshisekedi to the presidency in 2019 and his government’s commitment to attracting international and particularly U.S. investment have raised the hopes of the business community for greater openness and transparency.  The DRC government is currently working with USTR to regain preferential trade preferences under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).  Tshisekedi created a presidential unit to lead business reform and improve DRC’s standing of 183rd out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report.

The natural resource and telecommunications sectors have attracted the most foreign investment in the past.  The primary minerals sector is the country’s main source of revenue, as exports of copper, cobalt, gold, coltan, diamond, tin and tungsten provide over 95 percent of the DRC’s export revenue.  Several breweries and bottlers, a number of large construction firms, and limited textiles production are active.  The highly competitive telecommunications industry is expanding into electronic banking.  Given the vast needs, there are significant commercial opportunities in aviation, road, rail, water transport, and ports.  The agricultural and forestry sectors present opportunities for economic diversification in the DRC.

In 2019 economic growth remained sluggish, with only the extractives sector exhibiting significant growth.  After reaching 5.8 percent in 2018, economic growth slowed to 4.4 percent in 2019 owing to the drop in commodity prices.  The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic sent growth negative as global demand for DRC’s exports dropped.

Overall, businesses in the DRC face numerous challenges, including poor infrastructure and a weak and corrupt bureaucracy.  Armed groups remain active in the eastern part of the country, making for a fragile security situation that negatively affects the business environment.  Reform of a non-transparent and often corrupt legal system is underway.  While laws protecting investors are in effect, the court system is often very slow to make decisions or follow the law, allowing numerous investment disputes to last for years.

Table 1
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 168 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2019 183 of 190 https://www.doingbusiness.org/
en/data/exploreeconomies/
congo-dem-rep
Global Innovation Index 2019 N/A http://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
content/page/data-analysis
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $80 https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 $490 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

The DRC remains a challenging environment in which to conduct business.  The accession of Felix Tshisekdi to the Presidency in January 2019 and his announcement of his interest in attracting more international investment, particularly from the United States, have raised hopes the DRC government (GDRC) can impose and follow through on policies more favorable to foreign direct investment.  To encourage U.S. visitors, in January 2020 the GDRC lowered the price of a single-entry visa to USD 100 and a three month multiple-entry visa to USD 160.  The DRC’s rich endowment of natural resources, large population and generally open trading system provide significant potential opportunities for U.S. investors.

Current investment regulations prohibit foreign investors from engaging in informal small retail commerce and ban foreign majority-ownership of agricultural concerns.  Investors have expressed concern that the ban on foreign agricultural ownership will stifle any attempts to kick-start the agrarian sector.

The official investment agency, the National Agency for Investment Promotion (ANAPI), provides investment facilitation services for initial investments over USD 200,000, and is mandated to simplify the investment process, make procedures more transparent, assist new foreign investors, and improve the image of the DRC as an investment destination.

There are several public and private sector forums which speak to the government on the investment climate in specific sectors.  In December 2019 President Tshisekedi created the business climate cell (CCA) to listen and develop ways to improve the business climate.  The CCA in June 2020 presented a roadmap for reform.  The public-private Financial and Technical Partners (PTF) mining group represents the different countries with significant mining investments in the DRC.  The Federation of Congolese Enterprises (FEC) has a dialogue on business interests with the government.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

In general, there are no limits on foreigners owning a business or engaging in all forms of remunerative activity, with the exceptions of small commerce and owning more than 49 percent of an agribusiness.  Many investors note that in practice the GDRC requires foreign investors to hire local agents and participate in a joint venture with the government or local partners.

In response to private sector complaints, in June 2020 the GDRC repealed a law on subcontracting in the private sector that restricted using foreign entities.

The government promulgated a new mining code in 2018 which increased royalty rates from two to ten percent, raised tax rates on “strategic” metals, and imposed a surcharge on “super profits” of mining companies.  The government unilaterally removed a stability clause contained in the previous mining code protecting investors from any new fees or taxes for ten years.  Removal of the stability clause may deter future investment in the mining sector.  The Tshisekedi government has indicated that it is willing to reopen discussions on the new mining code.

The government does not maintain an organization to screen inbound investment.  The Presidency and the ministries serve this purpose de facto.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The DRC has not undergone a World Trade Organization (WTO), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), or a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Investment Policy Review in the last three years.  Cities with high custom clearance traffic use Sydonia, which is an advanced software system for custom administrations in compliance with ASYCUDA.  (ASYCUDA is a large technical assistance software program recommended by UNCTAD for custom clearance management.)

Business Facilitation

Since 2013, the GDRC has operated a “one-stop shop” (https://www.guichetunique.cd/ ) that brings together all the government entities involved in the registration of a company in the DRC.  The registration process now officially takes three days, but in practice it can take much longer.  Some businesses have reported that the Guichet Unique has considerably shortened and simplified the overall process of business registration.

Outward Investment

The GDRC does not prohibit outward investment, nor does it particularly promote it.  There are no current government restrictions preventing domestic investors from investing abroad, and there are no current blacklisted countries with which domestic investors are precluded from doing business.

3. Legal Regime

The DRC does not have a legal system to address the issue of competition.  By joining the regional legal body OHADA and the regional Central and Southern African trade group COMESA, the DRC plans to implement the standards and regulations of these structures in order to create a more transparent and effective policy to promote competition.

There are no informal regulations run by private or nongovernmental organizations that discriminate against foreign investors.  However, some investors perceive the regulations in the mining code as discriminatory against foreign investment.

The GDRC authority on business standards, the Congolese Office of Control (OCC), oversees foreign businesses engaged in the DRC.

There are no formal or informal provisions systematically employed by the GDRC to impede foreign investment.  Companies most often complain of facing administrative hurdles as laws and regulations are often poorly or unevenly applied.

Proposed laws and regulations are rarely published in draft format for public discussion and comment;  discussion is typically limited to the governmental entity that proposes the draft law and Parliament prior to enactment.  Sometimes the government will hold a public hearing after public appeals.

By implementing the OHADA system, the GDRC strengthened its legal framework in the areas of contract, company, and bankruptcy law and set up an accounting system better aligned to international standards.  For this purpose, a Coordination Committee was established internally in the GDRC to monitor OHADA implementation.

The government announced the creation of a business unit (CCA) in December 2019 to enact needed regulatory reforms.

The DRC is a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a multi-stakeholder initiative to increase transparency in transactions between governments and companies in the extractive industries.  The DRC’s validation process for compliance with the EITI Standard commenced in November 2018, with an assessment due in 2020.  The initial report published by the International EITI Secretariat in April 2019 stated that the DRC EITI failed to adequately address 13 of the  requirements of the EITI Standard, with two of these assessed as unmet with inadequate progress.  The report also stressed the need to clarify the financial flows of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the DRC’s extractive sector.

In 2019 the DRC failed to meet the minimum requirements of fiscal transparency according to the State Department’s Fiscal Transparency report.  While the DRC publishes budgets that are publicly available and timely, the published budgets were not reliable indicators of actual government spending.

International Regulatory Considerations

The DRC is a member of several regional economic blocs, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (ECGLC).

According to the Congolese National Standardization Committee, the DRC has adopted 470 harmonized COMESA standards.

The DRC is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and seeks to comply with Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIM) requirements, including notifying regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The DRC is a civil law country, and the main provisions of its private law can be traced to the Napoleonic Civil Code.  The general characteristics of the Congolese legal system are similar to those of the Belgian system.  Various local customary laws regulate both personal status laws and property rights, especially the inheritance and land tenure systems in traditional communities throughout the country.  The Congolese legal system is divided into three branches: public law, private law and economic law.  Public law regulates legal relationships involving the state or state authority; private law regulates relationships between private persons; and economic law regulates interactions in areas such as labor, trade, mining and investment.

In 2018 the DRC established thirteen commercial courts located in DRC’s main business cities, including Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Matadi, Boma, Kisangani, and Mbuji-Mayi.  These courts are designed to be led by professional judges specializing in commercial matters and exist in parallel to an otherwise inadequate judicial system.  A lack of qualified personnel and a reluctance by some DRC jurisdictions to fully recognize OHADA law and institutions have hindered the development of commercial courts.

The current judicial process is not procedurally reliable and its rulings are not always respected.  The current executive branch has generally not interfered with the proceedings.  The national court system provides an appeals mechanism under the OHADA framework.  Legal documents in the DRC can be found at: http://www.leganet.cd/index.htm .

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The 2002 Investment Code governs most foreign direct investment (FDI), providing for the protection of investments.  In practice, an inadequate legal system has insufficiently protected foreign investors in the event of a dispute.  Mining, hydrocarbons, finance, and other sectors have sector-specific investment laws.

ANAPI is the DRC agency with the mandate to simplify the investment process, make procedures more transparent, assist new foreign investors, and improve the image of the country as an investment destination (www.investindrc.cd).

The GDRC has a “Guichet Unique,” which is a one-stop shop to simplify business creation, cutting processing time from five months to three days, and reducing incorporation fees from USD 3,000 to USD 120. (www.guichetunique.cd ). A “one-stop-shop” also exists for import-export business, covering aspects such as the collection of taxes and transshipment operations. (https://segucerdc.cd/ ).

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

There is no national agency that reviews transactions for competition or antitrust-related concerns.  As a member of COMESA the DRC follows the COMESA Competition Regulations and rules, and the COMESA competition body regulates competition.

Expropriation and Compensation

The GDRC may proceed with an expropriation when it benefits the public interest, and the person or entity subject to an expropriation should receive fair compensation.  The U.S. Embassy is unaware of any new expropriation activities by the GDRC against U.S. citizens in the past three years, but there are a number of existing and long-standing claims made against the GDRC.  Some claims have been taken to arbitration, though many arbitral judgments against the GDRC are not paid in a timely manner, if at all.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

The DRC is a member of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention and a Contracting State to the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention).  It is important to note that the New York Convention does not apply toward disputes relating to immovable property, which includes mining rights.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The DRC is subject to international arbitration.  A U.S. mining company  sued under the BIT to recover losses suffered when FARDC troops sacked its mine in Kasai Central Province in 1995. The arbitration courts ruled the GDRC liable for damages totaling USD 13 million, and the GDRC started paying back the awarded amount plus interest to the U.S. company.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The DRC adopted the OHADA Uniform Act on Arbitration (the UAA).  The UAA sets out the basic rules applicable to any arbitration where the seat of arbitration is located in an OHADA member state.  The requirements set out under Article 5 of the New York Convention for the recognition and enforcement of foreign awards applies where the seat of any arbitration is outside an OHADA member state, or where the parties choose arbitration rules outside the UAA.

OHADA‘s UAA offers an alternative dispute resolution mechanism for settling disputes between two parties where the place of arbitration is situated in a Member State.  Disputes must be submitted to the Common Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA) in Abidjan in accordance with the provisions of the OHADA Treaty and the OHADA Arbitration Rules.

The UAA, while not directly based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law, is similar in that it provides for the recognition and enforcement of arbitration agreements and arbitral awards and supersedes the national laws on arbitration to the extent that any conflict arises.  Arbitral awards with a connection to an OHADA member state are given final and binding status in all OHADA member states, on par with a national court judgment.  Support is provided by the CCJA which can rule on the application and interpretation of the UAA.

Arbitral awards rendered in any OHADA Member State are enforceable in any other OHADA member state, subject to obtaining an exequatur (a legal document issued by a sovereign authority allowing a right to be enforced in the authority’s domain of competence) of the competent court of the State in which the award is to be made.  Exequaturs are granted unless the award clearly affects public order in that State.  Decisions granting or refusing to grant an exequatur may be appealed to the CCJA.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The OHADA Uniform Act on Insolvency Proceedings provides a comprehensive framework not only for companies encountering financial difficulties and seeking relief from the pressing demands of creditors, but also for creditors to file their claims.  The GDRC judiciary system has agreed to enforce the OHADA Insolvency Act.  Bankruptcy is not criminalized.

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, there were no foreclosure, liquidation or reorganization proceedings filed in the country in 2019, making it impossible to assess the time, cost or outcome for an insolvency proceeding.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Investment incentives can range from tax breaks to duty exemptions, and are dependent upon the location and type of enterprise, the number of jobs created, the degree of training and promotion of local staff, and the export-producing potential of the operation.  Investors who wish to take advantage of customs and tax incentives in the 2002 Investment Code must apply to the National Agency for Investment Promotion (ANAPI), which submits applications to the Ministries of Finance and Planning for final approval.  The government does not have a history of providing guarantees or jointly financing FDI projects.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The DRC does not have any designated free trade areas or free port zones.  President Tshisekedi has signaled that he will revive stalled efforts to join the East African Community (EAC).  In November 2019, the Presidency submitted a law authorizing the ratification of the agreement of the African continental free-zone (ZLEC).  The law is still pending approval by the Parliament.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Foreign investors must negotiate many of the conditions of their investments with ANAPI.  Performance requirements agreed upon with ANAPI typically include a timeframe for the investment, use of OHADA accounting procedures and periodic authorized GDRC audits, protection of the environment, periodic progress reports to ANAPI, and the maintenance of international and local norms for the provision of goods and services.  The investor must also agree that all imported equipment and capital will remain in-country for at least five years.

The Ministry of Labor controls expatriate residence and work permits.  For U.S. companies, the BIT assures the right to hire staff of their choice to fill some management positions, but companies agree to pay a special tax on expatriate salaries.  Visa, residence or work permit requirements are not discriminatory or excessively onerous, and are not designed to prevent or discourage foreigners from investing in the DRC.

The DRC does not have specific legislation on data storage or limits on the transmission of data.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The DRC’s Constitution protects private property ownership without discriminating between foreign and domestic investors.  Despite this provision, the GDRC has acknowledged the absence of enforcement protecting property rights.  Congolese law related to real property rights enumerates provisions for mortgages and liens. Real property (buildings and land) is protected and registered through the Ministry of Land’s Office of the Mortgage Registrar.  Land registration may not fully protect property owners, as records can be incomplete and legal disputes over land deals are common.  Many owners lack a clear registered title to the land.  In addition, there is no specific regulation of real property lease or acquisition.

Ownership interest in personal property (e.g. equipment, vehicles, etc.) is protected and registered through the Ministry of the Interior’s Office of the Notary.

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property rights (IPR) are legally protected in the DRC, but enforcement of IPR regulations is limited.  The DRC’s intellectual property laws date from the 1980s and remain in force. However,  enforcement is weak, and IPR theft is common.  The country is a signatory to a number of relevant agreements with international organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is subject to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).   The government does not keep a record of IPR violations.

The DRC is not included in the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IPR offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Market and Portfolio Investment

Portfolio investment is nonexistent in the DRC and there is no domestic stock market.  A small number of private equity firms are actively investing in the mining industry.  The institutional investor base is not well developed, with only an insurance company and a state pension fund as participants.  There is no market for derivatives in the country.  Cross-shareholding and stable shareholding arrangements are also not common.  Credit is allocated on market terms, but there are occasional complaints about unfair privileges extended to certain investors in profitable sectors such as mining and telecommunications.

Although reforms have been initiated, the Congolese financial system remains small, heavily dollarized, characterized by fragile balance sheets, and cumbersome to use.  Further reforms are needed to strengthen the financial system, support its expansion, and spur economic growth.  Inadequate risk-based controls, weak enforcement of regulations, low profitability, and excessive reliance on demand deposit undermine the shock resilience of the financial system.

The Central Bank of Congo (BCC)  refrains from payments and transfers on current international transactions.  The DRC’s capital market remains underdeveloped and consists mainly of the issuance of treasury bonds.  In 2019, the BCC issued its first domestic bond in 24 years, which was oversubscribed.  Most of the buyers were local Congolese banks.

It is possible for foreign firms to borrow from local banks, but their options are limited.  Maturities for loans are usually limited to 3-6 months, and interest rates are typically around 16-21 percent.  The inconsistency of the legal system, the often-cumbersome business climate, and the difficulty in obtaining inter-bank financing discourages banks from providing long-term loans.  There are limited possibilities to finance major projects in the domestic currency, the Congolese franc (CDF).

Money and Banking system

The Congolese financial system is improving but it remains fragile.  The BCC controls monetary policy and regulates the banking system.  Banks are concentrated primarily in Kinshasa, Kongo Central, North and South Kivu, and Haut Katanga provinces.  Banking rate penetration is roughly 7 percent or about 4.1 million accounts, which places the country among the most under-banked nations in the world.  Mobile banking has the potential to greatly increase banking customers as an estimated 35 million Congolese use mobile phones.

There is no debt market.  The financial health of DRC banks is fragile, reflecting high operating costs and exchange rates.  The situation improved in 2019 as deposits have increased.  Fees charged by banks are a major source of revenue.

The financial system is mostly banking-based with aggregate asset holdings estimated at USD 5.1 billion.  Among  the five largest banks, four are local and one is controlled by foreign holdings.  The five largest banks hold almost 65 percent of bank deposits and more than 60 percent of total banks assets, about USD 3.1 billion.  There are no statistics on non-performing loans, as many banks only record the balance due instead of the total amount of their non-performing loans.

There is one correspondent bank, Citigroup.  All foreign banks accredited by the BCC are considered Congolese banks with foreign capital and fall under the provisions and regulations covering the credit institutions’ activities in the DRC  There are no restrictions on foreigners establishing an account in a DRC bank.

Foreign Exchange and Remittance

Foreign Exchange

The international transfer of funds is permitted when channeled through local commercial banks.  On average, bank declaration requirements and payments for international transfers take less than one week to complete.  The Central Bank is responsible for regulating foreign exchange and trade.  The only currency restriction imposed on travelers is a USD 10,000 limit on the amount an individual can carry when entering or leaving the DRC.

The GDRC requires the BCC to license exporters and importers.  The DRC’s informal foreign exchange market is large and unregulated and offers exchange rates slightly more favorable than the official rate.  BCC regulations set the Congolese franc (CDF) as the main currency in all transactions within the DRC, required for the payment of fees in education, medical care, water and electricity consumption, residential rents, and national taxes.  Exceptions to this rule occur where both parties involved and the appropriate monetary officials agree to use another currency.

Remittance Policies

There are no legal restrictions on converting or transferring funds.  Exchange regulations require a 60 day waiting period for in-country foreigners to remit income.  Foreign investors may remit through parallel markets when they are legally established and recognized by the Central Bank.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The DRC does not have any reported Sovereign Wealth Funds, though the 2018 Mining Code discusses a Future Fund that is to be capitalized by a percentage of mining revenues.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

There are 20 DRC state-owned enterprises (SOEs) operating in the mining, transportation, energy, telecommunications, finance, and hospitality sectors.  In the past, Congolese SOEs have stifled competition and have been unable to provide reliable electricity, transportation, and other important services over which they have monopolies.  Some SOEs and other Congolese parastatal organizations are in poor financial and operational state due to indebtedness and the mismanagement of resources and employees.  The list of SOEs can be found at: http://www.leganet.cd/Legislation/Droit percent20Public/EPub/d.09.12.24.04.09.htm .

There is limited reporting on the assets of SOEs and other parastatal enterprises, making valuation difficult.  DRC law does not grant SOEs an advantage over private companies in bidding for government contracts or obtaining preferential access to land and raw materials.  The government is often accused of favoring SOEs over private companies in contracting and bidding.

The DRC is not a party to the WTO’s procurement agreement (GPA), but nominally adheres to the OECD guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs.  The DRC is a Participating Country in the Southern Africa SOE network, with the Ministry of Portfolio and the Steering Committee for SOE reforms designated as Regularly Participating Institutions.

Privatization Program

The DRC has no official privatization program.

9. Corruption

The Tshisekedi government has used public prosecutions of high-level officials and the creation of an anti-corruption unit to improve the DRC’s reputation on corruption.  DRC’s 2018 Corruption Perception Index score—161 out of 180—underlines the endemic and deep roots of corruption in the country.  The DRC constitution includes laws intended to fight corruption and bribery by all citizens, including public officials.  Anti-corruption laws extend to family members and political parties.  Private companies have applied their own controls to limit corruption, and have in the past been more effective at controlling it.

In March 2020, President Tshisekedi created the National Agency to Fight Corruption.  In June 2020, the National Assembly began discussing the law on the creation, organization, and  function of the Agency.  The National Assembly forwarded the proposal to the Political, Administrative, and Judiciary Commission for analysis prior to a vote.  Currently corruption investigations are ongoing for three Managing Directors of SOEs.  In June, the court convicted Tshisekedi’s former Chief of Staff of embezzlement and public corruption, and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

The DRC is a signatory to the UN Anticorruption Convention, but not to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery.  The DRC ratified a protocol agreement with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Fighting Corruption.  NGOs such as the group “The Congo is Not for Sale,” have an important role in revealing corrupt practices, and the law protects NGOs in a whistleblower role.

U.S. firms see corruption as one of the main hurdles to investment in the DRC, particularly in the awarding of concessions, government procurement, and taxation treatment.

The Agency in charge of fighting corruption in the DRC is:

Agence de Prévention et de Lutte contre la Corruption (APLC)
Ghislain Kikangala, Coordinator
Tel: +243 893 302 819

10. Political and Security Environment

In January 2019, Felix Tshisekedi became President in the DRC’s first peaceful transition of power, ushering a period of relative political stability.  The December 2018 elections were the result of international, including U.S pressure, as well as a long period of mediation involving the Catholic Church, the government, and the opposition.  Maintaining public support for the Tshisekedi government will ultimately require the administration to deliver on the campaign slogan of “the people first.”

The security situation continues to be a concern.  Thousands of members of armed groups have been disarming and turning themselves in to the United Nations’ DRC peacekeeping operation (MONUSCO) and the GDRC since President Tshisekedi’s election, according to international observers.  Most of the defections have taken place in eastern and central DRC.  International statistics indicate that over 140 armed groups continue to operate in 17 of the DRC’s 26 provinces, primarily in the east of the country.  The ISIS-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group in eastern DRC is one of the country’s most notorious and intractable armed groups, and its members have shown no interest in demobilizing.  Armed groups previously interfered with the effort to eradicate the Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC, but interference decreased and the eastern outbreak was declared over on June 25.  President Tshisekedi appears cognizant of the important role security plays in attracting foreign investment, and has encouraged the Congolese army to work with MONUSCO to eliminate armed groups.

US citizens and interests are not being specifically targeted by armed groups, but can easily fall victim to violence or kidnapping by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset tracks political violence in developing countries, including the DRC, http://www.acleddata.com/.  Kivu Security Tracker (www.kivusecurity.org) is another database for information on attacks in eastern DRC.   In addition, the Department of State continues to advise travelers to review the Embassy’s travel advisory: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/DemocraticRepublicoftheCongoDRC.html

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The DRC labor market has a large and low-skilled labor force with high youth unemployment.  Expatriates frequently fill jobs requiring technical training in the key mining sector.  About 85 percent of the non-agricultural workforce is in the informal sector.

DRC labor law stipulates that for businesses with over 100 employees, 10 percent of all employees should be local.  If the managing director is a foreigner, his or her deputy or secretary general is expected to be a Congolese citizen.  The government can waive these provisions depending on the sector of activity and expertise available.  There are no onerous conditionality, visa, residence, or work permit requirements inhibiting the mobility of foreign investors and their employees.

While the agricultural sector is expanding, it continues to face poor infrastructure and a lack of access to technology.  About 60 percent of the workforce is in agriculture.

The DRC faces a deficit in skilled labor across all sectors.  There are few formal vocational training programs, though Article 8 of the labor law stipulates that all employers should provide training to their employees.  To address the high unemployment rate, the GDRC enacted a policy giving Congolese a preference in hiring over expatriates.  Laws prevent firms from firing workers under most conditions without compensation.  These restrictions have deterred hiring and encouraged the use of temporary contracts in lieu of permanent hiring.  There is no government safety net to compensate laid off workers.

Congolese law bans collective bargaining in certain sectors, including by civil servants and public employees, and the law does not provide adequate protection against anti-union discrimination.  While the right to strike is recognized, there are provisions which require unions to obtain permission and adhere to lengthy compulsory arbitration and appeal procedures before starting a strike.  Unions often strike for higher wages or the payment of back wages.

The DRC government ratified the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) eight core conventions, but some Congolese laws continue to be inconsistent with the ILO Convention on Forced Labor.

DRC law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, gender, language, or social status.  The law does not specifically protect against discrimination based on religion, age, political opinion, national origin, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV-positive status.  Additionally, no law specifically prohibits discrimination in the employment of career public service members.  According to some businesses, the government does not effectively enforce relevant employment laws.

Labor law defines different standard workweeks, ranging from 45 to 72 hours, for various jobs, and prescribes rest periods and premium pay for overtime.  Employers in both the formal and informal sectors often do not respect these provisions.  The law does not prohibit compulsory overtime.

The labor code specifies health and safety standards, but the government does not effectively enforce labor standards in the informal sector, and enforcement is uneven to non-existent in the formal sector.  The Ministry of Labor employs 200 labor inspectors but has not provided funds to conduct labor inspections.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($B USD) N/A N/A 2018 $47 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2018 $80 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % of host GDP 2018 51.3% 2019 51.4% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 
 
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
No detailed information is available on the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) website and no information is available on outward direct investment from Democratic Republic of Congo.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
No detailed information is available on the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) website and no information is available on outward direct investment from Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ethiopia

Executive Summary

Ethiopia’s economy is in transition. Coming off a decade of double-digit growth, fueled primarily by public infrastructure projects funded through debt, the Government of Ethiopia (GOE) has tightened its belt, reducing inefficient government expenditures and attempting to get its accounts in order at bloated state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Just in the last year, the GOE has also introduced a new and more liberal investment code, started the privatization process for the telecommunications monopoly, and eliminated numerous burdensome regulations. The IMF put the growth of the Ethiopian economy at 9 percent for FY2018/19, driven by manufacturing and services. While recent growth estimates have been revised downward due to the COVID-19 pandemic, growth prospects for Ethiopia remain better than those for most Sub-Saharan African nations. Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria, with a population of over 110 million, approximately two-thirds of whom are under age 30. Low-cost labor, a national airline with well over 100 passenger connections, and growing consumer markets are key elements attracting foreign investment.

The Government of Ethiopia (GOE) in September of 2019 unveiled its “Homegrown Economic Reform Plan” as a codified roadmap to implement sweeping macro, structural, and sectoral reform, with a focus on enhancing the role of the private sector in the economy and attracting more foreign direct investment. The ambitious three-year plan prioritizes growth in five sectors, namely mining, ICT, agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing. In December of 2019, the IMF approved a three-year, 2.9 billion U.S. dollar program to support the reform agenda. The program seeks to reduce public sector borrowing, rein in inflation, and reform the exchange rate regime.

The challenges remain vast. Ethiopia’s imports in the last three years have experienced a slight decline in large part due to a reduction in public investment programs and a dire foreign exchange shortage. Export performance remains weak, declining due to falling primary commodity prices and an overvalued exchange rate. The acute foreign exchange shortage (the Ethiopian birr is not a freely convertible currency) and the absence of capital markets are choking private sector growth. Companies often face long lead-times importing goods and dispatching exports due to logistical bottlenecks, high land-transportation costs, and bureaucratic delays. Ethiopia is not a signatory of major intellectual property rights treaties.

All land in Ethiopia is administered by the government and private ownership does not exist. “Land-use rights” have been registered in most populated areas. The GOE retains the right to expropriate land for the “common good,” which it defines to include expropriation for commercial farms, industrial zones, and infrastructure development. Successful investors in Ethiopia conduct thorough due diligence on land titles at both the regional and federal levels and undertake consultations with local communities regarding the proposed use of the land.

The largest volume of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ethiopia comes from China, followed by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Political instability associated with various ethnic conflicts could negatively impact the investment climate and lower future FDI inflow.

Table 1
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 96 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/
country/ETH
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2020 159 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 111 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
gii-2018-report#
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2018 $676 http://www.investethiopia.gov.et/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 $790 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies towards Foreign Direct Investment

Ethiopia needs significant inflows of FDI to meet its ambitious growth goals. Over the past year, to attract more foreign investment, the government has passed a new investment law, ratified the New York Convention on Arbitration, and streamlined commercial registration and business licensing laws. The government has also started implementing the Public Private Partnership (PPP) proclamation (law), to allow for private investment in the power generation and road construction sectors.

The Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) has the mandate to promote and facilitate foreign investments in Ethiopia. To accomplish this task, the EIC is charged with 1) promoting the country’s investment opportunities to attract and retain investment; 2) issuing investment permits, business licenses, and construction permits; 3) issuing commercial registration certificates and renewals; 4) negotiating and signing bilateral investment agreements; 5) issuing work permits; and 6) registering technology transfer agreements. In addition, the EIC has the mandate to advise the government on policies to improve the investment climate and hold regular and structured public-private dialogue with investors and their associations. At the local level, regional investment agencies facilitate regional investment. Though Ethiopia has shown relative progress in two doing business indicators, specifically the ease of obtaining construction permits and registering property, its overall rank on the 2020 World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index was 159 out of 190 countries, which is the exact same ranking from 2018 and 2019. In order to improve the investment climate, attract more FDI, and tackle unemployment challenges, the Prime Minister’s Office formed a committee to systematically examine each indicator on the Doing Business Index and identify factors that inhibit businesses.

The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) works on voicing the concerns of U.S. businesses in Ethiopia. AmCham provides a mechanism for coordination among American companies and also facilitates regular meetings with government officials to discuss issues that hinder operations in Ethiopia. The Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce also organizes a monthly business forum that enables the business community to discuss issues related to the investment climate with government officials by sector.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish, acquire, own, and dispose of most forms of business enterprises. A new Investment Proclamation, approved in early 2020, outlines the areas of investment reserved for government and local investors. There is no private ownership of land in Ethiopia. All land is owned by the state, but can be leased for up to 99 years. Small-scale rural landholders have indefinite use rights, but cannot lease out holdings for extended periods, except in the Amhara Region. The 2011 Urban Land Lease Proclamation allows the government to determine the value of land in transfers of leasehold rights, in an attempt to curb speculation by investors.

A foreign investor intending to buy an existing private enterprise or shares in an existing enterprise needs to obtain prior approval from the EIC. While foreign investors have complained about inconsistent interpretation of the regulations governing investment registration (particularly relating to accounting for in-kind investments), they generally do not face undue screening of FDI, unfavorable tax treatment, denial of licenses, discriminatory import or export policies, or inequitable tariff and non-tariff barriers.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Over the past three years, the government has not undertaken any third party investment policy review by a multilateral or non-governmental organization. The government has worked closely with some international stakeholders, however, such as the International Finance Corporation, in its recent attempts to modernize and streamline its investment regulations.

Business Facilitation

The EIC has attempted to establish itself as a “one-stop shop” for foreign investors by acting as a centralized location where investors can obtain the visas, permits, and paperwork they need, thereby reducing the time and cost of investing and acquiring business licenses. The EIC has worked with international consultants to modernize its operations, and as part of its work plan has adopted a customer manager system to build lasting relationships and provide post-investment assistance to investors. Despite progress, the EIC readily admits that many bureaucratic barriers to investment remain. In particular, U.S. investors report that the EIC, as a federal organization, has little influence at regional and local levels. According to the 2020 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report, on average, it takes 32 days to start a business in Ethiopia.

Currently, more than 95 percent of Ethiopia’s trade passes through the Port of Djibouti, with residual trade passing through the Somaliland Port of Berbera or Port Sudan. Ethiopia concluded an agreement in March of 2018 with the Somaliland Ports Authority and DP World to acquire a 19 percent stake in the joint venture developing the Port of Berbera. The agreement will help Ethiopia secure an additional logistical gateway for its increasing import and export trade. Following the July 2018 rapprochement with Eritrea, the Ethiopian government has investigated the opportunity of accessing an alternative port at either Massawa or Assab.

The Government of Ethiopia is working to improve business facilitation services by making the licensing and registration of businesses easier and faster, though online registration is not yet available. An amended commercial registration and licensing law eliminates the requirement to publicize business registrations in local newspapers, allows business registration without a physical address, and reduces some other paperwork burdens associated with business registration. U.S. companies can obtain detailed information for the registration of their business in Ethiopia from an online investment guide to Ethiopia: (https://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/ethiopia ). Though the government is taking positive steps to socially empower women (approximately half of cabinet members are women), there is no special treatment provided to women who wish to engage in business.

The full Doing Business Report is available here: http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/ethiopia 

http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/ethiopia  http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/ethiopia#DB_sb 

http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/ethiopia#DB_sb 

Outward Investment

There is no officially recorded outward investment by domestic investors from Ethiopia as citizens/local investors are not allowed to hold foreign accounts.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Ethiopia’s regulatory system is generally considered fair, though there are instances in which burdensome regulatory or licensing requirements have prevented the local sale of U.S. exports, particularly health-related products. Investment decisions can involve multiple government ministries, lengthening the registration and investment process.

The Constitution is the highest law of the country. The Parliament enacts proclamations, which are followed by regulations that are passed by the Council of Ministers, and implementing directives that are passed by ministries or agencies. The government increasingly engages the public for feedback before passage of draft legislation through public meetings, and regulatory agencies request comments on proposed regulations from stakeholders. Ministries or regulatory agencies do neither impact assessments for proposed regulations nor ex-post reviews. Parties that are affected by an adopted regulation can request reconsideration or appeal to the relevant administrative agency or court. There is no requirement to periodically review regulations to determine whether they are still relevant or should be revised.

All proclamations and regulations in Ethiopia are published in official gazettes and most of them are available online: http://www.hopr.gov.et/web/guest/122  and https://chilot.me/federal-laws/2/ 

Legal matters related to the federal government are entertained by Federal Courts, while state matters go to state courts. To ensure consistency of legal interpretation and to promote predictability of the courts, the Federal Supreme Court Cassation Division is empowered to give binding legal interpretation on all federal and state matters. Though there are no publicly listed companies in Ethiopia, all banks and insurance companies are obliged to adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

Regulations related to human health and environmental pollution are often enforced. In January 2019, the Oromia Region Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission shut down three tanneries in Oromia Region for what was said to be repeated environmental pollution offenses. The government also suspended the business license of MIDROC Gold Mine in May 2018 following weeks of protests by local communities who accused the company of causing health and environmental hazards in the Oromia Region. The Ethiopian Parliament in February of 2019 passed a bill entitled ‘Food and Medicine Administration Proclamation,’ which bans smoking in all indoor workplaces, public spaces, and means of public transport and prohibits alcohol promotion on broadcasting media.

Ethiopia published on April 7 the Administrative Procedure Proclamation (APP) in the federal gazette, the final step for a law to come into force. The APP’s main aim is to allow ordinary citizens who seek administrative redress to file suits in federal courts against government institutions. Potential redress includes financial restitution. The APP’s passage will require government institutions to set up offices that will handle such complaints. Complainants are required to follow an administrative appeal process, and only after exhausting administrative remedies will a person be allowed to file a suit in federal court. Four government institutions are exempt from the APP: the Federal Attorney General’s Office; the Ethiopian Federal Police; the Ethiopian Defense Forces and the intelligence agencies. The enactment of the APP is widely viewed as a positive step in increasing confidence in the public sector and addressing the need for governmental institutions to adhere to the rule of law.

Ethiopia is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures . Foreign and national investors can find detailed information from the investment commission website http://www.investethiopia.gov.et/investment-process  and https://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/ethiopia  on administrative procedures applicable to investment and income generating operations. These details include the number of steps; name and contact details of the entities and persons in charge of procedures; required documents and conditions; costs; processing times; and legal bases justifying the procedures.

The government released its five-year public finance administration strategic plan (2018-2022) in March 2018, mapping out reforms in government revenue and expenditure forecasting, government accounts management, internal auditing, public procurement administration, public debt management, and public financial transparency and accountability. In support of this initiative, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) issued a directive on Public Financial Transparency and Accountability in October 2018. The directive mandates that all public institutions report their budgetary performance and financial accounts in platforms that are accessible to the wider public in a timely manner. It also makes the MOF responsible for disseminating a regular and detailed physical and financial performance evaluation of large publicly-funded projects. The directive further outlines a clear timeline for the publication of each major piece of budgetary information, such as the pre-budget macroeconomic and fiscal framework, the enacted budget, quarterly execution reports, annual execution reports, and the annual audit report.

International Regulatory Considerations

Ethiopia ratified the AfCFTA on March 21, 2019. The AfCFTA aims to create a single, continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments. Ethiopia is also a member of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a regional economic block, which has 21 member countries and has introduced a 10 percent tariff reduction on goods imported from member states. Ethiopia has not yet joined the COMESA free trade area, however. Ethiopia resumed its World Trade Organization (WTO) accession process in 2018, which it originally began in 2003, but which later stagnated.

Ethiopian standards have a national scope and applicability and some of them, particularly those related to human health and environmental protection, are mandatory. The Ethiopian Standards Agency is the national standards body of Ethiopia.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Ethiopia has codified criminal and civil laws, including commercial and contractual law. According to the contractual law, a contract agreement is binding between contracting parties. Disputes between the parties can be taken to court. There are, however, no specialized courts for commercial law cases, although there are specialized benches at both the federal and state courts.

While there have been allegations of executive branch interference in judiciary cases with political implications, there is no evidence of widespread interference in purely commercial disputes. The country has a procedural code for civil and criminal court, but the practice is minimal. Enforcement actions are appealable and there are at least three appeal processes from the lower courts to the Supreme Court. The Criminal Procedure Code follows the inquisitorial system of adjudication.

Companies that operate businesses in Ethiopia assert that courts lack adequate experience and staffing, particularly with respect to commercial disputes. While property and contractual rights are recognized, judges often lack understanding of commercial matters, including bankruptcy and contractual disputes. In addition, cases often face extended scheduling delays. Contract enforcement remains weak, though Ethiopian courts will at times reject spurious litigation aimed at contesting legitimate tenders.

Ethiopia is in the process of reforming its Commercial Code to bring it in line with international best practices. The draft legislation appears to address many concerns raised by the business community, including the creation of a commercial court under the regular court system to improve the expertise of judges as well as to increase the speed with which commercial disputes are resolved. The new Commercial Code should also include regulations covering e-commerce and digital businesses.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Investment Proclamation 1180/2020 is Ethiopia’s main legal regime related to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). This law instituted the opening of new economic sectors to foreign investment, enumerated the requirements for FDI registration, and outlined the incentives that are available to investors.

The 2020 investment law allows foreign investors to invest in any investment area except those that are clearly reserved for domestic investors. A few specified investment areas are possible for foreign investors only as part of a joint venture with domestic investors or the government. The Investment Proclamation has introduced an Investment Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, to accelerate implementation of the new law and to address coordination challenges investors face at the federal and regional levels. Further, the new law expanded the mandate of the EIC by allowing it to provide approvals to foreign investors proposing to buy existing enterprises. The EIC now also delivers “one stop shop” services by consolidating investor services provided by other ministries and agencies. Still, the EIC delegates licensing of investments in some areas: air transport services (the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority), energy generation and transmission (the Ethiopian Energy Authority), and telecommunication services (the Ethiopian Communications Authority).

The EIC’s website  (http://www.investethiopia.gov.et/ ) provides information on the government’s policy and priorities, registration processes, and regulatory details. In addition, the Ethiopian Investment Guide website (https://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/ethiopia ) provides relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Ethiopia’s Trade Practice and Consumers Protection Authority (TPCPA), operating under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, is tasked with promoting a competitive business environment by regulating anti-competitive, unethical, and unfair trade practices to enhance economic efficiency and social welfare. It has an administrative tribunal with a jurisdiction on matters pertaining to market competition and consumer protection. The authority also annually entertains many cases associated with consumer protection and unfair trade practices.

The EIC reviews investment transactions for compliance with FDI requirements and restrictions as outlined by the Investment Proclamation. Nonetheless, companies have complained that SOEs receive favorable treatment in the government tender process. The public sector’s heavy involvement in economic development means that SOEs often obtain a sizeable portion of open tenders.

Expropriation and Compensation

Per the 2020 Investment Proclamation, no investment by a domestic or foreign investor or enterprise can be expropriated or nationalized, wholly or partially, except when required by public interest in compliance with the law and provided adequate compensatory payment.

The former Derg military regime nationalized many properties in the 1970s. The current government’s position is that property seized lawfully by the Derg (by court order or government proclamation published in the official gazette) remains the property of the state. In most cases, property seized by oral order or other informal means is gradually being returned to the rightful owners or their heirs through a lengthy bureaucratic process. Claimants are required to pay for improvements made by the government during the time it controlled the property. The Public Enterprises, Assets, and Administration Agency stopped accepting requests from owners for return of expropriated properties in July of 2008.

According to local and foreign businesses operating in the Oromia Region, there have been a number of isolated incidents threatening investors in that region. Various pretexts have been used to close legitimate operations. False charges have been filed with regional courts, property has been confiscated, and bank accounts have been frozen, all in the name of “returning the land” to the “rightful owners” or “creating job opportunities” for the youth. Regional officials, however, deny any systematic attack on investors and have repeatedly provided assurance that all legitimate investors will be protected. Meanwhile, other investors who have invested heavily in government and community relations and actively engaged local and regional officials have prospered. The experience of investors is overall uneven and clear trends are not evident.

Dispute Settlement

  • ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Since 1965, Ethiopia has been a non-signatory member state to the International Centre for Settlement of Disputes (ICSID) Convention. In 2020 the Parliament ratified the Convention on The Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (commonly known as the New York Convention).

  • Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The constitution and the investment law both guarantee the right of any investor to lodge complaints related to his/her investment with the appropriate investment agency. If he/she has a grievance against a legal or regulatory decision, he/she can appeal to the investment board or to the respective regional agency, as appropriate. According to the new investment law, the investment dispute between the state and foreign investor can be resolved either through the courts or via arbitration, with the precondition of government agreement for resolution via the latter. Additionally, a dispute that arises between a foreign investor and the state may be settled based on the relevant bilateral investment treaty.

Due to an overloaded court system, dispute resolution can last for years. According to the 2020 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, it takes on average 530 days to enforce contracts through the courts.

  • International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Arbitration has become a widely used means of dispute settlement among the business community as the Ethiopian civil code recognizes Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms as a means of dispute resolution. The Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce has an Arbitration Center to assist with arbitration. Subsequent to Ethiopia’s ratification of the New York Convention, local courts now must automatically recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards from a New York Convention member state country. There are no publicly available statistics that indicate a bias in the courts towards state-owned enterprises (SOEs) as pertains to investment/commercial disputes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Ethiopian Commercial Code (Book V) outlines bankruptcy provisions and proceedings and establishes a court system that has jurisdiction over bankruptcy proceedings. The primary purpose of the law is to protect creditors, equity shareholders, and other contractors. Bankruptcy is not criminalized. In practice, there is limited application of bankruptcy procedures due to lack of knowledge on the part of the private sector.

According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report, Ethiopia stands at 149 in the ranking of 190 economies with respect to resolving insolvency. Ethiopia’s score on the strength of insolvency framework index is 5.0. (Note: The index ranges from zero to 16, with higher values indicating insolvency legislation that is better designed for rehabilitating viable firms and liquidating nonviable ones.)

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Ethiopia is currently drafting updated investment regulations that are expected to outline detailed incentives for investors. According to the Investment Regulation 270/2012 and the 2014 amendment, however, new investors in manufacturing, agro-processing, and selected agricultural products are entitled to income tax exemptions ranging from two to five years, depending on the location of the investment. Any investor who produces for export or supplies to an exporter, or who exports at least 60 percent of his products or services, is entitled to an additional two years of income tax exemption.

An investor who establishes a new enterprise in less prosperous areas shall be entitled to an income tax deduction of 30 percent for three consecutive years after the expiry of the regular income tax exemption period. These areas include Gambella Region; Benishangul/Gumuz Region; Afar Region (except in areas within 15 kilometers from each bank of the Awash River); Somali Region; Guji and Borena Zones of Oromia; South Omo Zone, Segen Zone, Bench Maji Zone, Sheka Zone, Dawro Zone, Kaffa Zone, Basketo Woreda, and Konta Special Woreda, all of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The Industrial Park Proclamation 886/2015 mandates that the Ethiopian Industrial Parks Corporation develop and administer industrial parks under the auspices of government ownership. The law designates industrial parks as duty-free zones, and domestic as well as foreign operators in the parks are exempt from income tax for up to 10 years. Investors operating in parks are also exempt from duties and other taxes on the import of capital goods, construction materials, and raw materials for production of export commodities and vehicles.

An investor who operates in a designated Industrial Development Zone in or near Addis Ababa is entitled to two years of income tax exemptions, and four more years of income tax exemption if the investment is made in an industrial park in other areas, provided 80 percent or more of production is for export or constitutes input for an exporter.

Industrial Parks can be developed by either government or private developers. In practice, the majority have been developed by the Ethiopian government with Chinese financing. The government has announced plans to construct a total of 17 industrial parks in various locations around the country. As of April, operational industrial parks include Hawassa Industrial Park, Bole Lemi Indusrtial Park, Eastern Industrial Zone, George Shoe Ethiopia, Mekele Industrial Park, Kombolcha Industrial Park, Adama Industrial Park, and Debre Berhan Industrial Park. The government also has plans for four agro-industrial processing parks to be located at strategic sites across the country, though none have yet been completed.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Ethiopia does not formally impose performance requirements on foreign investors, though investors in Ethiopia routinely encounter business visa delays and onerous paperwork requirements. In addition, investors are required to allocate a minimum of 200,000 U.S. dollars per investment project, with the requirement being lowered to 100,000 U.S. dollars for architectural or engineering projects. For most joint investments with a domestic partner, the investment requirement is lowered to 150,000 U.S. dollars.

The minimum capital requirement is waived if the foreign investor reinvests profits or dividends generated from an existing enterprise in any investment area open for foreign investors; and if a foreign investor purchases a portion or the entirety of an existing enterprise owned by another foreign investor. There are no forced localization or data storage requirements for private investors. Local content in terms of hiring, products, and services is strongly encouraged but not required. The EIC, in collaboration with the Immigration, Nationality and Vital Events Agency, facilitates visas and work permits for investors and expatriate workers. The government typically issues three to five year multiple entry visas for foreign investors, senior management, and board members.

In the absence of qualified local personnel, an investor can employ foreigners in positions of higher management (chief executive officer, chief operation officer, and chief financial officer), supervisor, trainers, and other technical professionals. While the investor is in theory supposed to replace expatriates with Ethiopian employees within a limited period of time, in practice many qualified expatriates have worked in Ethiopia for years. Although not a legal requirement, in joint ventures with state-owned enterprises investors report informal requirements of up to 30 percent domestic content in goods and/or technology.

EthioTelecom is the sole telecommunications service provider in Ethiopia. The government in 2018 announced plans to liberalize the telecommunications sector and open the market to foreign service providers and foreign telecom infrastructure companies. Ethiopia approved a bill in August of 2019 which established a regulatory agency for communication services that will regulate the telecommunications sector and develop rules and guidelines for foreign investment. The communications regulator has also released three of 12 planned telecommunications directives, which provide detailed regulatory guidance for the liberalization. Proclamation No. 808/2013 mandates that the Information Network Security Agency (INSA) control the import and export of information technology, build an information technology testing and evaluation laboratory center, and regulate cryptographic products and their transactions.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The constitution recognizes and protects ownership of private property, however all land in Ethiopia belongs to “the people” and is administered by the government. Private ownership does not exist, but land-use rights have been registered in most populated areas. As land is public property, it cannot be mortgaged. Confusion with respect to the registration of urban land-use rights, particularly in Addis Ababa, is common. Allegations of corruption in the allocation of urban land to private investors by government agencies are a major source of popular discontent. The government retains the right to expropriate land for the common good, which it defines as including expropriation for commercial farms, industrial zones, and infrastructure development. While the government claims to allocate only sparsely settled or empty land to investors, some people have been resettled. In particular, traditional grazing land has often been defined as empty and expropriated, leading to resentment, protests and, in some cases, conflict. In addition, leasehold regulations vary in form and practice by region. Successful investors in Ethiopia conduct thorough due diligence on land titles at both regional and federal levels, and conduct consultations with local communities regarding the proposed use of the land before investing.

We encourage potential investors to ensure their needs are communicated clearly to the host government. It is important for investors to understand who had land-use rights preceding them, and to research the attitude of local communities to an investor’s use of that land, particularly in the region of Oromia, where conflict between international investors and local communities has occurred.

The 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report has ranked Ethiopia 142 out of 190 economies in registering property, as it takes on average 52 days to register property.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) oversees intellectual property rights (IPR) issues. Ethiopia is has not completed its WTO accession and consequently is not party to the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Ethiopia is not yet a signatory to a number of major IPR treaties, such as the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty, the Berne Convention for Literary and Artistic Works, the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks, or the Patent Cooperation Treaty. Ethiopia recently ratified the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled. The government has expressed its intention to accede to the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, and the Madrid Protocol. EIPO is primarily tasked with protecting Ethiopian patents and copyrights and fighting software piracy. Historically, however, the EIPO has struggled with a lack of qualified staff and small budgets; further, the institution does not have law enforcement authority. Abuse of U.S. trademarks is rampant, particularly in the hospitality and retail sectors. The government does not publicly track counterfeit goods seizures, and no estimates are available. Ethiopia is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

EIPO contact and office information is available at http://www.eipo.gov.et/ 

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles  from this page: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=ET 

http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=ET 

Embassy POC: Economic Officer, USEmbassyPolEconExternal@state.gov

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Ethiopia has a limited and undeveloped financial sector, and investment is largely closed off to foreign firms. Liquidity at many banks is limited, and commercial banks often require 100 percent collateral, making access to credit one of the greatest hindrances to growth in the country. Ethiopia has the largest economy in Africa without a securities market, and sales/purchases of debt are heavily regulated.

The IMF, as part of its Extended Credit Facility and Extended Fund Facility, in December of 2019 approved a three-year, 2.9 billion U.S. dollar program to support Ethiopia’s economic reform agenda. The program seeks to reduce public sector borrowing, rein in inflation, and reform the exchange rate regime. In preparation for the program, Ethiopia rescheduled much of its external debt with significant bilateral lenders.

The Ethiopian government has announced, as part of its overall economic reform effort, its intention to liberalize the financial sector. The government has already made good progress by allowing non-financial Ethiopian firms to participate in mobile money activities, introducing Treasury-bill auctions with market pricing, and reducing forced lending to the government on the part of the commercial banks. Still, the creation of a stock market and the fuller participation of foreign financial firms in the sector likely remain years away.

The NBE began offering, in December of 2019, a limited number of 28-day and 91-day Treasury bills at market-determined interest rates. The move was part of an effort to expand the NBE’s monetary policy tools and finance the government in a more sustainable way. Previously, the NBE had only sold Treasury bills at below-market interest rates, and the only buyers were public sector enterprises, primarily the Public Social Security Agency and the Development Bank of Ethiopia.

Ethiopia issued its first Eurobond in December of 2014, raising 1 billion U.S. dollars at a rate of 6.625 percent. The 10-year bond was oversubscribed, indicating continued market interest in high-growth sub-Saharan African markets. According to the Ministry of Finance, the bond proceeds are being used to finance industrial parks, the sugar industry, and power transmission infrastructure. Due to its increasing external debt load and the terms of its IMF program, the Ethiopian government has committed to refrain from non-concessional financing for new projects and to shift ongoing projects to concessional financing when possible.

The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), launched in 2008, trades commodities such as coffee, sesame seeds, maize, wheat, mung beans, chickpeas, soybeans, and green beans. The government launched ECX to increase transparency in commodity pricing, alleviate food shortages, and encourage the commercialization of agriculture. Critics allege that ECX policies and pricing structures are inefficient compared to direct sales at prevailing market rates, triggering an amendment to the ECX law in July 2017 that eliminated a number of criticized regulations, and permitted the trading of financial instruments at a future date.

Money and Banking System

Ethiopia has 18 commercial banks, two of which are state-owned banks, and 16 of which are privately owned banks. The Development Bank of Ethiopia, a state-owned bank, provides loans to investors in priority sectors, notably agriculture and manufacturing. By regional standards, the 16 private commercial banks are not large (either by total assets or total lending), and their service offerings are not sophisticated. Mobile money and digital finance, for instance, remain limited in Ethiopia. Foreign banks are not permitted to provide financial services in Ethiopia, however, since April 2007, Ethiopia has allowed some foreign banks to open liaison offices in Addis Ababa to facilitate credit to companies from their countries of origins. Chinese, German, Kenyan, Turkish, and South African banks have opened liaison offices in Ethiopia, but the market remains completely closed to foreign retail banks. Foreigners of Ethiopian origin are now allowed to hold shares in financial institutions.

Based on recently made available data, the state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia mobilizes more than 60 percent of total bank deposits, bank loans, and foreign exchange. The NBE controls the bank’s minimum deposit rate, which now stands at 7 percent, while loan interest rates are allowed to float. Real deposit interest rates have been negative in recent years, mainly due to inflation. The government of Ethiopia in November of 2019 rescinded the so-called “27 percent Rule,” which mandated forced, below inflation rate lending by the commercial banks to the NBE.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

All foreign currency transactions must be approved by the NBE. Ethiopia’s national currency (the Ethiopian birr) is not freely convertible. The GOE removed in September 2018 the limit on holding foreign currency accounts faced by non-resident Ethiopians and non-resident foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin.

Foreign exchange reserves started to become depleted in 2012 and have remained at critically low levels since then. At present, gross reserves stand at about 4 billion U.S. dollars, covering approximately 2 months of imports. According to the IMF, heavy government infrastructure investment, along with debt servicing and a large trade imbalance, have all fueled the intense demand for foreign exchange. In addition, the decrease in foreign exchange reserves has been exacerbated by weaker-than-expected earnings from coffee exports and low international commodity prices for other important exports such as oil seeds. Businesses encounter delays of six months to two years in obtaining foreign exchange, and they must deposit the full equivalent in Ethiopian birr in their accounts to begin the process to obtain foreign exchange. Slowdowns in manufacturing due to foreign exchange shortages are common, and high-profile local businesses have closed their doors altogether due to the inability to import required goods in a timely fashion.

Due to the foreign exchange shortage, companies have experienced delays of up to two years in the repatriation of larger volumes of profits. Local sourcing of inputs and partnering with export-oriented partners are strategies employed by the private sector to address the foreign exchange shortage, but access to foreign exchange remains a problem that limits growth, interferes with maintenance and spare parts replacement, and inhibits imports of adequate raw materials.

The foreign exchange shortage distorts the economy in a number of other ways: it fuels the contraband trade through Somaliland because the Ethiopian birr is an unofficial currency there and can be used for the purchase of products from around the world. Exporters, who have priority access to foreign exchange, sell their allocations to importers at inflated rates, creating a black-market for dollars that is roughly 30 to 40 percent over the official rate. Other exporters use their foreign exchange earnings to import consumer goods with high margins, rather than re-investing profits in their core businesses. Meanwhile, the lack of access to foreign exchange impacts the ability of American citizens living in Ethiopia to pay their taxes, or for students to pay school fees abroad.

The Ethiopian birr has depreciated significantly against the U.S. dollar over the past ten years, primarily through a series of controlled steps, including a 20 percent devaluation in September 2010 and a 15 percent devaluation in October 2017. The NBE increased the devaluation rate of the Ethiopian birr starting in November of 2019, and it has continued to be devalued at a more rapid rate since that time, as per the terms of the IMF program. The official exchange rate was approximately 33.60 Ethiopian birr per dollar as of May 2020. The illegal parallel market exchange rate for the same time was approximately 42 Ethiopian birr per dollar.

Following the 15 percent devaluation of the Ethiopian birr, the NBE increased the minimum saving interest rate from four percent to seven percent, and limited the outstanding loan growth rate in commercial banks to 16.5 percent, which limits their loan provision for businesses other than those in the export and manufacturing sectors. Moreover, banks were instructed to transfer 30 percent of their foreign exchange earnings to the account of NBE so the regulator can use the foreign exchange to meet the strategic needs of the country, including payments to procure petroleum, wheat, and sugar, as well as to cover transportation costs of imported items.

Ethiopia’s Financial Intelligence Unit monitors suspicious currency transfers, including large transactions exceeding 200,000 Ethiopian birr (roughly equivalent to U.S. reporting requirements for currency transfers exceeding 10,000 U.S. dollars). Ethiopia citizens are not allowed to hold or open an account in foreign exchange. Ethiopian residents entering the country from abroad should declare their foreign currency in excess of 1,000 U.S. dollars and non-residents in excess of 3,000 U.S. dollars. Residents are not allowed to hold foreign currency for more than 30 days after acquisition. A maximum of 1000 Ethiopian birr in cash can be carried out of the country.

Remittance Policies

Ethiopia’s Investment Proclamation allows all registered foreign investors, whether or not they receive incentives, to remit profits and dividends, principal and interest on foreign loans, and fees related to technology transfer. Foreign investors may remit proceeds from the sale or liquidation of assets, from the transfer of shares or of partial ownership of an enterprise, and funds required for debt servicing or other international payments. The right of expatriate employees to remit their salaries is granted by NBE foreign exchange regulations. In practice, however, foreign companies and individuals have experienced difficulties obtaining foreign currency to remit dividends, profits, or salaries.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Ethiopia has no sovereign wealth funds.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) dominate major sectors of the economy. There is a state monopoly or state dominance in telecommunications, power, banking, insurance, air transport, shipping, railway, industrial parks, and petroleum importing. State-owned enterprises have considerable advantages over private firms, including priority access to credit and customs clearances. While there are no conclusive reports of credit preference for these entities, there are indications that they receive incentives, such as priority foreign exchange allocation, preferences in government tenders, and marketing assistance. Ethiopia does not publish financial data for most state-owned enterprises, but Ethiopian Airlines and the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia have transparent accounts.

Ethiopia is not a member to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and does not adhere to the guidelines on corporate governance of SOEs. Corporate governance of SOEs is structured and monitored by a board of directors composed of senior government officials and politically-affiliated individuals, but there is a lack of transparency in the structure of SOEs.

Privatization Program

The government in July of 2018 announced its intention to privatize a minority share of Ethiopian Airlines, EthioTelecom, Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics Service Enterprise, and power generation projects, and to fully privatize sugar projects, railways, and industrial parks. The privatization program will be implemented through public tenders and will be open to local and foreign investors. The government has prioritized privatizations in the telecommunications and sugar sectors, and in those sectors has begun asset valuations of the enterprises, standardization of the financial reports, and establishment of modernized legal and regulatory frameworks. The GOE has also reached out to potential investors and has begun creating tender and bidding documents that will guide the privatizations. To broaden the role and participation of the private sector in the economy, and to implement the privatization program in an open and transparent manner, in December 2019, the Council of Ministers approved a new privatization law, which is awaiting approval by the parliament.

The government has sold more than 370 public enterprises since 1995, mainly small companies in the trade and service sectors, most of which were nationalized by the Derg military regime in the 1970s. Currently, twenty-two SOEs are under the Public Enterprise, Assets, and Administration Agency.

9. Corruption

The Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC) is charged with preventing corruption and is accountable to the Office of the Prime Minister. The Commission provides ethics training and education to prevent corruption. The Federal Police Commission is responsible for investigating corruption crimes and the Federal Attorney General handles corruption prosecutions.

The Attorney General’s Office opened in February a new and consolidated Anti-Corruption Directorate to recover stolen assets and fight corruption. The Directorate is empowered to enter into mutual legal assistance treaties (MLAT’s) and otherwise coordinate with foreign nations to fight corruption.

The Federal Police is mandated with investigating corruption crimes committed by public officials as well as “Public Organizations.” The latter are defined as any organ in the private sector that administers money, property, or any other resources for public purposes. Examples of such organizations include share companies, real estate agencies, banks, insurance companies, cooperatives, labor unions, professional associations, and others.

Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption, rated Ethiopia’s corruption at 37 (the score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of zero to 100, with the former indicating highly corrupt and the latter indicating very clean). Its comparative rank in 2019 was 96 out of 180 countries, an improvement from its rank of 114 out of 180 countries in 2018. The American Chamber of Commerce in Ethiopia recently polled its members and asked what the leading business climate challenges were; transparency and governance ranked as the 4th leading business climate challenge, ahead of licensing and registration and public procurement.

Ethiopian and foreign businesses routinely encounter corruption in tax collection, customs clearance, and land administration. Many past procurement deals for major government contracts, especially in the power generation, telecommunications, and construction sectors were widely viewed as corrupt.

PM Abiy Ahmed has launched a corruption clean-up that has resulted in several hundred arrests. In connection with the embezzlement schemes involving hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars, particularly with government procurement irregularities, the government arrested and charged in September 2018 over 40 mid- and senior-level Metal Engineering Technology Corporation (METEC) officials. In addition, the PM transferred the management of large government projects from METEC (which is widely viewed by the public as corrupt) to other government organizations. Similarly, the government arrested 59 officials and business people suspected of corruption in April of 2019. The officials are primarily from the following government institutions: Public Procurement & Property Disposal Service, Food & Drug Administration Agency, Pharmaceuticals Fund & Supply Agency, and the Ethiopian Water Works Construction Enterprise. A former Communications Minister was charged with corruption and mismanagement of public companies in May; he was sentenced to six years in jail.

Ethiopia is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Ethiopia is a signatory to the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. Ethiopia is also member of the East African Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities. Ethiopia signed the UN Anticorruption Convention in 2003, which was eventually ratified in November 2007. It is a criminal offense to give or receive bribes, and bribes are not tax deductible.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contacts at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:

Federal Police Commission
Addis Ababa +251 11 861-9595
+251 11 861-9595

Contact at “watchdog” organization:

Transparency Ethiopia
Addis Ababa +251 11 827-9746
+251 11 827-9746
Email: TiratEthiopia@gmail.com

10. Political and Security Environment

Ethnic conflict — often sparked by historical grievances or resource competition, including land disputes — has resulted in varying levels of violence across Ethiopia. According to surveys and research conducted by the International Organization for Migration, the number of internally displaced persons has dropped from its peak last year of 3.2 million, but remains at 1.8 million people nationwide. 1.17 million of those are displaced due to conflict, with the remainder being displaced due to climactic reasons. Insecurity, often driven by ethnic tensions, persists in many areas, notably Gedeo, West Guji, and other areas of southern and western Oromia and eastern SNNP, and in the Hararges on the border of the Somali Region. In the four Wellega Zones in Western Oromia, the Oromo Liberation Army and other illegal armed groups continue to execute attacks on the public and local government officials, violence which occasionally spills over into other parts of Oromia. Regional security forces and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) have been engaged in combatting these groups. In Amhara Region, there have been incidents of violence along a main road between Gondar and Bahir Dar. In early April, the government deployed the ENDF to the area around Gondar in Amhara Region to control the activities of what the Gondar City Administration identified as an illegal armed group in the area. Disputed territory in the north between the Amhara and Tigray regions is a continuing flash point.

Under PM Abiy’s administration, political space in Ethiopia has opened dramatically. Constitutional rights, including freedoms of assembly and expression, are now widely supported at the level of the federal government, though the protection of these rights remains uneven at regional and local levels. Most political prisoners have been released, though there have been some concerning reports of short-term detentions. Opposition parties usually operate freely, although regional and local authorities have occasionally employed politically-motivated procedural roadblocks to hinder opposition parties’ efforts to hold meetings or other party activities. The media has become significantly more free following reforms instituted by PM Abiy Ahmed. Still, journalism in the country remains undeveloped, social media is often rife with unfounded rumors, and government officials occasionally react with heavy-handedness, especially to news they feel might spur social unrest. The Parliament is currently considering potential dates in 2021 for the national and regional parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for May of 2020, which were delayed due to technical challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic. The electoral and pre-electoral period may represent a potential catalyst for unrest.

PM Abiy has also initiated a process of modernization, de-politicization, professionalization, and civilian accountability in the security services. Still, there are certain geographic areas where the security situation remains fraught due to clashes between illegal armed groups and security forces. Though foreigners are rarely targeted, spillover ethnic violence has occasionally resulted in the death of foreigners.

The new administration has also increased regional autonomy. Successful American investors tell us that understanding the different business climates across the regions — there are different regional taxation regimes, unique ethnic conflicts, varying levels of reception towards profit-making companies, and contrasting approaches to policing and security issues — is key to successfully investing in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian Parliament on April 10 approved a five-month long State of Emergency (SOE) focused on COVID-19 mitigation. Actions mandated under the SOE include discontinuation of meetings involving more than four people; closure of entertainment and sports centers; requirements that restaurants distance tables and seating; and limitations on the number of passengers in public transport vehicles.  Social distancing is required, facemasks are mandatory in public, and handshakes are prohibited.  Other restrictions included limitations on prison visits (except to deliver food) and land border closures, with the exception of cargo transportation.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

More than 80 percent of Ethiopians work in agriculture. The second-most important employer is the government. If the population continues to grow at the current rate of 2.5 percent, Ethiopia will have more than 138 million people by 2030, only 27 percent of whom will live in urban areas. Ethiopia’s youth, between the ages of 15 and 29, account for 30 percent of the population; 70 million Ethiopians are under the age of 30. The youth unemployment rate in urban settings is over 25 percent (CSA, 2018). The gender gap in employment is high; the unemployment rate among young women in urban areas is over 30 percent, compared with 19 percent for young men. Young women are three times more likely to be neither in employment, education, or training (NEET). According to International Labor Organization (ILO) statistics, Ethiopia’s youth NEET accounts for 10.5 percent of the youth population (5.7 percent for men, 15.1 percent for women).

Although labor remains readily available and inexpensive in Ethiopia, skilled manpower is scarce. Approximately 50 percent of Ethiopians over the age of 15 are illiterate, according to UNESCO’s definition. The primary school enrollment rate (age 7 to 14), on the other hand, has now reached 94 percent. To increase the skilled labor force, the GOE has undertaken a rapid expansion of the university system in the last 20 years, increasing the number of higher public education institutions from three to 49. It has adopted an education policy that requires 70 percent of public university students to study science, engineering, or technology subjects, but many students are not well prepared by secondary school to study in those fields.

Ethiopia has ratified all eight core International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions. The Ethiopian Criminal Code and the 2019 Labor Proclamation both outlaw work specified as hazardous by ILO conventions. There is no national minimum wage, and public sector employees – the largest group of wage earners – earned a monthly minimum wage of 420 Ethiopian birr (approximately 19 U.S. dollars).

Labor unions and confederations are separate entities from the government, and are subject to a great deal of regulation and direct pressure/involvement from the government. The Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU) comprises well over two hundred thousand members in enterprise-based unions in a variety of sectors, but there is no formal requirement for unions to join the CETU. Much of the labor force remains in small-scale agriculture/industry and thus is not covered by enterprise unions. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs’ Directorate of Harmonious Industrial Relations provides labor dispute resolution services, but the caseload and the directorate’s capacity are low.

Employers offering contracted employment are required to provide severance pay. The vast majority of employees that work in small-scale agriculture and in many micro and small enterprises, however, do so without a contract. Large labor surpluses and lax labor law enforcement allow employers to retain employees without contracts that ensure strong worker protections.

Although the government actively engages with the international community to combat child labor and human trafficking, which includes forced/coerced labor, both remain widespread in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Parliament ratified ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor in May 2003. While not a pressing issue in the formal economy, child labor is common in the informal sector, including construction, agriculture, textiles, manufacturing, mining, and domestic work. Child labor is present in both urban and rural areas. According to the ILO International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor, more than 50 percent of Ethiopia’s child laborers work in the agriculture sector. Ethiopian traditional woven textiles are included on the U.S. government’s Executive Order 13126 list of goods that have been known to be produced by forced or indentured child labor. Both NGO and Ethiopian government sources concluded that goods produced (in the agricultural sector and traditional weaving industry in particular) via child labor are largely intended for domestic consumption, and not slated for export. Employers are prohibited from hiring children under the age of 15, and the minimum age is 18 for certain types of hazardous work. Ethiopia has a National Action Plan (NAP) for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor, which it is currently updating. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs conducts tens of thousands of targeted inspections on occupational safety and standards, although they are not legally empowered to assess fines for infractions and they do not make this data publicly available. Due to the shortage of labor inspectors and other enforcement resources, and the fact that inspectors do not inspect informal work sites, most child labor goes unreported.

In April 2020, the Ethiopian Parliament approved and published in the federal gazette the new Anti-Human Trafficking and Smuggling Criminal Proclamation 909/2019. The new legislation breaks down silos between stakeholder agencies, provides clear guidelines regarding how anti-trafficking efforts are funded, and provides clear, commensurate penalties for those involved in trafficking.

The Overseas Labor Proclamation legalizes and regulates the employment of Ethiopians in foreign countries. The law does not disallow Ethiopians from migrating to other countries to seek work, but it imposes requirements that are lengthy and expensive, making irregular migration more attractive for many. The main driver for irregular migration is economic incentives. Although trafficking remains problematic, experts report that the GOE has increasingly shown the political will to address this issue.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD) 2018/19 $93.3 B 2018 $84.36B www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2019 $676 2018 N/A http://www.investethiopia.gov.et/ 
Host country’s FDI in the United States (M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_
data.htm
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2018/19 11.3% 2018 26.4% www.worldbank.org/en/country 

*National Bank of Ethiopia and Ethiopian Investment Commission

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars*, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $10,496 100% Total Outward*** N/A N/A
China $3,266 31% N/A N/A N/A
Saudi Arabia $1,443 14% N/A N/A N/A
Turkey $849 8% N/A N/A N/A
United States $676 7% N/A N/A N/A
India $589 6% N/A N/A N/A
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Data regarding inward direct investment are not available for Ethiopia via IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS) site (http://data.imf.org/CDIS) , the above data is from the Ethiopian Investment Commission. *The yearly average exchange rate is used for each year from 1992-2018 to convert the amount of FDI from domestic currency into U.S. dollars.

*The yearly average exchange rate is used for each year from 1992-2018 to convert the amount of FDI from domestic currency into U.S. dollars. *** Total Outward investment data are not available.

*** Total Outward investment data are not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data regarding the equity/debt breakdown of portfolio investment assets are not available for Ethiopia via the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) and are not available for external publication from the Government of Ethiopia.

Gabon

Executive Summary

Gabon is a historically stable country located in a volatile region of the world and has significant economic advantages:  a small population (roughly 2 million), an abundance of natural resources, and a strategic location along the Gulf of Guinea.  After taking office in 2009, President Ali Bongo Ondimba introduced reforms to diversify Gabon’s economy away from oil and from traditional investment partners and to position Gabon as an emerging economy.  Gabon promotes foreign investment across a range of sectors, particularly in the oil and gas, infrastructure, timber, ecotourism, and mining sectors.  Despite these efforts, Gabon’s economy remains dependent on revenue generated by the exportation of hydrocarbons.  Gabon’s commercial ties with France remain very strong, but the government continues to seek to diversify its sources of investment by courting investors from the rest of the world.  In 2018, the Gabonese government lifted exit visa requirements for U.S. citizens.

Although Gabon is taking steps towards making the country a more attractive destination for foreign investment, it remains a difficult place to do business, especially without in-country or francophone experience.  Foreign firms are active in the country, particularly in the extractive industries, but the difficulty involved in establishing a new business and the time it takes to finalize deals are impediments to increased U.S. private sector investment.  In order to attract new investment into the country, Gabon adopted a new hydrocarbon code and a new Mining code in July, 2019. These laws will provide a modernized basis for the legal, institutional, technical, economic, customs and tax regimes of the Gabonese hydrocarbons and mining sector.

Corruption and lack of transparency remain an impediment to investment.   The Gabonese government inconsistently applies customs regulations. Economic conditions in Gabon weakened throughout 2017, 2018, and 2019.  In addition to budget constraints due to low oil prices, the government lacks fiscal transparency.  Many international companies, including U.S. firms, continue to have difficulties collecting timely payments from the Gabonese government, and some companies in the oil sector have closed down operations.  To address fiscal imbalances, Gabon signed in June of 2017 a three-year Extended Fund Facility arrangement of $642 million with the IMF, which has now expired.  While opportunities exist, the investment climate in Gabon will remain difficult as the government must have the political will to make prudent decisions.  In 2019, higher oil prices, new investments in the oil sector and export processing zones, and the increasing manganese production helped support a modest recovery of economic growth of about 2,8 percent (according to the IMF estimates).

Table 1
Measure Year Index/ Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 123 of 198 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2020 169 of 190 www.doingbusiness.org/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2019 USD
–172
https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/index.cfm
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 7210 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Gabon’s 1998 investment code conforms to Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) investment regulations and provides the same rights to foreign companies operating in Gabon as to domestic firms.  Businesses are protected from expropriation or nationalization without appropriate compensation, as determined by an independent third party.  Certain sectors, such as mining, forestry, petroleum, agriculture, and tourism have special specific investment codes, which encourage investment through customs and tax incentives. Since June 2019 Gabon, through the Investment Promotion Agency, started work on a new investment code.  The current Minister of Investment Promotion Carmen Nadaot has established a team to work on how to improve Gabon’s rank in the “Ease of Doing Business” report.

Gabon established the Investment Promotion Agency (ANPI-Gabon) with the assistance of the World Bank in April 2014.  The ANPI-Gabon’s mission is to promote investments and exports, support small and medium-sized enterprises, manage public-private partnerships, and help companies to get established.  The agency is designed to act as the gateway for investment into the country and reduce administrative procedures, costs, and waiting periods.

Gabonese authorities have made efforts to prioritize investment.  On March 7, 2017, the High Council for Investment was established to promote investment and boost the economy.  This body provides a platform for dialogue between the public and private sectors, and its main objectives are to improve the economy and create jobs.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign ownership or control, except for discrete activities customarily reserved for the state, including military and paramilitary activities.

Foreign investors are largely treated in the same manner as their Gabonese counterparts regarding the purchase of real estate, negotiation of licenses, and entering into commercial agreements.  There is no general requirement for local participation in investments (see local labor requirements below).  Many businesses find it useful to have a local partner who can help navigate the subjective aspects of the business environment. 

Gabon Oil Company, a state-owned enterprise created in 2011, has an automatic right to purchase up to a 15 percent share in any hydrocarbon contract at market price.

The standard practice is for the Gabonese Presidency to review foreign investment contracts after ministerial-level negotiations are completed.  In certain cases, the Presidency has appeared to intervene to keep negotiations stalled at the ministerial level on track to a mutually satisfactory solution.  The Presidency takes an active interest in meeting with investors.  The lack of a standardized procedure for new entrants to negotiate deals with the government can lead to confusion and time-consuming negotiations.  Moreover, the centralization of decision-making by a few senior officials who are exceedingly busy can delay the process.  As a result, new entrants often find the process of finalizing deals time-consuming and difficult to navigate.

U.S. investors are not disadvantaged by ownership or control mechanisms, sector restrictions, or investment screening mechanisms.  However, French companies continue to dominate major sectors in Gabon.  Lack of French language skills can put American or non-Francophone firms at a disadvantage.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Gabon has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995.  In June 2013, Gabon conducted an investment policy review with the WTO.  The government has not conducted any investment policy reviews through the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in the past four years.

Business Facilitation

The government encourages investments in Gabon’s sectors that contribute the greatest share to GNP, including oil and gas, mining, and timber through customs and tax incentives.  For example, oil and mining companies are exempt from customs duties on imported working equipment.  The Tourism Investment Code, enacted in 2000, provides tax incentives to foreign tourism investors during the first eight years of operation.  A special economic zone (SEZ) located at Nkok offers tax incentives to industrial investors; the government may increase the number of special economic zones in a move to attract investment.

ANPI-Gabon houses more than 20 public and private agencies, including the Chamber of Commerce, National Social Security Fund (CNSS), and National Health Insurance and Social Security (CNAMGS).  ANPI-Gabon aims to attract domestic and international investors through improved methods of approving and licensing procedures and support for public-private dialogue.  It has a single window registration process that allows domestic and foreign investors to register their business in 48 hours.  There are no special mechanisms for equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in Gabon.

ANPI-Gabon’s website address is:
https://www.investingabon.ga/ 

Outward Investment

One of ANPI-Gabon’s primary goals is to promote outward investments and exports.  The Gabonese government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Government policies and laws often do not establish clear rules of the game, and foreign firms can have difficulty navigating the bureaucracy.  Despite reform efforts, hurdles and red tape remain, especially at the lower and mid-levels of the ministries.  Lack of transparency in administrative processes and lengthy bureaucratic delays occasionally raise questions for companies about fair treatment and the sanctity of contracts.

Rule-making and regulatory authority rests at the ministerial level.  There are no nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations that manage informal regulatory processes.  The government of Gabon has not exhibited any recent tendency to discriminate against U.S. investments, companies, or representatives.

The government does not publish proposed laws and regulations in draft form for public comment.  There are no centralized online locations where key regulatory actions, nor are their summaries published.  Key regulatory actions are published in the government’s printed Official Journal.  It is not uncommon for legislative proposals to be provided “off the record” to the press.

In 2015, Gabon implemented a recommendation from CEMAC to program its budget by objectives.  Despite improvements, Gabon still does not have a fully transparent budget. No new regulatory systems have been announced in the last year, and no new reforms have been implemented in the last year.  Regulations are developed by the relevant ministry concerned, and regulatory enforcement is controlled by individual ministries.  There are no instances of regulations being reviewed on the basis of scientific or data-driven assessments.

International Regulatory Considerations

Gabon is a member of CEMAC, along with Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Chad.  Gabon is also member of a larger economic community: The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).  Headquartered in Gabon, ECCAS has 11 members: Gabon, Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, and São Tomé and Príncipe.  Both CEMAC and ECCAS work to promote economic cooperation among members.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Gabon’s legal system is based on French Civil Law.  Regular courts handle commercial disputes in compliance with the Organization for Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).  Courts do not apply the law consistently, and delays are frequent in the judicial system.  Lack of transparency in administrative processes and lengthy bureaucratic delays call into question the country’s commitment to fair treatment and the sanctity of contracts.  Judicial capacity is weak, and many government contacts underscore the need for specialized training in technical issues such as money laundering and environmental crimes.  Foreign court and international arbitration decisions are accepted, but enforcement may be difficult.

Gabon has a written code of commercial law.  Gabon is affiliated with OHADA and has been a WTO member since January 1, 1995.

The judicial system is not independent from the executive branch.  Gabon’s judicial bodies are subject to political influence, creating uncertainty concerning fair treatment and the sanctity of contracts.  Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable and are adjudicated in the national court system.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Gabon’s 1998 investment code, which gives foreign companies operating in Gabon the same rights as domestic firms, allows foreign investors to choose freely from a wide selection of legal business structures, such as a private limited liability company or public limited liability company.  The distinctions arise primarily from the minimum capital requirements and the conditions under which shares may be re-sold.  Foreign investment in Gabon is subject to local law that is in many instances unsettled or unclear, and in certain cases, Gabonese law may require local majority ownership of businesses.  The state reserves the right to invest in the equity capital of ventures established in certain sectors (e.g., petroleum and mining).  There are no known systemic practices by private firms to restrict foreign investment, participation, or control.

ANPI-Gabon’s website contains some information on investing in Gabon: https://www.investingabon.ga

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Gabonese Law No. 5/89 of July 6, 1989 on Competition covers all aspects of competition and anti-trust (http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/details.jsp?id=8814 ).  The relevant ministry for a given dispute reviews transactions for competition-related concerns.

Expropriation and Compensation

Foreign firms established in Gabon operate on an equal legal basis with national companies. Businesses are protected from expropriation or nationalization without appropriate compensation, as determined by an independent third party.  The Gabonese government has not exhibited a tendency to discriminate against U.S. investments, companies, or representatives, nor have there been any indications or reports of incidences of indirect expropriation, such as through confiscatory tax regimes.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Gabon is a member state of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and a signatory to the 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention).  The 1965 Code of Civil Procedure provides for various means of enforcement of judgments (both foreign and domestic), depending on the nature of the decree or decision.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Gabon does not have a BIT with the United States.  Post is aware of one investment dispute involving a U.S. company.

In 2018, there was one case of a foreign arbitral award issued against the government.  In March 2018, the Société d’Energie et d’Eau du Gabon (SEEG), a subsidiary of the Veolia Group, filed a request for conciliation against Gabon at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).  Veolia and the Gabonese government signed an agreement to settle the case in February 2019.  Gabon agreed to buy Veolia’s 51 percent stake in SEEG and Veolia agreed to withdraw its arbitrage case once the agreement is finalized.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

No alternative dispute resolution options exist within Gabon.  Investment disputes are generally negotiated directly with the governmental entity involved.  There is no domestic arbitration body within the country.  Local courts recognize foreign arbitral awards, but enforcement may be difficult.

Post is not aware of any cases of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) being involved in investment disputes in the court system.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Gabon has a bankruptcy law, but it is not well developed.  In the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 (http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/134861574860295761/pdf/Doing-Business-2020-Comparing-Business-Regulation-in-190-Economies-Economy-Profile-of-Gabon.pdf), Gabon ranks 130 out of 190 economies on the ease of resolving insolvency.

Gabon’s bankruptcy law is based on OHADA regulations.  According to Section 3: Art 234-239 of OHADA’s Uniform Insolvency Act, creditors and equity shareholders, collectively or individually, may designate trustees to lodge complaints or claims to the commercial court.  These laws criminalize bankruptcy, and the OHADA regulations grant Gabon the discretion to apply its own remedies.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Some of Gabon’s main industries (oil and gas, mining, and timber) enjoy investment preferences through customs and tax incentives.  For example, oil and mining companies are exempt from customs duties on imported working equipment.  The government has implemented a new tourism code passed in February 2019 that provides tax exemptions to foreign tourism investors during the first eight years of operation.

President Ali Bongo Ondimba outlawed the export of unprocessed wood in 2009 to boost Gabon’s value-added wood products and increase domestic consumption.  The government and Singaporean-based firm Olam partnered to set up the SEZ at Nkok to process timber, and later expanded the mandate of the SEZ to open it to a broader range of businesses.  The SEZ provides a single-window business service to participants and provides new investors with beneficial fiscal incentives, including tax-free operation for 25 years, no customs duties on imported machinery and parts, and 100 percent repatriation of funds.

Gabon’s agriculture code of 2008 gives tax and customs incentives to agricultural operators, with a particular focus on small and medium-sized enterprises.  Land used for agriculture and farm exploitation is exonerated from fiscal tax.  All imported fertilizers and food for ranch exploitation are additionally exempt from customs duties.

As a member of CEMAC, Gabon’s trade with other member countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, and Equatorial Guinea) is subject to low or no customs duties.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Inaugurated in 2011, the special economic zone “SEZ” at Nkok is a public-private partnership between the government of Gabon and Arise, a recently formed company that plans to operate multiple similar industrial facilitation zones in the region based on expected success in Gabon  Singapore-based Olam completed the infrastructure phase for the Nkok SEZ, and multiple companies are actively operating there.  All SEZs offer tax and customs incentives to attract foreign investors.  In 2017, the Gabon Special Economic Zone (GSEZ) inaugurated the New Owendo International Port.  With a surface area of 18 hectares, the terminal has annual capacity of three million tons.  Gabon has plans to expand the number of SEZ facilities.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Employment and Investor Requirements

Firms are required to obtain authorization from the Ministry of Labor before hiring foreigners.  Foreign workers must obtain permits before working in Gabon, and the availability of a permit for a job depends on the availability of Gabonese nationals to fill the job in question.  The government may set quotas for the number of foreign workers.  When hiring workers, firms must give priority to Gabonese nationals.  If no Gabonese worker with the appropriate qualifications can be found, a firm is expected to hire a Gabonese to work along with the foreigner and, within a reasonable time, the Gabonese worker should replace that foreigner.  In late 2010, the Gabonese government agreed to National Organization of Petroleum Workers demands to limit foreign workers in the oil sector to 10 percent of a company’s workforce and to require that Gabonese occupy all executive posts.  Foreign firms maintain there is a lack of qualified Gabonese workers, requiring companies to often request authorization to hire foreigners.  Non-Gabonese Africans find it increasingly difficult to obtain employment authorization; non-African expatriates have less difficulty.  Chinese industry in Gabon historically imports its labor force and management.  However, these rules do not apply in Gabon’s SEZ at Nkok, a free trade zone, where investors can bring foreign workers.

Goods, Technology, and Data Treatment

There is no known policy requiring foreign investors to use domestic content.  There is no specific performance requirement imposed as a condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding investment.  There are no performance requirements for investors, nor are there any requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption.  There are no measurements that prevent or unduly impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the economy/country’s territory.  No mechanisms exist to enforce rules on local data storage.

Performance Requirements

There is no performance requirement imposed as a condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding investment.  There is no requirement for investors to buy local products, to export a certain percentage of output, or to invest in a specific geographical area.  There is no blanket requirement that nationals own shares in foreign investments in Gabon or that the share of foreign equity be reduced over time, or that technology be transferred on certain terms.  Nonetheless, many investors find it useful to have a local partner who can help navigate the business environment.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interest in property is recognized, and the recording system is relatively reliable.

There are no specific regulations for foreign and/or non-resident investors regarding land lease or acquisition.  Laws in Gabon for private and commercial property do not provide any restrictions on nationality for the possession and ownership of property in Gabon.

Almost 85 percent of Gabon’s area (and possibly 95 percent or more) is legally owned by the state.  Only 14,000 private land titles appear to have been registered in Gabon according to a 2012 report; most refer to tiny urban parcels.  Urban areas constitute no more than one percent of total land area.  The government created the National Agency for Urban Planning, Surveys and the Land Registry in 2011.

If property legally purchased is unoccupied by the owner, property ownership can revert to others.

Intellectual Property Rights

As a member of CEMAC and ECCAS, Gabon adheres to the laws of the African Intellectual Property Office (OAPI).  Based in Yaoundé, Cameroon, OAPI aims to ensure the publication and protection of patent rights, encourage creativity and transfer of technology, and create favorable conditions for research.  As a member of OAPI, Gabon acceded to a number of international agreements on patents and intellectual property (IP), including the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention and the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  As a member of the WTO, Gabon is also a signatory of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.  U.S. companies have not raised IP rights (IPR) concerns with the Embassy.

During the past year, no IP related laws or regulations were enacted concerning IPR protection.  Gabon does not report on seizures of counterfeit goods.  Gabon is not in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report.  Gabon is not listed in USTR’s Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see the WIPO country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Resources for Rights Holders

John McGuire
Economic Chief
U.S. Mission to Gabon and São Tomé & Príncipe
Tél: (241) 11.45.71.11
Librevilleeconomic@state.gov

For a list of local attorneys visit:  https://ga.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Gabonese government encourages and supports foreign portfolio investment, but Gabon’s capital markets are poorly developed.  Gabon has been home to the Central Africa Regional Stock Exchange, which began operation in August 2008.  However, the Bank of Central African States consolidated the Libreville Stock Exchange into a single CEMAC zone stock exchange based in Douala, Cameroon in July 2019.

There are no existing policies that facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.

On June 25, 1996, Gabon formally notified the IMF that they accepted the obligations of Article VIII, Sections 2, 3, and 4 of the IMF Articles of Agreement. Article VIII, Sections 2 and 3 provides that members shall not impose or engage in certain measures, namely restrictions on making payments and transfers for current international transactions, discriminatory currency arrangements, or multiple currency practices, without the approval of the Fund.

Foreign investors are authorized to get credit on the local market and have access to all the variety of credits instruments offered by the local banks, without any restrictions.

Money and Banking System

The banking sector is composed of seven commercial banks and is open to foreign institutions.  It is highly concentrated, with three of the largest banks accounting for 77 percent of all loans and deposits.  The lack of diversified economy has constrained bank growth in the country, given that the financing of the oil sector is largely undertaken by foreign international banks.  Access to banking services outside major cities is limited.

The IMF December 2019 report indicated the banking system’s capital adequacy ratio increased to 15.1 percent at end-March 2019, well above the CEMAC regulatory requirement of 10.5 percent. Banks remained relatively liquid and profitable. However, the significant decline in oil revenues and the associated cash constraints, and weak PFM practices have contributed to a rapid increase in domestic arrears.  Gabon estimated the net deposit money of banks in the third quarter of 2018 at 435 billion CFA (USD 725 million).

Gabon shares a common Central Bank (Bank of Central African States) and a common currency, the Communauté Financière Africaine (CFA) Franc, with the other countries of CEMAC.  The CFA is pegged to the euro.

Foreign banks are allowed to establish operations in the country.  There is one U.S. bank (Citigroup) present in Gabon.  There are no restrictions on a foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account.

Gabon’s financial system is shallow and financial intermediation levels remain low compared to other developing countries.  The government plays an important role in the financial sector.  It controls two of the nine banks and has a stake in most of the others.  Domestic credit is limited and expensive in Gabon.  The microfinance sector is only just starting to emerge in the country with few regulated microfinance institutions (MFIs) registered, covering only a limited segment of the population.  However, a substantial number of informal, unregulated MFIs are believed to operate in the country.  Banks, even though highly liquid, are extremely prudent in providing credit.  The majority of the population lacks access to any type of financial services, as even traditional informal mechanisms, prevalent in other African economies, are scarce.  In efforts to increase access to finance, Gabon has recently supported the establishment of a development and growth fund to support small and medium enterprises, as well as the creation of a specialized agency to promote private investment.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange Policies

The Bank of Central African States’ policy on foreign exchange requirements is in flux.  Major international companies have cited the foreign exchange regime, including currency localization requirements, as among the greatest risks to their investments.  Please contact the Embassy for additional information.

Gabon’s currency is CFA, which is convertible, subject to CEMAC restrictions, and tied to the Euro (EUR 1 equals CFA 656).  As of March 2020, 1 U.S. dollar is roughly equivalent to CFA 575 to 600.

Remittance Policies

There government recently changed investment remittance policies to tighten access to foreign exchange for investment remittances.  There is no time limitation on capital inflows or outflows.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Gabon created a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) in 2008.  Initially called the Fund for Future Generations (Fonds des Génerations Futures) and later the Sovereign Funds of the Gabonese Republic (Fonds Souverain de la République Gabonaise), the current iteration of Gabon’s SWF is referred to as Gabon’s Strategic Investment Funds (Fonds Gabonaise d’Investissements Stratégiques, or FGIS).  As of September 2013, the most recent FGIS report, the FGIS had a reported S2.4 billion in assets and was actively making investments.  The FGIS has the goals of allowing future generations to share income derived from the exploitation of Gabon’s natural resources, diversifying risk by investing surplus revenue, contributing to economic development, and encouraging investment in strategic sectors of Gabon’s economy.  Officially, 10 percent of Gabon’s annual oil revenues are dedicated to the sovereign wealth fund.  Details regarding the FGIS’ assets and investments are not publicly available.  Gabon’s sovereign wealth fund does not follow Santiago principles, nor does Gabon participate in the IMF-hosted International Working Group on SWFs.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Government-appointed civil servants manage Gabonese state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which work primarily in energy, extractive industries, and public utilities.  SOEs generally follow OECD guidelines on corporate governance.  Corporate governance of SOEs usually consists of a board of directors under the authority of the related ministry.  Each ministry chooses the members of the board.  The ministry does not allocate board seats specifically to government officials and may choose members from the general public.  The SOEs often consult with their ministry before undertaking any important business decisions.  The corresponding ministry in each sector prepares and submits the budget of each SOE each year.  Independent auditors examine the activities of SOEs each year, conducting the audit according to international standards.  Auditors do not publish their reports, but rather, submit them to the relevant ministry. There is no published list of SOEs.

There are no specific laws or rules that offer preferential treatment to SOEs.  However, although private enterprises may compete with public enterprises under open market access conditions, SOEs often have a competitive advantage in the industries in which they operate.

9. Corruption

Gabon has established a legal framework to fight corruption, yet enforcement remains limited and official impunity is a problem.  Corruption is rarely, if ever, prosecuted in Gabon.  Transparency International lists Gabon rank is 123 of 180 countries (2019 Transparency International report).  The Gabonese Penal Code criminalizes abuse of office, embezzlement, passive and active bribery, trading in influence, extortion, offering or accepting gifts, and other undue advantages in the public sector.  Private sector corruption is criminalized whenever a given company is related to a public entity.  Punishments for public officials found guilty of soliciting or accepting bribes include prison sentences ranging from two to 10 years, and a fine of CFA five million (USD 8,572).

The government established the Commission to Combat Illicit Enrichment (CNLCEI) in 2004.  In summer 2018, the CNLCEI’s five-year mandate was not renewed.   The CNLCEI regulations do not extend to family members of civil servants or to political parties.

The Gabonese government launched an anti-corruption campaign in January 2017 called Operation Mamba.  The first conviction occurred in April 2018 but was overturned on appeal in April 2019.  Few details of the investigations have been made public.  In 2019, the anti-corruption campaign Operation Scorpion generated eight arrests of senior Gabonese administration officials, accused of “siphoning off public funds and money laundering” through the end of October 2019. On December 13, 2019, the former presidential Chief of Staff Brice Laccruche was arrested and sent to prison.  Pro-government newspaper L’Union reported in November 2019 that more than 85 billion CFA ($142 million) has “evaporated” over the past two years from the funds of the Gabon Oil Company (GOC). Under Gabonese law, embezzlement of public funds is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 100 million CFA ($170,000).

There are no known laws or regulations to counter conflict of interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.  There is no information about action on the part of the government to encourage or require private companies to establish codes of conduct that prohibit bribery of public officials.  Some private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials.

Gabon is a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption and is a member of The Task Force on Money Laundering in Central Africa (Groupe d’action contre le blanchiment d’argent en Afrique Centrale, or GABAC).

No international or regional watchdog organizations operate in Gabon.  Local civil society lacks the capacity to play a significant role in highlighting cases of corruption.

Companies contend with a high risk of corruption when dealing with the Gabonese extractive industries.  Gabon has vast oil, manganese, and timber resources; however, contracting and licensing processes lack transparency.

Resources to Report Corruption

National Financial Investigations Agency
Tel: +241 0176 1773
Agence Nationale d’Investigation Financière
Immeuble Arambo, Boulevard Triomphal
BP:189
Libreville, Gabon
contact@anif.ga

10. Political and Security Environment

Violence related to politics is relatively rare in Gabon.  Elections, however, can lead to heightened tensions or erupt in violence.  The 2018 legislative and local elections took place without major incident.  Violence broke out on August 31, 2016, after the National Electoral Commission announced incumbent president Ali Bongo Ondimba defeated opponent Jean Ping in the August 27 presidential election by a margin of less than 2 percent of the vote.  Protestors took to the streets, attempting to burn the National Assembly building.  There were numerous arrests.  Nongovernmental organizations stated the government’s use of excessive force to disperse demonstrators resulted in approximately 20 deaths and over 1000 arrests; the opposition claimed at least 50 persons were killed.

Gabon’s reduced oil production, in addition to political tensions after the 2016 elections, fostered frustration and disappointment within the country.  In 2018, public and private sector strikes continued over unpaid salaries, benefits, and worsening work conditions.  The coalition of oil, mining, and energy sector unions announced a five-day strike across the country from January 23 January 27, 2020 because of the decision of the Gabonese government to review the Gabonese labor code.  The government met with striking unions representatives and was able to negotiate an agreement to end the strike after four days.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Gabon’s population is approximately 2 million, and third country nationals (TCNs) represent one-third of the population.  Many young Gabonese are unable to acquire vocational skills and are thus excluded from the labor market.  A report in October 2018 indicated 60% of Gabonese under 30 are unemployed.  This is due to the low quality of the basic education system, insufficient output of technical and vocational training, and a lack of resources and effectiveness in the education sector.

Foreign firms report a shortage of highly skilled Gabonese labor.  Chinese industry, in particular, imports the majority of its workers from China.  Authorization from the Ministry of Labor is required in order to hire foreigners.  Reforms adopted in 2010 in the education and research system represent a step towards developing in-service training and encouraging public-private partnerships.  For example, the Petroleum and Gas Institute, located in Port-Gentil and supported by the Gabonese government and oil industry, has been training engineers specialized in oil-related technical areas since 2014.

Labor laws differentiate between layoffs and firing.  There is no unemployment insurance or other social safety net program for workers laid off for economic reasons.

Gabon’s Special Economic Zone is not subject to the same foreign labor restrictions as the rest of the country. 

Collective bargaining is common in Gabon.  Gabon’s French-inspired labor code recognizes the right of workers to form and join independent unions and bargain collectively, and prohibits anti- union discrimination, but the right to strike is limited or restricted.  Strikes may be called only after eight days’ advance notification and only after arbitration fails.  Public sector employees are not allowed to strike if public safety could be jeopardized.  The law does not define essential services sectors in which workers are prohibited from striking.  The Gabonese government strictly enforces the labor code’s mandatory retirement age of 65. Gabon started developing proposals for a new labor code in January 2020.  Despite the January strike, reforms are likely to be announced before the end of 2020 in part of the government’s plans to kick-start the economy after oil price stagnation.

Public and private sector strikes are frequent and disruptive.  From February-June 2018 Gabon court clerks  were on strike, limiting the functions of the justice system.  The civil servants in the financial authorities initiated strikes several times in the past few years; these strikes slow customs processing and work done in the tax, custom, treasury, and hydrocarbons sectors.

Gabon has ratified most of the International Labor Organization (ILO) laws and conventions.  There are no gaps in compliance in law or practice with international labor standards that may pose a reputational risk to investors.

Gabon has no specific trade agreements with the United States that require the execution of U.S. labor laws.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation is open to providing services to U.S. investors in Gabon and has done so in the past.  Gabon is also a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), which guarantees foreign investment protection in cases of war, strife, disasters, or expropriation.  MIGA is a branch of the World Bank Group.  Regular changes in government in Gabon can cause delays in completing investment insurance agreements.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2019 $16,658 https://www.worldbank.org/
en/country/gabon
 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 – $172 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/index.cfm
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 N/A BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/index.cfm
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2015 6.8% 2018 5% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctadstat.unctad.org/
CountryProfile/GeneralProfile/en-GB/266/index.html
 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Guinea

Executive Summary

Despite persistent corruption and fiscal mismanagement, the long-term economic prognosis for Guinea, buoyed by sizeable endowments of natural resources, energy opportunities, and arable land, remains promising. Constrained by an austere budget, Guinea has increasingly looked to foreign investment and the private sector to prop up its economy. China, Guinea’s largest trading partner, has dramatically increased its role in the past few years with a variety of infrastructure investments. Investors should proceed with caution, realizing that the potential for high profits comes with significant risk.

Endowed with abundant mineral resources, Guinea has the potential to be an economic leader in the extractives industry. Guinea is home to a third of the world’s reserves of bauxite (aluminum ore), and bauxite accounts for over half of Guinea’s present exports. Most of the country’s bauxite is exported by the Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee (CBG) [a joint venture between the Government of Guinea, U.S.-based Alcoa, the Anglo-Australian firm Rio Tinto, and Dadco Investments of the Channel Islands], via a designated port in Kamsar. Societe Miniere de Boke (SMB), a Franco-Sino-Singaporean conglomerate, has recently surpassed CBG as the largest single producer of bauxite in the world. New investment by SMB and CBG, in addition to new market entries, are expected to significantly increase Guinea’s bauxite output over the next five to ten years. Guinea also possesses over four billion tons of untapped high-grade iron ore, significant gold and diamond reserves, undetermined amounts of uranium, as well as prospective offshore oil reserves. Artisanal and medium-sized industrial gold mining in the Siguiri region is a significant contributor to the Guinean economy, but some suspect much of the gold leaves the country clandestinely, without generating any government revenue. In the long term, the Government of Guinea projects that its greatest potential economic driver will be the Simandou iron ore project, which is slated to be the largest greenfield project ever developed in Africa. In 2017, the governments of Guinea and China signed a USD 20 billion framework agreement giving Guinea potentially USD 1 billion per year in infrastructure projects in exchange for increased access to mineral wealth.

Guinea’s abundant rainfall and natural geography bode well for hydroelectric and renewable energy production. The largest energy sector investment in Guinea is the 450MW Souapiti dam project (valued at USD 2.1 billion), began in late 2015 with Chinese investment, which likewise completed the 240MW Kaleta Dam (valued at USD 526 million) in May 2015. Kaleta more than doubled Guinea’s electricity supply, and for the first-time furnished Conakry with more reliable, albeit seasonal, electricity (May-November). Souapiti is expected to begin to producing electricity in late 2020. A third hydroelectric dam on the same river, dubbed Amaria, began construction in January 2019 and is expected to be operational in 2024 – Chinese mining firm TBEA is providing financing for the Amaria power plant (300 MW, USD 1.2 billion investment). If corresponding distribution infrastructure is built, these projects could make Guinea an energy exporter in West Africa. In addition, U.S.-based Endeavor planned to finish work on Project Te, a 50MW thermal plant on the outskirts of the capital by the end of May 2020 but project completion is delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government is also looking to invest in solar and other energy sources to compensate for hydroelectric deficits during Guinea’s dry season. Toward that end, the government has entered into several Memoranda of Understanding with the private sector to develop solar projects. Agriculture and fisheries hold other areas of opportunity and growth in Guinea. Already an exporter of fruits, vegetables, and palm oil to its immediate neighbors, Guinea is climatically well suited for large-scale agricultural production. However, the sector has suffered from decades of neglect and mismanagement, and lack of transportation infrastructure. Guinea is also an importer of rice, its primary staple crop. President Alpha Conde has expressed his personal desire to see Guinea’s long-term economy based on agriculture and renewables rather than extractives.

Guinea’s macroeconomic and financial situation is weak. The Ebola crisis left the government with few financial resources to invest in social services and infrastructure. Lower natural resource revenues stemming from a drop in world commodities prices and ill-advised government loans have strained an already tight budget. However, improved macroeconomic discipline in 2016-2017 stabilized exchange rates, refilled government coffers, and increased government revenues. Much of this stabilization lasted until late 2017. In 2018 the government borrowed excessively from the Central Bank (BCRG), which threatened the first review of Guinea’s current International Monetary Fund (IMF) program. Lower than forecast natural resource revenues in late 2019 due to heavy rains and political violence again threatened the fourth review, which Guinea finally passed in April 2020. There is a shortage of credit, particularly for small- and medium-sized enterprises, and the government is increasingly looking to international investment to increase growth, provide jobs, and kick-start the economy.

Guinea has passed and implemented an anti-corruption law, updated its Investment Code, and renewed efforts to attract international investors, including a new investment promotion website put in place in 2016 by Guinea’s investment promotion agency to increase transparency and streamline processes for new investors. However, Guinea’s capacity to enforce its more investor-friendly laws is compromised by a weak and unreliable legal system. President Alpha Conde inaugurated the first Trade Court of Guinea on March 20, 2018.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 130 of 183 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 156 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/
en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 125 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 USD 74 https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 850 https://data.worldbank.org/
country/guinea

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

With the end of the Ebola crisis and President Conde’s re-election and inauguration at the end of 2015, the Guinean government adopted a strong, positive attitude toward foreign direct investment (FDI). Facing budget shortfalls and low commodity prices, the Guinean government hopes FDI will diversify its economy, spur GDP growth, and provide reliable employment. To that end, the government has reduced land transfer fees, and improved procedures for import and construction permits. Guinea does not discriminate against foreign investors, with the exception of a prohibition on foreign ownership of media. One area of concern is that mining companies have negotiated different taxation rates despite mining code requirements. According to the 2019 World Investment Report, FDI in Guinea fell from USD 577 million in 2017 to USD 483 million in 2018. In late 2015, the U.S. Embassy facilitated the establishment of an informal international investors group to liaise with the government. There is the Chambre des Mines (Chamber of Mines), a government-sanctioned advisory organization that includes Guinea’s major mining firms. Guinea’s Agency for the Promotion of Private Investment (APIP) provides support in the following areas:

  1. Create and register businesses
  2. Facilitate access to incentives offered under the investment code
  3. Provide information and resources to potential investors
  4. Publish targeted sector studies and statistics
  5. Provide training and technical assistance
  6. Facilitate solutions for investors in Guinea’s interior

More information about APIP can be found at: http://apip.gov.gn/ 

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Investors can register under one of four categories of business in Guinea. More information on the four types of business registration is available at http://invest.gov.gn/page/create-your-company . There are no general limits on foreign ownership or control, and 100 percent ownership by foreign firms is legal in most sectors. Foreign-ownership of print media, radio, and television stations is not permitted. The 2013 Mining Code gives the government the right to a 15 percent interest in any major mining operation in Guinea (the government decides when an operation has become large enough to qualify). Mining and media notwithstanding, there are no sector-specific restrictions that discriminate against market access for foreign investment. Despite this lack of official discrimination, many enterprises have discovered the licensing process to be laden with bureaucratic delays that are usually dealt with by paying consultant fees to help expedite matters. The U.S. Embassy may advocate on behalf of American companies when it is aware of excessive delays.

According to the Investment Code, the National Investment Commission has a role in reviewing requests for approval of foreign investment and for monitoring companies’ efforts to comply with investment obligations. The Ministry of Planning and Economic Development hosts the secretariat for this commission, which grants investment approvals. The government gives approved companies, especially industrial firms, the use of the land necessary for their plant, with the duration and conditions of use set out in the terms of the approval. The land and associated buildings belong to the State, but can also be rented by or transferred to another firm with government approval.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

There has been no investment policy review conducted by the UN Conference on Trade and Development or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development within the past several years. The World Trade Organization (WTO) last conducted a review of Guinea in 2018. The 2018 report can be viewed here: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp470_e.htm .

Business Facilitation

APIP is the Guinean agency which promotes investment, helps register businesses in Guinea, assists with the expansion of local companies, and works to improve the business climate. APIP maintains a guide on Guinea’s investment website (http://invest.gov.gn ). Business registration, can be completed in person at APIP’s office in Conakry or through an online platform: https://synergui.apipguinee.com/fr/utilisateurs/register/ . The only internationally-accredited business facilitation organization that assesses Guinea is GER.co, which gives Guinea’s business creation/investment website a 4/10 rating. It takes roughly seventy-two hours to register a business. APIP’s services are available to both Guinean and foreign investors. The “One Stop Shop” at APIP’s Conakry office can provide small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with requisite registration numbers, including tax administration numbers and social security numbers. Notaries are required for the creation of any other type of enterprise.

An SME in Guinea is defined as a business with less than 50 employees and revenue less than 500 million Guinean francs (GNF) (around USD 50,000). SMEs are taxed at a yearly fixed rate of GNF 15 million (USD 1,500). Administrative modalities are simplified and funneled through the One Stop Shop. These advantages are available for both Guinean and foreign investors. In December 2019, the Prime Minister inaugurated the “Maison des PME” a public-private partnership between the Societe Generale bank and APIP to help local SMEs expand and develop.

Outward Investment

Guinea does not formally promote outward investment and the government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

In the past eight years, Guinea has made its laws and regulations more transparent, but draft bills are not always made available for public comment. Ministries do not develop forward-looking regulatory plans and publish neither summaries nor proposed legislation. Laws in Guinea are proposed by either the President or members of the National Assembly and are not always presented for public comment. Once ratified, laws are not enforceable until they are published in the government’s official gazette. All laws relevant to international investors are posted (in French) on invest.gov.gn. When investing, it is important to engage with all levels of government to ensure each authority is aware of expectations and responsibilities on both sides. Guinea has had an independent Supreme Audit Institution since 2016. The institution is charged with making available information on public finances. The institution presented its first activities report in January 2018.

Since 2010, the Guinean government has initiated more than 80 reforms to update and make more transparent government codes related to mines, administration, investment, and customs.

Guinea’s 2013 amended Mining Code commits the country to increasing transparency in the mining sector. In the code, the government commits to awarding mining contracts by competitive tender and to publish all past, current, and future mining contracts for public scrutiny. Members of mining sector governing bodies and employees of the Ministry of Mines are prohibited from owning shares in mining companies active in Guinea or their subcontractors. Each mining company must sign a code of good conduct and develop and implement a corruption-monitoring plan. There is a public database of mining contracts designed by the Natural Resource Governance Institute (http://www.contratsminiersguinee.org/ ).

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) ensures greater transparency in the governance of Guinea’s natural resources and full disclosure of government revenues from its extractives sector. The EITI standard aims to provide a global set of conditions that ensures greater transparency of the management of a country’s oil, gas, and mineral resources. EITI reiterates the need to augment support for countries and governments that are making genuine efforts to address corruption but lack the capacity and systems necessary to manage effectively the businesses, revenues, and royalties derived from extractive industries.

Guinea was accepted as EITI compliant for the first time by the international EITI Board at its meeting in Mexico City on July 2, 2014. As an EITI country, Guinea must disclose the government’s revenues from natural resources. Guinea completed its most recent report in August 2018 for the 2016 reporting period. The report is located at : https://eiti.org/files/documents/rapport-itie-02-guinee-2017-version-signee-3.pdf .

While Guinea’s laws promote free enterprise and competition, there is often a lack of transparency in the government’s application of the law. Business owners openly assert that application procedures are sufficiently opaque to allow for corruption, and regulatory activity is often instigated due to personal interests.

Every year Guinea publishes budget documents and debt obligations. The yearly enacted budgets are published online https://mbudget.gov.gn/ .

International Regulatory Considerations

Guinea is a member of ECOWAS, but not a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and as such has its own currency. At the beginning of 2017, Guinea adopted ECOWAS’s Common Exterior Tariff (TEC), which harmonizes Guinea’s import taxes with other West African states and eliminates the need for assessing import duties at Guinea’s land border crossings, however, sometimes it is difficult to get the required certificates to export under these ECOWAS exemptions. Guinea is a member of the WTO and is not party to any trade disputes.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Guinea’s legal system is codified and largely based upon French civil law. However, the judicial system is reported to be generally understaffed, corrupt, and opaque. Accounting practices and bookkeeping in Guinean courts are frequently unreliable. U.S. businesspersons should exercise extreme caution when negotiating contract arrangements, and do so with proper local legal representation. Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, in practice the judicial system lacks independence, is underfunded, inefficient, and is portrayed in the press as corrupt. Budget shortfalls, a shortage of qualified lawyers and magistrates, nepotism, and ethnic bias contribute to the judiciary’s challenges. President Conde’s administration has successfully implemented some judicial reforms and has increased the salaries of judges by 400 percent in order to discourage corruption. There are few international investment lawyers accredited in Guinea and it is a best practice to include international arbitration clauses in all major contracts. U.S. companies have identified the absence of a dependable legal system as a major barrier to investment.

Despite dispute settlement procedures set forth in Guinean law, business executives complain of the glacial pace of the adjudication of business disputes. Most legal cases take years and significant legal fees to resolve. In speaking with local business leaders, the general sentiment is that any resolution occurring within three to five years might be considered quick.

In many cases, the government does not meet payment obligations to private suppliers of goods and services, either foreign or Guinean, in a timely fashion. Arrears to the private sector is a major issue that is often ignored. Guinea is currently looking for ways to finance past arrears to the private sector — possibly through issuing a public debt instrument. There is no independent enforcement mechanism for collecting debts from the government, although some contracts have international arbitration clauses. The government, while bound by law to honor judgments made by the arbitration court, often actively influences the decision itself.

Although the situation has improved recently, Guinean and foreign business executives have publicly expressed concern over the rule of law in the country. In 2014, high-ranking members of the military harassed foreign managers of a telecommunications company because they did not renew a contract. In 2017-2018, American businesses experienced long delays in getting the required signatures and approvals through government ministries. Some businesses have been subject to sporadic harassment and demands for donations from military and police personnel.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The National Assembly ratified an Investment Code regulating FDI in May 2015. Developed in cooperation with the Work Bank and IMF, the code harmonizes Guinea’s FDI regulations with other countries in the region and broadens the definition of FDI. The code also allows for direct agreements between investors and the State. Other important legislation related to FDI includes the Procurement Code, the BOT (Build Operate Transfer, now Public Private Partnership or PPP) Law and the Customs Code.

The government of Guinea states it will let the legal system deal with domestic cases involving foreign investors. However, the legal system is weak, in the process of implementing much needed reforms, and is subject to interference. Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, in practice the judicial system lacks independence and is underfunded, inefficient, and is perceived by many to be corrupt. APIP launched a website in 2016 that lists information related to laws, rules, procedures, and registration requirements for foreign investors, as well as strategy documents for specific sectors. (http://invest.gov.gn ). Further information on APIP’s services is available at http:// https://apip.gov.gn/ . APIP has a largely bilingual (English and French) staff and is designed to be a clearinghouse of information for investors.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

There are no agencies that review transactions for competition-related concerns.

Expropriation and Compensation

Guinea’s Investment Code states that the Guinean government will not take any steps to expropriate or nationalize investments made by individuals and companies, except for reasons of public interest. It also promises fair compensation for expropriated property.

In 2011, the government claimed full ownership of several languishing industrial facilities in which it had previously held partial shares as part of several joint ventures—including a canned food factory and processing plants for peanuts, tea, mangoes, and tobacco—with no compensation to the private sector partner. Each of these facilities was privatized under opaque circumstances in the late 1980s and early 1990s. By expropriating these businesses, which the government deemed to be corrupt and/or ineffective, and putting them to public auction, Guinea hoped to correct past mistakes and put the assets in more productive hands. During the 1990s, a U.S. investor acquired a 67 percent stake in an explosives and munitions factory from a Canadian entity. The Guinean government owned the remaining 33 percent. From 2000 to 2008, the government halted manufacturing at the factory. In 2010, the Guinean government nationalized the factory.

While there have not been recent large-scale expropriation cases, some mining concession contracts have had their initial award revoked and were sold to another bidder. In 2008, the previous regime of Lansana Conde stripped Rio Tinto of 50 percent of its concession of the Simandou mine and sold it to another company.

The government has had difficulties managing SMEs and would prefer that the private sector take the lead in managing this sector. The investment climate is welcoming to foreign and American firms, and the government is working to reduce corruption and increase transparency. The current government is cognizant of its international image and does not want to risk losing possible foreign investment.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Guinea is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), an autonomous institution established under the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of other States (https://icsid.worldbank.org/en/Pages/about/default.aspx ). Guinea is also a member of the New York Convention, which applies to the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards and the referral by a court to arbitration. Guinea has no specific domestic legislation providing for enforcement of awards under the 1958 New York Convention and/or under the ICSID Convention. (http://www.newyorkconvention.org ).

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Investment Code states that the competent Guinean judicial authorities shall settle disputes arising from interpretation of the Code in accordance with the law and regulations, and provides several avenues by which to seek arbitration. In practice, however, fair settlements may be difficult to obtain. The current Guinean constitution mandates an independent judiciary, although many business owners and high-level government officials frequently claim that poorly trained magistrates, high levels of corruption, and nepotism plague the administration of justice. Guinea established an arbitration court in 1999, independent of the Ministry of Justice, to settle business disputes in a less costly and more expedient manner. The Arbitration Court is based upon the French system, in which arbitrators are selected from among the Guinean business sector, rather than from among lawyers or judges, and are supervised by the Chamber of Commerce. All parties must agree in order for their case to be settled in the arbitration court. In general, Guinea’s arbitration court has a better reputation than the judicial court system for settling business disputes.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Guinea is a member of the Organisation pour l’Harmonisation du Droit des Affaires en Afrique (Organization for the Harmonization of Commercial Law in Africa), known by its French initials, OHADA, which allows investors to appeal legal decisions on commercial and financial matters to a regional body based in Abidjan. The organization also seeks to harmonize commercial law, debt collection, bankruptcy, and secured transactions throughout the OHADA region. The treaty superseded the Code of Economic Activities and other national commercial laws when it was ratified in 2000, though many of the substantive changes to Guinean law have yet to be implemented. U.S. companies seeking to do business in Guinea should be aware that under OHADA, managers may be held personally liable for corporate wrongdoing. See the OHADA website for specific OHADA rules and regulations (http://www.ohada.com ).

Bankruptcy Regulations

Guinea, as a member of OHADA, has the same bankruptcy laws as most West African francophone countries. OHADA’s Uniform Act on the Organization of Securities enforces collective proceedings for writing off debts and defines bankruptcy in articles 227 to 233. The Uniform Act also distinguishes fraudulent from non-fraudulent bankruptcies. There is no distinction between foreign and domestic investors. The only distinction made is a privilege ranking that defines which claims must be paid first from the bankrupt company’s assets. Articles 180 to 190 of OHADA’s Uniform Act define which creditors are entitled to priority compensation. Bankruptcy is only criminalized when it occurs due to fraudulent actions, and leaves criminal penalties to national authorities. Non-fraudulent bankruptcy is adjudicated though the Uniform Act.

In the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Report on Resolving Insolvency, Guinea placed 118 out of 190 countries ranked. According to the report, resolving insolvency takes an average of 3.8 years and costs 10.0 percent of the debtor’s estate, with the most likely outcome being that the company will be sold piecemeal. The average recovery rate is 19.4 cents on the dollar.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The Investment Code provides preferential tax treatment for investments meeting certain criteria (See Screening of FDI). Some mining companies currently benefit from preferential tax treatment. Other exemptions can be agreed to during contract negotiations with the government. The government’s priority investments categories are: promotion of small- and medium-sized Guinean businesses, development of non-traditional exports, processing of local natural resources and local raw materials, and establishment of activities in economically less developed regions. Priority activities include agricultural promotion, especially of food, and rural development; commercial farming involving processing and packaging; livestock, especially when coupled with veterinary services; fisheries; fertilizer production, chemical or mechanical preparation and processing industries for vegetable, animal, or mineral products; health and education-related businesses; tourism facilities and hotel operations; socially beneficial real estate development; and investment banks or any credit institutions settled outside specified population centers. Detailed information on each of these opportunities is available at http://invest.gov.gn 

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Guinea currently has no foreign trade zones or free ports. In 2017, a presidential decree created a special economic zone in the Boke corridor of western Guinea.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Under the 2011 Mining Code, mining companies are required to have Guinean citizens as a certain percentage of their staff , to eventually transition to a Guinean country director, and to award a certain percentage of contracts to Guinean-owned firms. The percentage varies based on employment category and the chronological phase of the project. The Mining Code requires that 20 percent of senior managers be Guinean; however, the Code does not define what constitutes senior management. The Code also aims to liberalize mining development and promote investment. In 2013, the Code called for the creation of a Mining Promotion and Development Center, a One Stop Shop for mining administrative processes for investors. The Development Center opened in May 2016. Guinea has no forced localization policy related to the use of domestic content in goods or technology, and there are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code or provide access to surveillance or to store data within Guinea.

In 2019, the government launched an e-visa platform allowing for online visa applications at http://www.paf.gov.gn . Fees vary depending on citizenship.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Land Tenure Code of 1996 provides a legal base for documentation of property ownership. Mortgages are non-existent in Guinea. As with ownership of business enterprises, both foreign and Guinean individuals have the right to own property. However, enforcement of these rights depends upon an inefficient Guinean legal and administrative system. It is not uncommon for the same piece of land to have several overlapping deeds. Furthermore, land sales and business contracts generally lack transparency. Only about 2.5 percent of the population has title to real property. The Ministry of Urban Affairs is developing an online platform that will facilitate the registration of land titles and reduce waiting times to about five days. According to the 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Report, Guinea ranks 122 out of 190 countries for the ease of registering property. (http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/guinea/ ).

Intellectual Property Rights

Guinea is a member of the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). OAPI is a signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and several other intellectual property treaties. Guinea modified its intellectual property rights (IPR) laws in 2000 to bring them into line with established international standards. There have been no formal complaints filed on behalf of American companies concerning IPR infringement in Guinea. However, it is not certain that an affirmative IPR judgment would be enforceable, given the general lack of law enforcement capability. The Property Rights office in Guinea is severely understaffed and underfunded. Guinea is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Commercial credit for private and public enterprises is difficult and expensive to obtain in Guinea. The FY 2020 Millennium Challenge Corporation score for Access to Credit in Guinea dropped from a 23 percent score in 2019, to 21 percent, and was at 50 percent in FY 2017.

The legislature passed a Build, Operate, and Transfer (BOT) convention law in 1998 (changed to the Public-Private Partnership, or PPP, in 2018), which provides rules and guidelines for PPP and related infrastructure development projects. The law lays out the obligations and responsibilities of the government and investors and stipulates the guarantees provided by the government for such projects. The Investment Code allows income derived from investment in Guinea, the proceeds of liquidating that investment, and the compensation paid in the event of nationalization, to be transferred to any country in convertible currency. The legal and regulatory procedures, based on French civil law, are not always applied uniformly or transparently.

Individuals or legal entities making foreign investments in Guinea are guaranteed the freedom to transfer the original foreign capital, profits resulting from investment, capital gains on disposal of investment, and fair compensation paid in the case of nationalization or expropriation of the investment to any country of their choice. The Guinean franc is subject to a managed floating exchange rate. The few commercial banks in Guinea are dependent on the BCRG for foreign exchange liquidity, making large transfers of foreign currency difficult.

Laws governing takeovers, mergers, acquisitions, and cross-shareholding are limited to rules for documenting financial transactions and filing any change of status documents with the economic register. There are no laws or regulations that specifically authorize private firms to adopt articles of incorporation that limit or prohibit investment.

Money and Banking System

Guinea’s financial system is small and dominated by the banking sector. It comprises 16 active banks, 13 insurance companies and 26 microfinance institutions. Guinea’s banking sector is overseen by the BCRG, which also serves as the agent of the government treasury for overseeing banking and credit operations in Guinea and abroad. The BCRG manages foreign exchange reserves on behalf of the State. The Office of Technical Assistance of the Department of the Treasury assesses that Guinea does not properly manage debt and that its treasury is too involved in the process, although improvements made in 2017-2018 point to a better future. Further information on the BCRG can be found in French at http://www.bcrg-guinee.org .

Due to the difficulty of accessing funding from commercial banks, small commercial and agricultural enterprises have increasingly turned to microfinance, which has been growing rapidly with a net increase in deposits and loans. The quality of products in the microfinance sector remains mediocre, with bad debt accounting for five percent of loans with approximately 17 percent of gross loans outstanding.

Guinea plans to broaden the country’s SME base through investment climate reform, improved access to finance, and the establishment of SME growth corridors. Severely limited access to finance (especially for SMEs), inadequate infrastructure, deficiencies in logistics and trade facilitation, corruption and the diminished capacity of the government, inflation, and poor education of the workforce has seriously undermined investor confidence in Guinean institutions. Guinea’s weak enabling environment for business, its history of poor governance, erratic policy, and inconsistent regulatory enforcement exacerbate the country’s poor reputation as an investment destination. As a result, private participation in the economy remains low and firms’ productivity measured by value added is one of the lowest in Africa. Firms’ links with the financial sector are weak: only 3.9 percent of firms surveyed in the 2016 World Bank Enterprise survey had a bank loan. http://www.enterprisesurveys.org/data/exploreeconomies/2016/guinea#finance 

Credit to the private sector is low, at around 8.9 percent of GDP in 2018, a decrease from 14 percent in 2015. Commercial banks are reluctant to extend loans due to the lack of credit history reporting for potential borrowers. The Guinean government, through the central bank, is in the process of establishing a credit information bureau to overcome this asymmetry of credit information.

Guinea is a cash-based society driven by trade, agriculture, and the informal sector, which all function outside the banking sector. The banking sector is highly concentrated in Conakry, and technologically behind. Banks in Guinea tend to favor short-term lending at high interest rates. In collaboration with the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Technical Assistance, the central bank is implementing a bank deposit insurance scheme. The deposit coverage limit has not been set yet, but the central bank began to collect premiums from commercial banks in 2019.

While the microfinance sector grew strongly from a small base, microfinance institutions were hit hard during the Ebola crisis; they are not profitable and need capacity and technology upgrades. Furthermore, many of these microfinance institutions struggle to meet the higher minimum capital requirements imposed by the central bank since 2019. This heightened financial hurdle will likely lead to a consolidation of the microfinance sector. Finally, the efficiency and the use of payment services by all potential users needs to be improved, with an emphasis on greater financial inclusion.

The penetration of digital cellphone fund transfers is increasing. Two foreign e-money (or mobile banking) institutions lead the effort to digitize payments and improve access to financial services in the underserved and rural segments of the population. However, the vast majority of operations processed by these e-money institutions remain cash-in cash-out transactions within their own network. In an effort to modernize payment methods, the government is implementing a national switch, a nationwide platform that will interface all electronic payment systems and facilitate payment processing between service providers.

Generally, there are no restrictions on foreigners’ ability to establish bank accounts in Guinea. EcoBank is the preferred bank for most U.S. dealings with Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act (FACTA) reporting requirements. In collaboration with the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Technical Assistance, the central bank is implementing a bank deposit insurance scheme. The deposit coverage limit has not been set yet, but the central bank began to collect premiums from commercial banks in 2019.

In collaboration with the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Technical Assistance, the central bank is implementing a bank deposit insurance scheme. The deposit coverage limit has not been set yet, but the central bank began to collect premiums from commercial banks in 2019.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors for converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment. Although there have been no recent changes to remittance policies, it is difficult to obtain foreign exchange in Guinea. Guinea has experienced significantly weakened liquidity levels over the last several years due to government mismanagement, populist policies, corruption, and a decrease in mining revenue due to lower global commodity prices. Commercial banks’ liquidity levels are affected by tight reserve requirements (22 percent of deposits) that are in line with IMF performance criteria.

Until December 2015, the exchange rate was managed by the BCRG and held to a four percent variance from the unofficial rate. The exchange rate has remained relatively stable since 2013 and has only recently depreciated versus the U.S. dollar. Between 2013 and 2015, the Guinean franc maintained a value of between 7,000 and 7,500 GNF/USD. In late 2015, the unofficial rate reached a value 10 percent higher than the official rate, during which Guinea had nearly exhausted its foreign currency reserves. The IMF recommended the BCRG float the GNF and the official rate jumped to just over 9,000 GNF/USD by March 2016. The Annual Report on Exchange Arrangements and Exchange Restrictions, published by the IMF, describes the foreign exchange regimes of every IMF member. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Annual-Report-on-Exchange-Arrangements-and-Exchange-Restrictions/Issues/2017/01/25/Annual-Report-on-Exchange-Arrangements-and-Exchange-Restrictions-2016-43741 

Remittance Policies

Guinea has no limitations on the conversion and transfer of money or the repatriation of capital and earnings, including branch profits, dividends, interest, royalties, or management or technical service fees. The BCRG needs to be informed of any major transfers, and the wait time to remit investment returns is less than 60 days. Guinea is a member of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa, but is not included on the Financial Action Task Force. Guinea does not have a country report in the 2020 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.

There are no limits on the conversion of U.S. dollars to Guinean francs. The official exchange rate retains the capacity for volatility, but is currently holding at approximately 9,400 GNF/USD (as of April 2020). A weakened economy largely resulting from low commodity prices caused the GNF to depreciate from an average of 7,000 GNF/USD in early 2015. Since mid-2016, the official exchange rate has been keeping pace with the rate in the parallel black market.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Guinea does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

While all Guinea’s public utilities (water and electricity) are state-owned enterprises (SOEs), the Conde administration is moving toward allowing private enterprises to operate in this sphere. In 2015, the French firm Veolia was contracted to manage the state-owned electric utility Electricité de Guinée (EDG) – a contract which ended in October 2019. Several private projects aimed at harnessing Guinea’s solar energy potential and gas-powered thermal plants are being implemented with the goal of producing and selling energy throughout Guinea and possibly to neighboring countries. Other SOEs can be found in the telecommunications, road construction, lottery, and transport sectors. There are several other mixed companies where the state owns a significant share, that are related to the extractives industry.

The hydroelectricity sector could support Guinea’s modernization and possibly even supply regional markets. Guinea’s hydropower potential is estimated at over 6,000MW, making it a potential exporter of power to neighboring countries. In 2015, Guinea built the 240MW Kaleta Dam, doubling the country’s electricity generating capacity and providing Conakry with a more reliable source of power for most of the year. The government is now pushing forward with the more ambitious 450MW Souapiti Dam and other power generation plans, for which EDG would be the primary off-taker. The country uses and produces about 450MW, so the Souapiti project could create reserves for export. Plans for improving the distribution network to enable electricity export are in process with the development of the Gambia River Basin Development (OMVG) (Organization pour la Mise en Oeuvre de Fleuve Gambie, in French) transmission project connecting Guinea, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, and The Gambia. The OMVG project involves the construction of 1,677 kilometers of 225-volt transmission network capable of handling 800MW to provide electricity for over two million people. At the same time, Guinea is moving forward with the Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, (CLSG) transmission interconnector project, which will integrate Guinea into the West African Power Pool (WAPP) and allow for energy import-export across the region. While the government does not publish significant information concerning the financial stability of its SOEs, EDG’s balance sheet is understood to be in the red. The IMF reported that as recently as 2017, up to 28 percent of the Guinean budget has gone toward subsidizing electricity, and the IMF is demanding that EDG improve tariff collection as large numbers of users do not pay for power.

The amount of research and development (R&D) expenditures is not known, but it would be highly unlikely that any of Guinea’s SOEs would devote significant funding to R&D. Guinean SOEs are entitled to subsidized fuel, which EDG uses to run thermal generator stations in the capital. Guinea is not party to the Government Procurement Agreement.

Corporate governance of SOEs is determined by the government. Guinean SOEs do not adhere to the OECD guidelines. SOEs are supposed to report to the Office of the President, however, typically they report to a ministry. Seats on the board of governance for SOEs are usually allocated by presidential decree.

Privatization Program

The Guinean government is actively working on privatization in the energy sector. In April 2015, the government tendered a management contract to run the state owned electrical utility EDG. French company Veolia won the tender and attempted to manage and rehabilitate the insolvent utility until the end of 2019. As of February 2020, EDG became a public limited company with its own board of directors, the new directors being appointed by the President through a decree. Bidding processes are clearly spelled out for potential bidders, however, Guinea gives weight to competence in the French language and experience working on similar projects in West Africa. In spring 2015, a U.S. company lost a fiber optics tender largely due to its lack of native French speakers on the project and lack of regional experience.

9. Corruption

In its 2019 Ease of Doing Business index, the World Bank ranked Guinea 156th of 190 countries worldwide, down four places from 2018. However, according to Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perception Index, Guinea moved up eight places to 130 out of 180 countries listed. Guinea passed an Anti-Corruption Law in 2017. In April 2019, a former director of the Guinean Office of Advertising was sentenced to 5 years in prison for embezzlement of GNF39 billion, approximately USD four million, however, in June 2019 he was acquitted by the Appeals Court, and was elected as a member of the National Assembly during the March 2020 legislative elections. It is not clear whether the Anti-Corruption Law was used to prosecute the case. According to the World Bank Enterprise Survey of 2016, Guinea fares better in the incidence of bribery that most sub-Saharan African countries, but this may be a matter of perception. For example, of 150 firms surveyed, 48.7 percent reported that they were expected to give gifts to public officials to get things done, but only 7.9 percent reported having paid a bribe. http://www.enterprisesurveys.org/data/exploreeconomies/2016/guinea#corruption 

The business and political culture, coupled with low salaries, have historically combined to promote and encourage corruption. Requests for bribes are a common occurrence. Though it is illegal to pay bribes in Guinea, there is little enforcement of these laws. In practice, it is difficult and time-consuming to conduct business without giving “gifts” in Guinea, leaving U.S. companies, who must comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, at a disadvantage.

Although the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, the law does not extend to family members. It does include provisions for political parties. According to the World Bank’s 2018 Worldwide Governance Indicators, corruption continues to remain a severe problem, and Guinea is in the 13th percentile, down from being in the 15th percentile in 2012. Public funds have been diverted for private use or for illegitimate public uses, such as buying vehicles for government workers. Land sales and business contracts generally lack transparency. http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/#reports 

Guinea’s Anti-Corruption Agency (ANLC) is an autonomous agency established by presidential decree in 2004. The ANLC reports directly to the President and is currently the only state agency focused solely on fighting corruption. However, it has been largely ineffective in its role, with no successful convictions. The ANLC’s Bureau of Complaint Reception fields anonymous tips forwarded to the ANLC. Investigations and cases must then be prosecuted through criminal courts. According to the ANLC, during the past year there were no prosecutions as a result of tips. The agency is underfunded, understaffed, and lacks computers and vehicles. The ANLC is comprised of 52 employees in seven field offices, with a budget of USD 1.1 million in 2018.

The Conde administration has named corruption in both the governmental and commercial spheres as one of its top agenda items. In November 2019, Ibrahim Magu, the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria, and President Alpha Conde reached an agreement through which the Commission will assist Guinea to establish a anti-corruption agency, however, it is not clear if that means reforming the existing anti-corruption agency or establishing a new anti-corruption agency.

A 2016 survey by the ANLC, the Open Society Initiative-West Africa (OSIWA), and Transparency International found that among private households, 61 percent of the respondents stated they were asked to pay a bribe for national services and 24 percent for local services. Furthermore, 24 percent claimed to have paid traffic-related bribes to police, 24 percent for better medical treatment, 19 percent for better water or electricity services, and 8 percent for better judicial treatment.

Guinea is a party to the UN Anticorruption Convention. http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CAC/signatories.html 

Guinea is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery. http://www.oecd.org/daf/anti-bribery/countryreportsontheimplementationoftheoecdanti-briberyconvention.htm 

Since 2012, Guinea has had a Code for Public Procurement (Code de Marches Publics et Delegations de Service Public) that provides regulations for countering conflicts of interest in awarding contracts or in government procurements. In 2016, the government issued a Transparency and Ethics chart for public procurement that provides the main do’s and don’ts in public procurement, highlighting avoidance of conflict of interest as a priority. The chart also includes a template letter that companies have to sign when bidding for public contracts stating that they will comply with local legislation and public procurement provisions, including practices to prevent corruption.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:

Seko Mohamed Sylla
Deputy Executive Director
Agence Nationale de Lutte Contre la Corruption (ANLC – National Agency Against Corruption)
Cite des Nations, Conakry, Guinea +224- 669 22 82 51
EMAIL ADDRESS: tourealnc@gmail.com

Transparency International
Dakar, Senegal +221-33-842-40-44
+221-33-842-40-44
forumcivil@orange.sn

10. Political and Security Environment

Guinea has had a long history of political violence. The country suffered under authoritarian rule from independence in 1958 until its first democratic presidential election in 2010. It has seen political violence during its transition to democracy, although the level of political violence had been decreasing with each subsequent election since 2010. In October 2019, President Conde announced plans to hold a referendum on modifying the constitution – consequently, political violence escalated significantly. The referendum, which was held along with National Assembly elections in March 2020 culminated in political violence across the country. Over 55 people died in the protest and election violence occurring between October 2019 and March 2020. Guinea is scheduled to hold presidential elections at the end of 2020.

The state had persecuted political dissidents and opposition parties for decades. The Sekou Toure regime (1958-1984) and the Lansana Conte regime (1984-2008) were marked by political violence and human rights abuses.

Following the death of President Lansana Conte on December 22, 2008, a military junta calling themselves the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) took power in a bloodless coup. Immediately following the coup, the U.S. government suspended all but humanitarian and election assistance to Guinea. The African Union (AU) and ECOWAS suspended Guinea’s membership pending democratic elections and a relinquishment of power by the military junta. In September 2009, junta security forces attacked a political rally in a stadium in Conakry, killing 150 people, and raping many women.

Guinea experienced violent incidents in 2011 and thereafter. On July 19, 2011, the President’s personal residence was attacked with small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades. Following the attack, the government arrested and charged 33 people, mostly military personnel, with attempted murder and treason.

The small mining town of Zogota, located in Guinea’s Forest Region, saw the deaths of five villagers, including the village chief, during August 2012 clashes with security forces over hiring practices at the Brazilian iron-mining company Vale. The villagers alleged that Vale was not hiring enough local employees and was instead bringing workers from other regions of Guinea. The ensuing instability led to Vale evacuating all expatriate personnel from the town. Also in November 2012, the Ministry of Economy and Finance official and anticorruption activist Aissatou Boiro was shot and killed in her car, allegedly for her anticorruption efforts. Twenty suspects were arrested and prosecuted. The trial began in late 2017 and closed on February 4, 2019. The Dixinn District Court sentenced seven of the defendants, including the accused assassin, Mohamed Sankon to life in prison with a minimum period of 30 years. Ten were sentenced to 20 years and two others were given ten-year jail terms. The court issued arrest warrants for six further fugitives, while one other accused died in prison.

Other instances of violence occurred in 2014 and 2015 during the Ebola epidemic when local citizens attacked the vehicles and facilities of aid workers. The Red Cross, MSF (Doctors Without Borders) and the World Health Organization (WHO) also reported cases of property damage (destroyed vehicles, ransacked warehouses, etc.). On September 16, 2014, in the Forest Region village of Womei, eight people were killed by a mob when they visited the village as part of an Ebola education campaign. The casualties included radio journalists, local officials, and Guinean health care workers.

Presidential elections in 2015 sparked violent protests in Conakry, but clashes between police and demonstrators were largely contained. In addition to political violence, sporadic and generally peaceful protests over fuel prices, lack of electricity, labor disputes, and other issues have occurred in the capital and sometimes beyond since 2013. In February 2017, seven civilians died in confrontations with security services during large protests against education reforms. After two days of violent protests in March 2018, teachers’ unions and the government agreed to a raise of 40 percent. These protests over teacher union pay became intermingled with political protests over voting irregularities in the February 4 local elections. The political opposition claims the government is responsible for the deaths of over 90 people during political protests over the past eight years.

The local populace in Boke, Bel-Air, and Sangaredi disrupted road and/or railroad traffic on at least three occasions in 2017 and at least twice in 2018, in response to grievances over employment, lack of services, and other issues. Although none of these events targeted American or foreign investors, they were disruptive to business in general and eroded confidence in the security situation under which investors must operate in Guinea. Street violence is difficult to predict or avoid, but generally does not target westerners.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Guinea has a young population and a high unemployment rate. Potential employees often lack specialized skills. The country has a poor educational system and lacks professionals in all sectors of the economy. Guinea generally lacks the specialized skills needed for large-scale projects of any kind.

According to a 2019 World Bank report on “Employment, productivity and inclusion of youth”, in 2017 Guinea’s economy was based on services (49 percent of GDP), mining and industry (37 percent) and agriculture (10 percent). The tendencies show that employment in Guinea is similar to other countries in the region, with a high level of employment in the informal sector. According to the 2018 World Bank Development Indicators, approximately 65 percent of Guineans above 15 years old, (56 percent males and 44 percent females) were employed in the formal or informal sectors. Of those employed, 52 percent were working in agricultural sector, 34 percent in commerce, and 14 percent in industry and manufacturing.

Guinea’s National Assembly adopted a new labor code in February 2014 which protects the rights of employees and is enforced by the Ministry of Technical Education, Vocational Training, Employment and Labor. The Labor Code sets forth guidelines in various sectors, the most stringent being the mining sector. Guidelines cover wages, holidays, work schedules, overtime pay, vacation, and sick leave. The Labor Code also outlaws all discrimination in hiring, including on the basis of sex, disability, and ethnicity. It also prohibits all forms of workplace harassment, including sexual harassment. However, the law does not provide antidiscrimination protections for persons based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Although the law provides for the rights of workers to organize and join independent unions, engage in strikes, and bargain collectively, the law also places restrictions on the free exercise of these rights. The Labor Code requires unions to obtain the support of 20 percent of the workers in a company, region, or trade that the union claims to represent. The code mandates that unions provide ten days’ notice to the labor ministry before striking, but the code does allow work slowdowns. Strikes are only permitted for professional claims. The Labor Code does not apply to government workers or members of the armed forces. While the Labor Code protects union officials from anti-union discrimination, it does not extend that same protection to other workers.

The law prohibits child labor in the formal sector and sets forth penalties of three to ten years imprisonment and confiscation of resulting profits. The law does not protect children in the informal sector. The minimum age for employment is 16. Exceptions allow children to work at age twelve as apprentices for light work in such sectors as domestic service and agriculture, and at 14 for other work. A new child code was adopted at the National Assembly in December 2019 and is waiting enactment by the President. The new child code provides more severe sentences for violations related to child labor.

The Labor Code allows the government to set a minimum monthly wage through the Consultative Commission for Labor and Social Laws. The minimum wage for all sectors was established in 2013 at 440,000 GNF (approximately USD50). There is no known official poverty income level established by the government.

The law mandates that regular work should not exceed ten-hour days or 48-hour weeks, and it mandates a period of at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each week, usually on Sunday. Every salaried worker has the legal right to an annual paid vacation, accumulated at the rate of at least two workdays per month of work. There also are provisions in the law for overtime and night wages, which are a fixed percentage of the regular wage. The law stipulates a maximum of 100 hours of compulsory overtime a year.

The law contains general provisions regarding occupational safety and health, but the government has not established a set of practical workplace health and safety standards. Moreover, it has not issued any orders laying out the specific safety requirements for certain occupations or for certain methods of work called for in the Labor Code. All workers, foreign and migrant included, have the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions without penalty.

Authorities rarely monitored work practices or enforced the workweek standards and the overtime rules. Teachers’ wages are low, and teachers sometimes went for months without pay. Salary arrears were not paid, and some teachers lived in abject poverty. From 2016-2018, teachers conducted regular strikes and as a result, and were promised a 40 percent increase in pay. Initially they received only ten percent, but in March 2018, the government began to pay the remaining 30 percent. In February 2019, the teachers union accepted the government proposal at the time and returned to work. In January 2020, the teachers started an indefinite strike demanding higher wages and the re-running of a census of currently employed teachers. As of end of March 2020, the teachers’ strike was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite legal protection against working in unsafe conditions, many workers feared retaliation and did not exercise their right to refuse to work under unsafe conditions. Accidents in unsafe working conditions remain common. The government banned artisanal mining during the rainy season to prevent deaths from mudslides, but the practice continues.

Pursuant to the Labor Code, any person is considered a worker, regardless of gender or nationality, who is engaged in any occupational activity in return for remuneration, under the direction and authority of another individual or entity, whether public or private, secular or religious. In accordance with this code, forced or compulsory labor means any work or services extracted from an individual under threat of a penalty and for which the individual concerned has not offered himself willingly.

A contract of employment is a contract under which a person agrees to be at the disposal and under the direction of another person in return for remuneration. The contract may be agreed upon for an indefinite or a fixed term and may only be agreed upon by individuals of at least 16 years of age, although minors under the age of 16 may be contracted only with the authorization of the minor’s parent or guardian. An unjustified dismissal provides the employee the right to receive compensation from the employer in an amount equal to at least six months’ salary with the last gross wage paid to the employee being used as the basis for calculating the compensation due.

The Investment Code obliges new companies to prioritize hiring local employees and provide capacity training and promotion opportunities for Guineans.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

Guinea and the United States have had an agreement on private investment guarantees in effect since 1962, making investors eligible for U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) insurance programs. Guinea has great potential for DFC programs, especially in the areas of banking, agriculture, IT, energy, and infrastructure. The DFC, through its predecessor the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), has been active recently in Guinea, guaranteeing the USD 250 million expansion project of Guinea’s largest bauxite exporter, and Endeavor’s USD121 million Project Te, a 50MW thermal energy project. U.S. private sector firms are interested in utilizing the DFC for infrastructure related projects in the mining and energy sectors. USAID has had a full-time transaction advisor in Guinea since March 2019. The advisor works on Power Africa’s potential role in improving the Guinean energy sector. In addition, DFC inspects the CBG expansion project semi-annually.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2018 $10.907 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2018 $74 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/
international/direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/
international/direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2018 40.9% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Kenya

Executive Summary

Kenya has a positive investment climate that has made it attractive to international firms seeking a location for regional or pan-African operations. The novel coronavirus pandemic has affected the short-term economic outlook, but the country remains resilient in addressing the health and economic challenges. In July 2020 the U.S. and Kenya launched negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement, the first in sub-Saharan Africa. In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report Kenya improved 7 places, ranking 56 of 190 economies reviewed. In the last three years, it has moved up 54 places on this index. Year-on-year, Kenya continues to improve its regulatory framework and its attractiveness as a destination for foreign direct investment. Despite this progress in the ease of doing business rankings, U.S. businesses operating in Kenya still face aggressive tax collection attempts and significant bureaucratic processes and delays in issuing necessary business licenses. Corruption remains endemic and Transparency International’s (TI) 2019 Global Corruption Perception Index ranked Kenya 137 out of 198 countries, worsening by seven spots compared to 2018.

Kenya has strong telecommunications infrastructure, a robust financial sector, a developed logistics hub, and extensive aviation connections throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia. In 2018, Kenya Airways initiated direct flights to New York City in the United States. Mombasa Port is the gateway for most of the East African trade. Kenya’s membership in the East African Community (EAC), the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and other regional trade blocs provides growing access to larger regional markets.

In 2017 and 2018 Kenya instituted broad reforms to improve its business environment, including passage of the Tax Laws (amended) Bill (2018) and the Finance Act (2018), establishing new procedures and provisions relating to taxes, simplifying registration procedures for small businesses, reducing the cost of construction permits, easing the payment of taxes through the iTax platform, and establishing a single window system to speed movement of goods across borders. But the Finance Act 2019 introduced taxes to non-resident ship owners, and the Finance Act 2020 enacted a 1.5 percent Digital Service Tax (DST), which will be implemented in January 2021. The oscillation between business reforms and conflicting taxation policies has raised uncertainty over the Government of Kenya’s (GOK) long term plans for improving the investment climate.

Kenya’s macroeconomic fundamentals remain among the strongest in Africa, with five to six percent GDP growth over the past five years, six to eight percent inflation, improving infrastructure, and strong consumer demand from a growing middle class. However, GDP growth is projected to slow to 1.5-2.0 percent in 2020 due to COVID-19. The GOK has responded by loosening fiscal policies like corporate income tax and other measures to cushion companies and individuals. There is relative political stability due to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and President Kenyatta has remained focused on his second term “Big Four” development agenda, seeking to provide universal healthcare coverage; establish national food security; build 500,000 affordable new homes; and increase employment by doubling the manufacturing sector’s share of the economy.

The World Bank’s annual Kenya Economic Update, released in April 2020, cites some short term economic risks to Kenya’s continued growth such as the locust invasion, COVID-19 pandemic, and flooding, but also noted positive developments including measures taken by the GOK and the Central Bank of Kenya to reduce the impacts of these risks. American companies continue to show strong interest to establish or expand their business presence and engagement in Kenya, especially following President Kenyatta’s August 2018 and February 2020 meetings with President Trump in Washington, D.C. Sectors offering the most opportunities for investors include: agro-processing, financial services, energy, extractives, transportation, infrastructure, retail, restaurants, technology, health care, and mobile banking.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 137 of 198 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 56 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 77 of 126 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 $353 http://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $1,750 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Kenya has enjoyed a steadily improving environment for foreign direct investment (FDI). Foreign investors seeking to establish a presence in Kenya generally receive the same treatment as local investors, and multinational companies make up a large percentage of Kenya’s industrial sector. The government’s export promotion programs do not distinguish between goods produced by local or foreign-owned firms. The major regulations governing FDI are found in the Investment Promotion Act (2004). Other important documents that provide the legal framework for FDI include the 2010 Constitution of Kenya, the Companies Ordinance, the Private Public Partnership Act (2013), the Foreign Investment Protection Act (1990), and the Companies Act (2015). GOK membership in the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) provides an opportunity to insure FDI against non-commercial risk. In November 2019, KenInvest launched the Kenya Investment Policy (KIP) and the County Investment Handbook (CIH) (http://www.invest.go.ke/publications/) which aim to increase foreign direct investment in the country. The investment policy intends to guide laws being drafted to promote and facilitate investments in Kenya.

The Central Bank has successfully maintained macroeconomic stability with relatively low inflation and stable exchange rates. The National Treasury is increasingly focused on efforts to ensure prudent debt management. Kenya puts significant effort into assuring the health and growth of its tourism industry. To strengthen Kenya’s manufacturing capacity, the government offers incentives to produce goods for export.

Investment Promotion Agency

Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest), the country’s official investment promotion agency, is viewed favorably by international investors (http://www.invest.go.ke/). KenInvest’s mandate is to promote and facilitate investment by assisting investors in obtaining the licenses necessary to invest and by providing other assistance and incentives to facilitate smoother operations. To help investors navigate local regulations, KenInvest has developed an online database known as eRegulations, designed to provide investors and entrepreneurs with full transparency on Kenya’s investment-related regulations and procedures (https://eregulations.invest.go.ke/?l=en ).

KenInvest is part of the National Business and Economic Response of the GOK and has been instrumental in assessing and relaying information about the private sector effects of Covid-19 to inform policy measures during the pandemic. The agency is also tracking post-Covid-19 investment sectors.

The GOK prioritizes investment retention and maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors. All proposed legislation must pass through a period of public consultation in which investors have an opportunity to offer feedback. Private sector representatives can serve as board members on Kenya’s state-owned enterprises. Since 2013, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), the apex private sector business association, has had bi-annual round table meetings with President Kenyatta and his cabinet. Investors’ concerns are considered by a Cabinet committee on the ease of doing business, chaired by President Kenyatta. The American Chamber of Commerce has also taken an increasingly active role in engaging the GOK on Kenya’s business environment, often providing a forum for dialogue.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The government provides the right for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity. In an effort to encourage foreign investment, the GOK in 2015 repealed regulations that imposed a 75 percent foreign ownership limitation for firms listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, allowing such firms to be 100 percent foreign-owned. Also in 2015, the government established regulations requiring Kenyans own at least 15 percent of the share capital of derivatives exchanges, through which derivatives such as options and futures can be traded.

Kenya considered imposing “local content” requirements on foreign investments under the Companies Act (2015), which initially contained language requiring all foreign companies to demonstrate at least 30 percent of shareholding by Kenyan citizens by birth. United States business associations, however, raised concerns over the bill, pointing to its lack of clarity and the possibility such measures could run afoul of Kenya’s commitments under the WTO. After the U.S. government also raised the issue with the Kenyan government, the clause was repealed.

Kenya’s National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) policy guidelines, published in August 2020, increase the requirement for Kenyan ownership in foreign companies providing ICT services from 20% to 30%, and broadens its applicability within the telecommunications, postal, courier, and broadcasting industries. The foreign entities will have 3 years to comply with the increased local equity participation rule. The Mining Act (2016) restricts foreign participation in the mining sector and reserves the acquisition of mineral rights to Kenyan companies, requiring 60 percent Kenyan ownership of mineral dealerships and artisanal mining companies. The Private Security Regulations Act (2016) restricts foreign participation in the private security sector by requiring that at least 25 percent of shares in private security firms be held by Kenyans. The National Construction Authority Act (2011) imposes local content restrictions on “foreign contractors,” defined as companies incorporated outside Kenya or with more than 50 percent ownership by non-Kenyan citizens. The act requires foreign contractors to enter into subcontracts or joint ventures assuring that at least 30 percent of the contract work is done by local firms. Regulations implementing these requirements remain in process. The Kenya Insurance Act (2010) restricts foreign capital investment to two-thirds, with no single person controlling more than 25 percent of an insurers’ capital.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In 2019, the World Trade Organization conducted a trade policy review for the East Africa Community (EAC), of which Kenya is a member (https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp484_e.htm).

Business Facilitation

In 2011, the GOK established a state agency called KenTrade to address trading partners’ concerns regarding the complexity of trading regulations and procedures. KenTrade is mandated to facilitate cross-border trade and to implement the National Electronic Single Window System. In 2017, KenTrade launched InfoTrade Kenya, located at infotrade.gov.ke, which provides a host of investment products and services to prospective investors in Kenya. The site documents the process of exporting and importing by product, by steps, by paperwork, and by individuals, including contact information for officials’ responsible relevant permits or approvals.

In February 2019, Kenya implemented a new Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS) which includes automated valuation benchmarking, automated release of green-channel cargo, importer validation and declaration, and linkage with iTax. The iCMS features enable Customs to efficiently manage revenue and security related risks for imports, exports and goods on transit and transshipment.

The Movable Property Security Rights Bill (2017) enhanced the ability of individuals to secure financing through movable assets, including using intellectual property rights as collateral. The Nairobi International Financial Centre Act (2017) seeks to provide a legal framework to facilitate and support the development of an efficient and competitive financial services sector in Kenya. The act created the Nairobi Financial Centre Authority to establish and maintain an efficient operating framework to attract and retain firms. The Kenya Trade Remedies Act (2017) provides the legal and institutional framework for Kenya’s application of trade remedies consistent with World Trade Organization (WTO) law, which requires a domestic institution to both receive complaints and undertake investigations in line with the WTO Agreements. To date, however, Kenya has implemented only 7.5 percent of its commitments under the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, which it ratified in 2015. In 2020, Kenya launched the Kenya Trade Remedies Agency for the investigation and imposition of anti-dumping, countervailing duty, and trade safeguards, to protect domestic industries from unfair trade practices.

The Companies Amendment Act (2017) amended the prior Companies Act clarifying ambiguities in the act and conforms to global trends and best practices. The act amends provisions on the extent of directors’ liabilities, on the extent of directors’ disclosures, and on shareholder remedies to better protect investors, including minority investors. The amended act eliminates the requirement for small enterprises to have lawyers register their firms, the requirement for company secretaries for small businesses, and the need for small businesses to hold annual general meetings, saving regulatory compliance and operational costs.

The Business Registration Services (BRS) Act (2015) established a state corporation known as the Business Registration Service to ensure effective administration of the laws relating to the incorporation, registration, operation and management of companies, partnerships, and firms. The BRS also devolves to the counties business registration services such as registration of business names and promoting local business ideas/legal entities, thus reducing costs of registration. The Companies Act (2015) covers the registration and management of both public and private corporations.

In 2014, the GOK established a Business Environment Delivery Unit to address challenges facing investors in the country. The unit focuses on reducing the bureaucratic steps related to setting up and doing business in the country. Separately, the Business Regulatory Reform Unit operates a website (http://www.businesslicense.or.ke/ ) offering online business registration and providing information on how to access detailed information on additional relevant business licenses and permits, including requirements, costs, application forms, and contact details for the relevant regulatory agency. In 2013, the GOK initiated the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities program, requiring all public procurement entities to set aside a minimum of 30 percent of their annual procurement spending facilitate the participation of youth, women, and persons with disabilities (https://agpo.go.ke/ ).

An investment guide to Kenya, also referred to as iGuide Kenya, can be found at http://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/kenya/about# . iGuides designed by UNCTAD and the International Chamber of Commerce provide investors with up-to-date information on business costs, licensing requirements, opportunities, and conditions in developing countries. Kenya is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures.

Outward Investment

The GOK does not promote or incentivize outward investment. Despite this, Kenya is evolving into an outward investor in tourism, manufacturing, retail, finance, education, and media. Outward investment has been focused in the East Africa Community and select central African countries, taking advantage of the EAC preferential access between the EAC member countries. The EAC advocates for free movement of capital across the six member states – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Kenya’s regulatory system is relatively transparent and continues to improve. Proposed laws and regulations pertaining to business and investment are published in draft form for public input and stakeholder deliberation before their passage into law (http://www.kenyalaw.org/  and http://www.parliament.go.ke/the-national-assembly/house-business/bills-tracker ). Kenya’s business registration and licensing systems are fully digitized and transparent while computerization of other government processes to increase transparency and close avenues for corrupt behavior is ongoing.

The 2010 Kenyan Constitution requires government to incorporate public participation before officials and agencies make certain decisions. The draft Public Participation Bill (2016) would provide the general framework for such public participation. The Ministry of Devolution has produced a guide for counties on how to carry out public participation; many counties have enacted their own laws on public participation. The Environmental Management and Coordination Act (1999) incorporates the principles of sustainable development, including public participation in environmental management. The Public Finance Management Act mandates public participation in the budget cycle. The Land Act, Water Act, and Fair Administrative Action Act (2015) also include provisions providing for public participation in agency actions.

Kenya has regulations to promote inclusion and fair competition when applying for tenders. Executive Order No. 2 of 2018 emphasizes publication of all procurement information including tender notices, contracts awarded, name of suppliers and their directors. The information is published on the Public Procurement Information Portal enhances transparency and accountability (https://www.tenders.go.ke/website). However, the directive is yet to be fully implemented.

Many GOK laws grant significant discretionary and approval powers to government agency administrators, which can create uncertainty among investors. While some government agencies have amended laws or published clear guidelines for decision-making criteria, others have lagged in making their transactions transparent. Work permit processing remains a problem, with overlapping and sometimes contradictory regulations. American companies have complained about delays and non-issuance of permits that appear compliant with known regulations.

International Regulatory Considerations

Kenya is a member state of the East African Community (EAC), and generally applies EAC policies to trade and investment. Kenya operates under the EAC Custom Union Act (2004) and decisions on the tariffs to levy on imports from countries outside the EAC zone are made at the EAC Secretariat level. The U.S. government engages with Kenya on trade and investment issues bilaterally and through the U.S.-EAC Trade and Investment Partnership. Kenya also is a member of COMESA and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

According to the Africa Regional Integration Index Report 2019, Kenya is the second best integrated country in Africa and a leader in regional integration policies within the EAC and COMESA regional blocs, with strong performance on regional infrastructure, productive integration, free movement of people, and financial and macro-economic integration. The GOK maintains a Department of East African Community Integration within the Ministry of East Africa and Regional Development. Kenya generally adheres to international regulatory standards. The country is a member of the WTO and provides notification of draft technical regulations to the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Kenya maintains a TBT National Enquiry Point at http://notifyke.kebs.org . Additional information on Kenya’s WTO participation can be found at https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/countries_e/kenya_e.htm .

Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms. Publicly listed companies adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) that have been developed and issued in the public interest by the International Accounting Standards Board. The board is an independent, private sector, not-for-profit organization that is the standard-setting body of the IFRS Foundation. Kenya is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The legal system is based on English Common Law, and the 2010 constitution establishes an independent judiciary with a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Constitutional Court, and High Court. Subordinate courts include: Magistrates, Khadis (Muslim succession and inheritance), Courts Martial, the Employment and Labor Relations Court (formerly the Industrial Court), and the Milimani Commercial Courts – the latter two of which both have jurisdiction over economic and commercial matters. In 2016, Kenya’s judiciary instituted specialized courts focused on corruption and economic crimes. There is no systematic executive or other interference in the court system that affects foreign investors, however, the courts face allegations of corruption, as well as political manipulation in the form of unjustified budget cuts which significantly impact the ability of the judiciary to deliver on its mandate and delayed confirmation of nominated Judges by the President resulting in an understaffed judiciary and long delays in rendering judgments.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act (2012) provides for the enforcement of judgments given in other countries that accord reciprocal treatment to judgments given in Kenya. Kenya has entered into reciprocal enforcement agreements with Australia, the United Kingdom, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Seychelles. Outside of such an agreement, a foreign judgment is not enforceable in the Kenyan courts except by filing a suit on the judgment. Foreign advocates may practice as an advocate in Kenya for the purposes of a specified suit or matter if appointed to do so by the Attorney General. However, foreign advocates are not entitled to practice in Kenya unless they have paid to the Registrar of the High Court of Kenya the prescribed admission fee. Additionally, they are not entitled to practice unless a Kenyan advocate instructs and accompanies them to court. The regulations or enforcement actions are appealable and are adjudicated in the national court system.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Kenya does not have a competition or Anti-Trust policy, however the Competition Act (2010) created the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) which covers restrictive trade practices, mergers and takeovers, unwarranted concentrations, and price control. All mergers and acquisitions require the CAK’s authorization before they are finalized, and the CAK regulates abuse of dominant position and other competition and consumer-welfare related issues in Kenya. In 2014, CAK imposed a filing fee for mergers and acquisitions set at one million Kenyan shillings (KSH) (approximately USD 10,000) for mergers involving turnover of between one and KSH 50 billion (up to approximately USD 500 million). KSH two million (approximately USD 20,000) will be charged for larger mergers. Company takeovers are possible if the share buy-out is more than 90 percent, although such takeovers are rarely seen in practice.

Expropriation and Compensation

The 2010 constitution guarantees protection from expropriation, except in cases of eminent domain or security concerns, and all cases are subject to the payment of prompt and fair compensation. The Land Acquisition Act (2010) governs due process and compensation in land acquisition, although land rights remain contentious and can cause significant project delays. However, there are cases where government measures could be deemed indirect expropriation that may impact foreign investment. Companies report an emerging trend in land lease renewal where foreign investors face uncertainty in lease renewals by county governments in instances where the county wants to confiscate some or all of the foreign investor’s project property.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Kenya is a member of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, also known as the ICSID Convention or the Washington Convention, and the 1958 New York Convention on the Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. International companies may opt to seek international well-established dispute resolution at the ICSID. Regarding the arbitration of property issues, the Foreign Investments Protection Act (2014) cites Article 75 of the Kenyan Constitution, which provides that “[e]very person having an interest or right in or over property which is compulsorily taken possession of or whose interest in or right over any property is compulsorily acquired shall have a right of direct access to the High Court.” Kenya in 2020 prevailed in an ICSID international arbitration case against WalAm Energy Inc, a U.S./Canadian geothermal company in a geothermal exploration license revocation dispute.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

There have been very few investment disputes involving U.S. and international companies. Commercial disputes, including those involving government tenders, are more common. There are different bodies established to settle investment disputes. The National Land Commission (NLC) settles land related disputes; the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board settles procurement and tender related disputes, and the Tax Appeals Tribunal settles tax disputes. However, the private sector cites weak institutional capacity, inadequate transparency, and inordinate delays in dispute resolution in lower courts. The resources and time involved in settling a dispute through the Kenyan courts often render them ineffective as a form of dispute resolution.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The government does accept binding international arbitration of investment disputes with foreign investors. The Kenyan Arbitration Act (1995) as amended in 2010 is anchored entirely on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law. Legislation introduced in 2013 established the Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration (NCIA), which seeks to serve as an independent, not-for-profit international organization for commercial arbitration, and may offer a quicker alternative to the court system. In 2014, the Kenya Revenue Authority launched an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism aiming to provide taxpayers with an alternative, fast-track avenue for resolving tax disputes.

Transcription of Court Proceedings in the Commercial and Tax Division

The Kenyan Judiciary reported in its 2018-2019 State of the Judiciary and Administration Report that it had commenced its court recording and transcription project with the installation of recording equipment in six courtrooms in the Commercial and Tax Division in Nairobi. The project will significantly speed up the hearing of cases as judges will no longer be required to record proceedings by hand.

Court Annexed Mediation and Small Claims Courts

The National Council on the Administration of Justice spearheaded legislative reforms to accommodate mediation in the formal court process as well as introduce small claims courts to expedite resolution of commercial cases. The Judiciary reported in its State of the Judiciary Address (2018-2019), that the Mediation Accreditation Committee accredited 645 mediators that were handling a total of 411 commercial matters during the reporting period. Additionally, the Judiciary reported that disputes with a total value of over three billion Kenyan shillings (KSH) (approximately USD 30,000,000) had been resolved through Court Annexed Mediation during the reporting period. Court Annexed Mediation serves as an effective case resolution mechanism that will significantly reduce pressure on the justice system and eventually result in expeditious determination of commercial cases.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Insolvency Act (2015) modernized the legal framework for bankruptcies. Its provisions generally correspond to those of the United Nations’ Model Law on Cross Border Insolvency. The act promotes fair and efficient administration of cross-border insolvencies to protect the interests of all creditors and other interested persons, including the debtor. The act repeals the Bankruptcy Act (2012) and updates the legal structure relating to insolvency of natural persons and incorporated and unincorporated bodies. Section 720 of the Insolvency Act (2015) grants the force of law to the UNCITRAL Model Law.

Creditors’ rights are comparable to those in other common law countries, and monetary judgments typically are made in Kenyan shillings. The Insolvency Act (2015) increased the rights of borrowers and prioritizes the revival of distressed firms. The law states that a debtor will automatically be discharged from debt after three years. Bankruptcy is not criminalized in Kenya. Kenya moved up 6 ranks in the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2020 report, moving to 50 of 190 countries in the “resolving insolvency” category.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Kenya provides both fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to foreign investors (http://www.invest.go.ke/starting-a-business-in-kenya/investment-incentives/ ). The minimum foreign investment to qualify for GOK investment incentives is USD 100,000, a potential deterrent to foreign small and medium enterprise investment, especially in the services sector. Investment Certificate benefits, including entry permits for expatriates, are outlined in the Investment Promotion Act (2004).

The government allows all locally-financed materials and equipment for use in construction or refurbishment of tourist hotels to be zero-rated for purposes of VAT calculation – excluding motor vehicles and goods for regular repair and maintenance. The National Treasury principal secretary, however, must approve such purchases. In a measure to boost the tourism industry, one-week employee vacations paid by employers are a tax-deductible expense. The 2015 amendments to Kenya’s VAT rules clarified some items that are VAT exempt. In 2018, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) exempted from VAT certain facilities and machinery used in the manufacturing of goods under Section 84 of the East African Community Common External Tariff Handbook. VAT refund claims must be submitted within 12 months of purchase.

The government’s Manufacturing Under Bond (MUB) program encourages manufacturing for export. The program provides a 100 percent tax deduction on plant machinery and equipment and raw materials imported for production of goods for export. The program is also open to Kenyan companies producing goods that can be imported duty-free or goods for supply to the armed forces or to an approved aid-funded project. Investors in metal manufacturing and products and the hospitality services sectors are able to deduct from their taxes a large portion of the cost of buildings and capital machinery.

The Finance Act (2014) amended the Income Tax Act (1974) to reintroduce capital gains tax on transfer of property located in Kenya. Under this provision, gains derived on the sale or transfer of property by an individual or company are subject to tax at rates of at least five percent. Sales and transfer of property related to the oil and gas industry are taxed up to 37.5 percent. The Finance Act (2014) also reintroduced the withholding VAT system by government ministries, departments, and agencies. The system excludes the Railway Development Levy (RDL) imports for persons, goods, and projects; the implementation of an official aid-funded project; diplomatic missions and institutions or organizations gazetted under the Privileges and Immunities Act (2014); and the United Nations or its agencies.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Kenya’s Export Processing Zones (EPZ) and Special Economic Zones (SEZ) offer special incentives for firms operating within their boundaries. By the end of 2019, Kenya had 74 designated EPZs, with 137 companies and 60,383 workers contributing KSH 77.1 billion (about USD 713 million) to the Kenyan economy. Companies operating within an EPZ benefit from the following tax benefits: a 10-year corporate-tax holiday and a 25 percent tax thereafter; a 10-year withholding tax holiday; stamp duty exemption; 100 percent tax deduction on initial investment applied over 20 years; and VAT exemption on industrial inputs.

About 54 percent of EPZ products are exported to the United States under AGOA. The majority of the exports are textiles – Kenya’s third largest export behind tea and horticulture – and more recently handicrafts. Eighty percent of Kenya’s textiles and apparel originate from EPZ-based firms. Approximately 50 percent of all firms in the zones are fully-owned by foreigners – mainly from India – while the rest are locally owned or joint ventures with foreigners.

While EPZs are focused on encouraging production for export, SEZs are designed to boost local economies by offering benefits for goods that are consumed both internally and externally. SEZs will allow for a wider range of commercial ventures, including primary activities such as farming, fishing, and forestry. The 2016 Special Economic Zones Regulations state that the Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZA) must maintain an open investment environment to facilitate and encourage business by the establishment of simple, flexible, and transparent procedures for investor registration. In 2019 Kenya developed the revised draft SEZ regulations with simplified and improved incentives structure. The 2019 draft regulations include customs duty exemptions to goods and services in the SEZ and no trade related restrictions including quantitative ones in import of goods and services into the SEZ. The rules also empower county governments to set aside public land for establishment of industrial zones.

Companies operating in the SEZs will receive the following benefits: all SEZ supplies of goods and services to companies and developers will be exempted from VAT; the corporate tax rate for enterprises, developers, and operators will be reduced from 30 percent to 10 percent for the first 10 years and 15 percent for the next 10 years; exemption from taxes and duties payable under the Customs and Excise Act (2014), the Income Tax Act (1974), the EAC Customs Management Act (2004), and stamp duty; and exemption from county-level advertisement and license fees. There are currently SEZs in Mombasa (2,000 sq. km), Lamu (700 sq. km), and Kisumu (700 sq. km), Naivasha, Machakos (100 acres) and private developments designated as SEZ include Tatu City in Kiambu. The Third Medium Term Plan of Kenya’s Vision 2030 economic development agenda calls for a study for an SEZ at Dongo Kundu, and an SEZ was also under consideration at a location near the Olkaria geothermal power plant.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The GOK mandates local employment in the category of unskilled labor. The Kenyan government regularly issues permits for key senior managers and personnel with special skills not available locally. For other skilled labor, any enterprise whether local or foreign may recruit from outside if the skills are not available in Kenya. Firms seeking to hire expatriates must demonstrate that the requisite skills are not available locally through an exhaustive search. The Ministry of EAC and Regional Development, however, has noted plans to replace this requirement with an official inventory of skills that are not available in Kenya. A work permit can cost up to KSH 400,000 (approximately USD 4,000).

The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (2015) offers preferences to firms owned by Kenyan citizens and to products manufactured or mined in Kenya in a GOK strategy called “Buy Kenya Build Kenya” which mandates 40 percent of GOK procurement be locally produced goods and services. Tenders funded entirely by the government with a value of less than KSH 50 million (approximately USD 500,000), are reserved for Kenyan firms and goods. If the procuring entity seeks to contract with non-Kenyan firms or procure foreign goods, the act requires a report detailing evidence of an inability to procure locally. The act also calls for at least 30 percent of government procurement contracts to go to firms owned by women, youth, and persons with disabilities. The act further reserves 20 percent of county procurement tenders to residents of that county.

The Finance Act (2017) amends the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (2015) to introduce Specially Permitted Procurement as an alternative method of acquiring public goods and services. The new method permits state agencies to bypass existing public procurement laws under certain circumstances. Procuring entities will be allowed to use this method where market conditions or behavior do not allow effective application of the 10 methods outlined in the Public Procurement and Disposal Act. The act gives the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary the authority to prescribe the procedure for carrying out specially permitted procurement.

Kenya passed the Data Protection Act (2019) which imposes restrictions on the transfer of data in and out of Kenya without consent of the Data Protection Commissioner and the subject, functionally requiring data localization. The Act is similar to the European General Data Protection Regulation requirements on data processing.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The 2010 Constitution prohibits foreigners or foreign owned firms from owning freehold interest in land in Kenya. However, unless classified as agricultural, there are no restrictions on foreign-owned companies leasing land or real estate. The cumbersome and opaque process to acquire land raises concerns about security of title, particularly given past abuses relating to the distribution and redistribution of public land. The Land (Extension and Renewal of Leases) Rules (2017) stopped the automatic renewal of leases and tied renewals to the economic output of the land that must be beneficial to the economy. If property legally purchased remains unoccupied, the property ownership can revert to other occupiers, including squatters. Privately-owned land comprised six percent of the total land area in 1990; government land was about 20 percent of the total and included national parks, forest land and alienated and un-alienated land. Trust land is the most extensive type of tenure, comprising 64 percent of the total land area in 1990.

The 2010 Constitution and subsequent land legislation created the National Land Commission, an independent government body mandated to review historical land injustices and provide oversight of government land policy and management. This had the unintended side effect of introducing coordination and jurisdictional confusion between the commission and the Ministry of Lands mainly fueled by land interests by the political class. In 2015, President Kenyatta commissioned the new National Titling Center with a promise to increase the 5.6 million title deeds issued since independence to 9 million. From 2013 to 2018, an additional 4.5 million title deeds have been issued, however 70 percent of land in Kenya remained untitled. Land grabbing resulting from double registration of titles remains prevalent. Property legally purchased but unoccupied can revert ownership to other parties.

Mortgages and liens exist in Kenya, but the recording system is not reliable – Kenya has only some 24,000 recorded mortgages in a country of 47.6 million people – and there are often complaints of property rights and interests not being enforced. The legal infrastructure around land ownership and registration has changed in recent years, and land issues have delayed several major infrastructure projects. Kenya’s 2010 Constitution required all land leases to convert from 999 years to 99 years, giving the state the power to review leasehold land at the expiry of the 99 years, deny lease renewal, and confiscate the land if it determines the land has not been used productively. The constitution also converted foreign-owned freehold interests into 99-year leases at a nominal “peppercorn rate” sufficient to satisfy the requirements for the creation of a legal contract. The GOK has not yet effectively implemented this provision. In July 2020, the Ministry of Lands and Physical planning released draft electronic land registration regulations (2020) to guide the e-transaction of land. The Ministry together with the National Land Commission agreed to commence the e-transaction on land matters pending resolution of outstanding issues.

Intellectual Property Rights

The major intellectual property enforcement issues in Kenya related to counterfeit products are corruption, lack of penalty enforcement, failure to impound imports of counterfeit goods at the ports of entry, and reluctance of brand owners to file a complaint with the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA). The prevalence of “gray market” products – genuine products that enter the country illegally without paying import duties – also presents a challenge, especially in the mobile phone and computer sectors. Copyright piracy and the use of unlicensed software are also emerging challenges.

The Presidential Task Force on Parastatal Reforms (2013) proposed that the three intellectual property agencies, namely: the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) and the Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) be merged into one Government Owned Entity (GOE). A task force on the merger comprising staff from KIPI, ACA, KECOBO, the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development is drafting the instruments of the merger which has led to a draft GOE named Intellectual Property Office of Kenya (IPOK) and has also drafted Intellectual Property Office Bill, 2020 for establishing IPOK. In an attempt to combat the import of counterfeits, the Ministry of Industrialization and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) decreed in 2009 that all locally-manufactured goods must have a KEBS standardization mark. Several categories of imported goods, specifically food products, electronics, and medicines, must have an import standardization mark (ISM). Under this program, U.S. consumer-ready products may enter the Kenyan market without altering the U.S. label but must also carry an ISM. Once the product qualifies for a Confirmation of Conformity, KEBS will issue the ISM free of charge. From time to time KEBS and the Anti-Counterfeit Agency conduct random seizures of counterfeit imports but there is no clear database of seizures kept.

Kenya is not included on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see the World Intellectual Property Organization’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Kenya developed the draft Financial Markets Conduct bill (2018) to consolidate and harmonize the financial sector in the country. Among the proposals in the draft bill is the establishment of the financial markets conduct authority to be the sole body to regulate providers of financial products and services to retail financial customers and to curb irresponsible financial market practices, a move that will create a conflict with the current financial markets regulators. Though relatively small by Western standards, Kenya’s capital markets are the deepest and most sophisticated in East Africa. The Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) is the best ranked exchange in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of performance in the last decade. NSE operates under the jurisdiction of the Capital Markets Authority of Kenya. It is a full member of the World Federation of Exchange, a founder member of the African Securities Exchanges Association (ASEA) and the East African Securities Exchanges Association (EASEA). The NSE is a member of the Association of Futures Market and is a partner exchange in the United Nations-led SSE initiative. Foreign investor participation has always been high and a key determinant of the market performance in the NSE. The NSE in July 2019 launched the derivatives market that will facilitate trading in future contracts on the Kenyan market and will be regulated by the Capital Market Authority of Kenya. The bond market is underdeveloped and dominated by trading in government debt securities. The government domestic debt market, however, is deep and liquid. Long-term corporate bond issuances are uncommon, leading to a lack of long-term investment capital.

In November 2019, Kenya repealed the interest rate capping law passed in 2016 which had had the unintended consequence of slowing private sector credit growth. There are no restrictions for foreign investors to seek credit in the domestic financial market although it still struggles to fund big ticket projects. Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally aligned with international norms. The Kenyan National Treasury has launched its mobile money platform government bond to retail investors locally dubbed M-Akiba purchased at USD 30 on their mobile phones. M-Akiba has generated over 500,000 accounts for the Central Depository and Settlement Corporation and The National Treasury has made initial pay-outs to bond holders. The GOK expects to issue USD 10 million over this platform in 2019 in an effort to deepen financial inclusion and financial literacy.

According to the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA) 2014-2019 report on venture capital performance in Africa, Kenya is assessed as having a well-developed venture capitalist ecosystem ranking second in sub-Saharan Africa and accounted for 18 percent of the deals between 2014-2019 in Africa. The report further states that over 20 percent of the deals in the period were for companies that were headquartered outside Africa which sought expansion into the region’s markets.

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) is working with regulators in EAC member states through the Capital Market Development Committee (CMDC) and East African Securities Regulatory Authorities (EASRA) on a regional integration initiative and has successfully introduced cross-listing of equity shares. The combined use of both the Central Depository and Settlement Corporation (CDSC) and an automated trading system has moved the Kenyan securities market to globally accepted standards. Kenya is a full (ordinary) member of the International Organization of Securities Commissions Money and Banking System.

Money and Banking System

The Kenyan banking sector in 2020 included 40 operating commercial banks, one mortgage finance company, 13 microfinance banks, nine representative offices of foreign banks, 70 foreign exchange bureaus, 15 money remittance providers, and three credit reference bureaus which are licensed and regulated by the Central Bank of Kenya. Kenya also has 12 deposit-taking microfinance institutions. There has been increased foreign interest in Kenya’s banking sector with foreign owned banks making up 15 of the 40 operating banks. Major international banks operating in Kenya include Citibank, Absa bank (formerly Barclays bank Africa), Bank of India, Standard Bank (South Africa), and Standard Chartered. Kenya’s banking sector has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CBK, 32 out of 39 commercial banks restructured their loans to accommodate those affected. Non-performing loans (NPLs) rose to 13.1 percent in April 2020 fueled by the pandemic, however previous NPLs have averaged above 10 percent. The Banking sector has 12 listed banks in the Nairobi Securities Exchange which owned 89 percent of the banking assets in 2019.

In March 2017, CBK lifted its moratorium on licensing new banks, issued in November 2015 following the collapse of Imperial Bank and Dubai Bank. The CBK’s decision to restart licensing signaled a return of stability in the Kenyan banking sector. In 2018, Societé Generale (France) also set up a representative office in Nairobi. Foreign banks can apply for license to set up operations in Kenya and are guided by the CBK’s prudential guidelines 2013.

In November 2019, the Government of Kenya (GOK) enacted the Banking Amendment Act 2019, which effectively repealed the section within the Banking (Amendment) Act (2016) that capped the maximum interest rate banks can charge on commercial loans at four percent above Central Bank of Kenya’s (CBK) benchmark lending rate. This repeal effectively provides financial institutions flexibility with regards to pricing the risk of lending.

In the ongoing land registry digitization process, the Kenyan Government is working on a database, known as the single source of truth (SSOT), to eliminate fake title deeds in the Ministry of Lands. The SSOT database development plan is premised on blockchain technology – distributed ledger technology – as the primary reference for all land transactions. The SSOT database would help the land transaction process to be efficient, open, and transparent. The blockchain taskforce presented its 2019 report to the Ministry of Information, Communication Technology, Innovations and Youth Affairs on the viability and opportunities of the blockchain technology which is yet to be implemented.

The percentage of Kenya’s total population with access to financial services through conventional or mobile banking platforms is approximately 80 percent. According to the World Bank, M-Pesa, Kenya’s largest mobile banking platform, processes more transactions within Kenya each year than Western Union does globally. Data from the Communication Authority of Kenya shows that in the 3 months to December 2019, 30 million Kenyans had active mobile money subscriptions. The 2017 National ICT Masterplan envisages the sector contributing at least 10 percent of GDP, up from 4.7 percent in 2015. Several mobile money platforms have achieved international interoperability, allowing the Kenyan diaspora to conduct financial transactions in Kenya from abroad.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange Policies

Kenya has no restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with investment. Kenyan law requires the declaration to customs of amounts greater than KSH 1,000,000 (approximately USD 10,000) or the equivalent in foreign currencies for non-residents as a formal check against money laundering. Kenya is an open economy with a liberalized capital account and a floating exchange rate. The CBK engages in volatility controls aimed exclusively at smoothing temporary market fluctuations. Between June 2015 and June 2016, the Kenyan shilling declined 3.5 percent after a sharp decline of 15 percent during the same period in 2014/2015. In 2018, foreign exchange reserves remained relatively steady. The average inflation rate was 5.2 percent in 2019 and the average rate on 91-day treasury bills had fallen to 7.2 percent in 2019. According to CBK figures, the average exchange rate was KSH 101.99to USD 1.00 in 2019.

Remittance Policies

Kenya’s Foreign Investment Protection Act (FIPA) guarantees capital repatriation and remittance of dividends and interest to foreign investors, who are free to convert and repatriate profits including un-capitalized retained profits (proceeds of an investment after payment of the relevant taxes and the principal and interest associated with any loan).

Foreign currency is readily available from commercial banks and foreign exchange bureaus and can be freely bought and sold by local and foreign investors. The Central Bank of Kenya Act (2014), however, states that all foreign exchange dealers are required to obtain and retain appropriate documents for all transactions above the equivalent of KSH 1,000,000 (approximately USD 10,000). Kenya has 15 money remittance providers as at 2020 following the operationalization of money remittance regulations in April 2013.

Kenya is listed as a country of primary concern for money laundering and financial crime by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. Kenya was removed from the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Watchlist in 2014 following progress in creating the legal and institutional framework to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

In 2019, the National Treasury published the Kenya Sovereign Wealth Fund policy (2019) and the Kenya Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill (2019) for stakeholders’ comments as a constitutional procedure. The fund would receive income from any future privatization proceeds, dividends from state corporations, oil and gas, and minerals revenues due to the national government, revenue from other natural resources, and funds from any other source. The Kenya Information and Communications Act (2009) provides for the establishment of a Universal Service Fund (USF). The purpose of the USF is to fund national projects that have significant impact on the availability and accessibility of ICT services in rural, remote, and poor urban areas. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the USF committee has partnered with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development to digitize the education curriculum for online learning.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

In 2013, the Presidential Task Force on Parastatal Reforms (PTFPR) published a list of all state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and recommended proposals to reduce the number of State Corporations from 262 to 187 to eliminate redundant functions between parastatals; close or dispose of non-performing organizations; consolidate functions wherever possible; and reduce the workforce — however, progress is slow. The taskforce’s report can be found at (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BytnSZLruS3GQmxHc1VtZkhVVW8/edit ) SOEs’ boards are independently appointed and published in the Kenya Gazette notices by respective Cabinet Secretary. The State Corporations Advisory Committee is mandated by the State Corporations Act 2015 to advise on matters of SOEs. Financial operations of most SOEs are not readily available due to their opaque operating procedures despite being public entities, only those that are listed in the Nairobi Securities Exchange publish their financial positions as guided by the Capital Markets Authority guidelines. Corporate governance in SOEs is guided by the 2010 Constitution chapter 6 on integrity, Leadership and Integrity Act 2012 and the Public Officer Ethics Act 2003 which provide integrity and ethical requirements governing the conduct of State and public officers.

In general, competitive equality is the standard applied to private enterprises in competition with public enterprises. Certain parastatals, however, have enjoyed preferential access to markets. Examples include Kenya Reinsurance, which enjoys a guaranteed market share; Kenya Seed Company, which has fewer marketing barriers than its foreign competitors; and the National Oil Corporation of Kenya (NOCK), which benefits from retail market outlets developed with government funds. Some state corporations have also benefited from easier access to government guarantees, subsidies, or credit at favorable interest rates. In addition, “partial listings” on the Nairobi Securities Exchange offer parastatals the benefit of financing through equity and GOK loans (or guarantees) without being completely privatized.

In August 2020, the executive reorganized the management of SOEs in the cargo transportation sector and mandated the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC) to oversee rail, pipeline and port operations through a holding company called Kenya Transport and Logistics Network (KTLN). ICDC assumes a coordinating role over the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) and Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC). KTLN is aimed at lowering the cost of doing business in the country, which will be achieved through the provision of port, rail, and pipeline infrastructure in a cost effective and efficient manner.

SOE procurement from the private sector is guided by the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act 2015 and the published Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Regulations 2020 which introduced exemptions from the Act for procurement on bilateral/multilateral basis commonly referred to government to government procurement; introduced E-procurement procedures; and preferences and reservations which gives preferences to the “Buy Kenya Build Kenya” strategy (http://kenyalaw.org/kl/fileadmin/pdfdownloads/LegalNotices/2020/LN69_2020.pdf ). The amendment reserves 30 percent government supply contracts for youth, women, and small and medium enterprises. Kenya is neither party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) nor an Observer Government.

Privatization Program

The Privatization Act 2003 establishes the Privatization Commission (PC) which is mandated to formulate, manage, and implement Kenya’s Privatization Program. GOK has been committed to implementing a comprehensive public enterprises reform program to increase private sector participation in the economy. The privatization commission ( https://www.pc.go.ke/  ) is fully constituted with a board which is responsible for the privatization program. The PC has 26 approved privatization programs (https://www.pc.go.ke/sites/default/files/2019-06/APPROVED%20PRIVATIZATION%20PROGRAMME.pdf  ). In 2020, GOK is implementing a sugar taskforce report that proposed privatization of some state-owned sugar firms to increase their efficiency and productivity. The process of privatization involves open bids by interested investors including foreign investors.

9. Corruption

Many businesses deem corruption to be pervasive and entrenched in Kenya. Transparency International’s (TI) 2019 Global Corruption Perception Index ranks Kenya 137 out of 198 countries, six places lower than in 2018 and Kenya’s score of 28 remains below the sub-Saharan Africa average of 32. Historical lack of political will, limited progress in prosecuting past corruption cases, and the slow pace of reform in key sectors were reasons cited for Kenya’s chronic low ranking. Corruption has been reported to be an impediment to FDI, with local media reporting allegations of high-level corruption related to health, energy, ICT, and infrastructure contracts. There are many reports that corruption often influences the outcomes of government tenders, and U.S. firms have had limited success bidding on public procurements. In 2018, President Kenyatta began a public campaign against corruption. The Anti-Corruption agencies mandated to fight corruption have been inconsistent in coordinating activities, especially in bringing cases against senior officials. However, there were cabinet level arrests in 2019 that signaled a commitment by the GOK to fight corruption. Despite these efforts, much still remains to be done in convicting high profile suspects.

In 2020, a high-level conviction was secured for a Member of Parliament setting a precedent for top officials’ convictions. Relevant legislation and regulations include the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act (2003), the Public Officers Ethics Act (2003), the Code of Ethics Act for Public Servants (2004), the Public Procurement and Disposal Act (2010), the Leadership and Integrity Act (2012), and the Bribery Act (2016). The Access to Information Act (2016) also provides mechanisms through which private citizens can obtain information on government activities; implementation of this act is ongoing. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) monitors and enforces compliance with the above legislation.

The Leadership and Integrity Act (2012) requires public officers to register potential conflicts of interest with the relevant commissions. The law identifies interests that public officials must register, including directorships in public or private companies, remunerated employment, securities holdings, and contracts for supply of goods or services, among others. The law requires candidates seeking appointment to non-elective public offices to declare their wealth, political affiliations, and relationships with other senior public officers. This requirement is in addition to background screening on education, tax compliance, leadership, and integrity.

The law requires that all public officers declare their income, assets, and liabilities every two years. Public officers must also include the income, assets, and liabilities of their spouses and dependent children under the age of 18. Information contained in these declarations is not publicly available, and requests to obtain and publish this information must be approved by the relevant commission. Any person who publishes or makes public information contained in public officer declarations without permission may be subject to fine or imprisonment.

On August 31, 2016, the president signed into law the Access to Information Act (2016) although the government has not yet issued regulations required to fully operationalize the act. The law allows citizens to request government information and requires government entities and private entities doing business with the government proactively to disclose certain information, such as government contracts. The act also provides a mechanism to request a review of the government’s failure to disclose requested information, along with penalties for failures to disclose. The act exempts certain information from disclosure on grounds of national security.

The private sector-supported Bribery Act (2016) stiffened penalties for corruption in public tendering and requires private firms participating in such tenders to sign a code of ethics and develop measures to prevent bribery. Both the Bill of Rights of the 2010 Constitution and the Access to Information Act (2016) provide protections to NGOs, investigative journalism, and individuals involved in investigating corruption. The Witness Protection Act (2006) calls for the protection of witnesses in criminal cases and created an independent Witness Protection Agency. A draft Whistleblowers Protection Bill (2016) is currently stalled in Parliament.

Kenya is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and in 2016 published the results of a peer review process on UNCAC compliance: (https://www.unodc.org/documents/treaties/UNCAC/CountryVisitFinalReports/2015_09_28_Kenya_Final_Country_Report.pdf ). Kenya is also a signatory to the UN Anticorruption Convention and the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery, and a member of the Open Government Partnership. Kenya is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Kenya is also a signatory to the East African Community’s Protocol on Preventing and Combating Corruption.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:

Rev. Eliud Wabukala (Ret.)
Chairperson and Commissioner
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission
P.O. Box 61130 00200 Nairobi, Kenya
Phones: +254 (0)20-271-7318, (0)20-310-722, (0)729-888-881/2/3
Report corruption online: https://eacc.go.ke/default/report-corruption/ 

Contact at “watchdog” organization:

Sheila Masinde
Executive Director
Transparency International Kenya
Phone: +254 (0)722-296-589
Report corruption online: https://www.tikenya.org/ 

10. Political and Security Environment

Political tensions over the protracted and contentious 2017 election cycle spilled well into 2018. In March 2018, however, President Kenyatta and opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga publicly shook hands and pledged to work together to heal the political, social, and economic divides revealed by the election. The 2017 electoral period had been marred by violence that claimed the lives of nearly 100 Kenyans, a contentious political atmosphere pitting the ruling Jubilee Party against NASA, and political interference and attacks by both sides on key institutions. In November 2017, the Kenyan Supreme Court unanimously upheld the October 2017 repeat presidential election results and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win in an election boycotted by NASA leader Raila Odinga. The court’s ruling brought a close to Kenya’s protracted 2017 election cycle, a period that included the Supreme Court’s historic September 2017 annulment of the August 2017 presidential election and the unprecedented repeat election. In November 2019, the Building Bridges Initiative Advisory Taskforce, established by President Kenyatta in May 2018 as part of his pledge to work with Odinga, issued a report recommending reforms to address nine areas: lack of a national ethos, responsibilities and rights of citizenship; ethnic antagonism and competition; divisive elections; inclusivity; shared prosperity; corruption; devolution; and safety and security.

The United States’ Travel Advisory for Kenya advises U.S. citizens to exercise increased caution due to the threat of crime and terrorism, and not to travel to counties bordering Somalia and to certain coastal areas due to terrorism. Instability in Somalia has heightened security concerns and led to increased security measures aimed at businesses and public institutions around the country. Tensions flare occasionally within and between ethnic communities. Regional conflict, most notably in Ethiopia, Somalia, and South Sudan, sometimes have spill-over effects in Kenya. There could be an increase in refugees escaping drought and instability in neighboring countries, adding to the large refugee population already in Kenya from several countries. Security expenditures represent a substantial operating expense for businesses in Kenya.

Kenya and its neighbors are working together to mitigate the threats of terrorism and insecurity through African-led initiatives such as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the nascent Eastern African Standby Force (EASF). Despite attacks against Kenyan forces in Somalia, the GOK has maintained its commitment to promoting peace and stability in Somalia.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Kenya has one of the highest literacy rates in the region at 90 percent. Investors have access to a large pool of highly qualified professionals in diverse sectors from a working population of over 47.5 percent out of a population of 47.6 million people. Expatriates are allowed to work in Kenya provided they have a work (entry) permit issued under the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act 2011. In December 2018, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government issued a directive that requires foreign nationals to apply for their work permits while in their country of origin and will have to prove that the skills they have are not available in the Kenya labor market. Work permits are usually granted to foreign enterprises approved to operate in Kenya as long as the applicants are key personnel. In 2015, the Directorate of Immigration Services made additions to the list of requirements for work permits and special pass applications. Issuance of a work permit now requires an assured income of at least USD 24,000 annually. Exemptions are available, however, for firms in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, or consulting sectors with a special permit. International companies have complained that the visa and work permit approval process is slow, and bribes are sometimes solicited to speed the process. A tightening of work permit issuances and enforcement begun in 2018 is now one of the largest complaints of multinational companies doing business in Kenya.

A company holding an investment certificate granted by registering with KenInvest and passing health, safety, and environmental inspections becomes automatically eligible for three class D work (entry) permits for management or technical staff and three class G, I, or J work permits for owners, shareholders, or partners. More information on permit classes can be found at https://kenya.eregulations.org/menu/61?l=en .

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), in 2019 non-agricultural employment in the formal sector was at 18.1 million, with nominal average earnings of Ksh778,248 (USD 7,200) per person per annum. Kenya has the highest rate of youth joblessness in East Africa. According to the 2019 census data, 5,341,182 or 38.9 percent of the 13,777,600 youths eligible to work are jobless. Employment in Kenya’s formal sector was 2.9 million in 2019 up from 2.8million in 2018. The government is the largest employer in the formal sector, with an estimated 865,200 government workers in 2019. In the private sector, agriculture, forestry, and fishing employed 296,700 workers while manufacturing employed 329,000 workers. However, Kenya’s large informal sector – consisting of approximately 80 percent of the labor force – makes accurate labor reporting difficult.

The GOK has instituted different programs to link and create employment opportunities for the youth, which include a website (http://www.mygov.go.ke/category/jobs/ ). Other measures include the establishment of the National Employment Authority which hosts the National Employment Authority Integrated Management System website that provides public employment service by listing vacancies ( https://neaims.go.ke/  ). The Kenya Labour Market Information System (KLMIS) portal (https://www.labourmarket.go.ke/ ), run by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection in collaboration with the labor stakeholders, is a one-stop shop for labor information in the country. The site seeks to help address the challenge of inadequate supply of crucial employment statistics in Kenya by providing an interactive platform for prospective employers and job seekers. Both local and foreign employers are required to register with National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) within 30 days of operating. There are no known material compliance gaps in either law or practice with international labor standards that would be expected to pose a reputational risk to investors. The International Labor Organization has not identified any material gaps in Kenya’s labor law or practice with international labor standards. Kenya’s labor laws comply, for the most part, with internationally recognized standards and conventions, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection is currently reviewing and ensuring that Kenya’s labor laws are consistent with the 2010 constitution. The Labor Relations Act (2007) provides that workers, including those in export processing zones, are free to form and join unions of their choice.

Collective bargaining is common in the formal sector but there is no data on the percentage of the economy covered by collective bargaining agreements (CBA). However, in 2019 263 CBAs were registered in the labor relations court with Wholesale and Retail trade sector recording the highest at 88. The law permits workers in collective bargaining disputes to strike but requires the exhaustion of formal conciliation procedures and seven days’ notice to both the government and the employer. Anti-union discrimination is prohibited, and the government does not have a history of retaliating against striking workers. The law provides for equal pay for equal work. Regulation of wages is part of the Labor Institutions Act (2014), and the government has established basic minimum wages by occupation and location.

The GOK has a growing trade relationship with the United States under the AGOA framework which requires labor standards to be upheld. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection is reviewing its labor laws to align with international standards as labor is also a chapter in the Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the U.S. In 2019, the government continued efforts with dozens of partner agencies to implement a range of programs for the elimination of child and forced labor. However, low salaries, insufficient resources, and attrition from retirement of labor inspectors are significant challenges to effective enforcement. Employers in all sectors routinely bribe labor inspectors to prevent them from reporting infractions, especially in the area of child labor.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

In 2016, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (formerly OPIC) established a regional office in Nairobi, but the office is not currently staffed. The agency is engaged in funding programs in Kenya with an active in-country portfolio of approximately USD 700 million, including projects in power generation, internet infrastructure, light manufacturing, and education infrastructure. 13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($B USD) 2019 $90.19bn 2019 $95.5bn https://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?locations=KE
 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2017 $353Mn BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2017 $6Mn BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 $1.07bn 2019 1.3bn https://unctad.org/ sections/dite_dir/
docs/wir2018/wir18_fs_ke_en.pdf
 
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $3,885 100% Total Outward $803 100%
U.K. $1,086 28% Uganda $395 49%
Mauritius $675 17% Mauritius $293 37%
Netherlands $652 17% South Africa $52 6%
France $315 8% Mozambique $37 5%
South Africa $309 8% Italy $12 2%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Source: IMF Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS). Figures are from 2012 (latest available). IMF no longer publishes Kenya data as part of its CDIS.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $3,885 100% All Countries $2,817 100% All Countries $833 100%
U.K. $1,086 27% U.K. $974 35% Netherlands $353 42%
Mauritius $675 17% Mauritius $618 22% France $174 21%
Netherlands $652 17% Netherlands $299 11% U.K. $112 13%
France $315 8% South Africa $290 10% Mauritius $57 7%
South Africa $309 8% Germany $181 6% Switzerland $55 7%

Source: IMF Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS). Figures are from 2012 (latest available). IMF no longer publishes Kenya data as part of its CPIS. 14. Contact for More Information

Liberia

Executive Summary

Liberia offers opportunities for investment in mining, agriculture, forestry (timber), and financial services.  A commodities-based economy, Liberia relies on imports for more than half of its cereal needs, including rice, Liberia’s most important staple food. The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected all sectors of the economy, and the International Monetary Fund projects negative two and a half percent growth for 2020.

Liberia would require considerable foreign direct investment (FDI) to fulfill its development goals and potential.  However, low human development indicators and poor roads and lack of reliable internet access throughout most of the country constrain investment and development.

Most of Liberia lacks power supply, though efforts to expand access to electricity are ongoing through development of a grid from the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant, the West Africa Power Pool’s cross border electrification projects, and other internationally supported energy projects.

The 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report ranked Liberia as 184th out of 190 economies in trading across borders, 184th in dealing with construction permits, and 180th in registering property.  Corruption is endemic in Liberia. The 2019 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Liberia at 137th out of 180, down from 120th in 2018. More promisingly, the Doing Business Report ranked Liberia as 75th in starting a business and 76th in paying taxes.

The Government of Liberia formed a Business Climate Working Group (BCWG) in 2018 to improve the investment climate.  The BCWG held several fora, including one in May 2019 entitled “Resolving Constraints to Trading Across Borders.” With the implementation of an IMF-supported program to improve fiscal and monetary policies, Liberia may soon experience a more favorable environment for private investment.  The business climate could also improve with increased collaboration between business chambers, industry associations and the Liberian government, as well as through continued and persistent efforts of international donors.

Following frequently lengthy negotiations with the government, investors developing long term concessions for agricultural or extractive businesses report facing resistance from local communities, which claim the government has not consulted with them about land use.  Further, communities and employees expect concessionaires and other private investors to provide significant support including education, healthcare, and housing.

Liberia is a country rich in natural resources, agricultural land, and abundant rainfall. Agribusiness and extractive industries investors in particular may find that Liberia merits careful consideration.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 137 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 175 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 NA https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in Liberia ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 USD 236 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 580 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

Government officials frequently announce that “Liberia is open for business” and formed a Business Climate Working Group (BCWG) to improve the investment climate in 2018. A March 2019 BCWG-led forum resulted in the cancellation of Import Permit Declaration requirements and extended residency visas and work permits from one to five years. However, a weak legal and regulatory framework, lack of transparency in contract award processes, and corruption continue to inhibit foreign direct investment.

The 2010 Investment Act prohibits and restricts market access for foreign investors, including U.S. investors, in certain economic sectors or industries. See “Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Foreign Ownership and Establishment”, below for more detail.

Charged with facilitating foreign investment in Liberia, the National Investment Commission (NIC) develops investment strategies, designs investment policies, and executes investment programs to attract foreign investment and negotiate investment contracts or concessions.

The NIC and private sector groups, such as the Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC), facilitate dialogue through formal business roundtables on investment climate issues. They also meet with investors and government officials to discuss and suggest solutions to critical policy issues.  However, some business leaders report difficulties in obtaining meetings with government representatives to discuss new policies perceived to damage the business climate.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities may own and establish business enterprises in many sectors. Only Liberian citizens, however, may own land. Per the Investment Act (“The Act”) and Revenue Code, only Liberian citizens may operate businesses in the following sectors and industries:

(1) Supply of sand

(2) Block making

(3) Peddling

(4) Travel agencies

(5) Retail sale of rice and cement

(6) Ice making and sale of ice

(7) Tire repair shops

(8) Auto repair shops with an investment of less than USD 550,000

(9) Shoe repair shops

(10) Retail sale of timber and planks

(11) Operation of gas stations

(12) Video clubs

(13) Operation of taxis

(14) Importation or sale of second-hand or used clothing

(15) Distribution in Liberia of locally manufactured products

(16) Importation and sale of used cars (except authorized dealerships, which may deal in certified used vehicles of their make)

The Act also sets minimum capital investment thresholds for foreign investors in certain other business activities, industries, and enterprises. (See Section 16 of the Act http://www.moci.gov.lr/doc/TheInvestmentActof2010(1).pdf ) For enterprises owned exclusively by non-Liberians, the Act requires no less than USD 500,000 in investment capital. For foreigner investors partnering with Liberians, the Act requires no less than USD 300,000 in total capital investment and at least 25 percent aggregate Liberian ownership. The Liberian constitution restricts land ownership to citizens, but non-Liberians may hold long-term leases. See Real Property, below for further detail.

Liberia does not maintain an investment screening mechanism for inbound foreign investment.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The government has not undergone a third-party investment policy review in the past three years.

Business Facilitation

All businesses must register with and obtain authorization from the Liberia Business Registry (LBR)  to conduct business or provide services in Liberia.  LBR services are available to local and foreign companies at its head office in Monrovia. See http://lbr.gov.lr/ .

Most of Liberia’s commercial laws and regulations are not publicly available online.

The NIC chairs an ad hoc cabinet-level Inter-Ministerial Concessions Committee (IMCC) that convenes often lengthy bidding and negotiation processes for long term investment contracts such as concessions.  The establishment of a concession requires ratification by the national legislature, approval by the President, and printing of handbills. The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) handles tax payment processes and administration. The National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) handles related social security processes.

According to the World Bank, establishing a business requires five procedures and 18 days. Foreign companies must obtain investment approval from the NIC if they seek investment incentives. Foreign companies must use local counsel when establishing a subsidiary. If the subsidiary will engage in manufacturing and international trade, it must obtain a trade license from the LBR.

For more information about investment laws, bilateral investment treaties, and other treaties with investment provisions, please see: https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/country-navigator/121/liberia .

Outward Investment

The government neither promotes nor incentivizes outward investment but neither does it restrict Liberian citizens from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Companies are required to adhere to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) consistent with international norms. In many instances, however, authorities do not consistently enforce or apply national laws and international standards. Further, no systemic oversight or enforcement mechanisms exist to ensure that government authorities follow administrative processes. Some government ministries and agencies often have overlapping responsibilities, resulting in inconsistent application of the laws.

Although ministries and agencies usually publish finalized regulations, no prior public comment period is required.  No central clearinghouse exists to access proposed regulations. Government revenues and debts, while partially captured in national budgets, are not transparent.  Some budget documents are accessible online. For more information on regulatory transparency, see https://rulemaking.worldbank.org/en/data/explorecountries/liberia .

International Regulatory Considerations

Liberia is a member of two regional economic blocks, the Mano River Union (MRU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  The Liberia Revenue Agency (LRA) continues to standardize and harmonize the country’s customs and tariff systems to incorporate Liberia’s tax regime into the ECOWAS External Tariff. Under its tax system modernization program, the LRA has undertaken new efficiency measures including adopting a Mobile Tax Payment option for citizens to pay taxes and fees via their mobile phones.

As a WTO member, the government has acceded to the terms and conditions of the WTO arrangements including technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Liberia’s legal system uses common and regulatory law as well as local customary law.  The common law based court system operates in parallel with local customary law, which incorporates unwritten, indigenous practices, culture, and traditions. The 2001 Revised Rules and Regulation Governing the Hinterland of Liberia govern the traditional court system. See https://www.documents.clientearth.org/library/download-info/regulation-2001-revised-rules-and-regulations-governing-the-hinterland-of-liberia/ . Adjudication of law under these two systems often results in conflicting decisions between Monrovia-based entities, local communities outside of Monrovia, and within individual communities.

The Commercial Court hears commercial and contractual issues, including debt disputes of 15,000 USD and above. A commission under the Ministry of Labor hears claims of unfair labor practices. In theory, the Commercial Court presides over all financial, contractual, and commercial disputes, serving as an additional avenue to expedite commercial and contractual cases. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of all cases and it hears all appeals, which places a significant burden on its panel of five judges. The judicial branch remains functionally independent of the executive, but there have been reports of executive branch interference in judicial matters. There have also been reports of extensive delays and procedural and other errors, casting doubt on the fairness and reliability of judicial decisions. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable, and appeals are adjudicated in the Supreme Court.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

No judicial decisions pertaining to foreign direct investment have come out in the past year.

The government does not maintain a “one-stop-shop” website for investment laws, rules, procedures, or reporting requirements.  The NIC provides sector-specific investment counseling and/or advisory services upon request. The LCC also maintains a helpdesk to explain relevant information on AGOA regulatory processes and procedures.  It assists importers in processing documents to comply with AGOA procedures and Liberian customs regulations.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Liberia Intellectual Property Office (LIPO), under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI), administers, investigates, and enforces competition-related issues in line with the Competition Law. This law incorporates WTO requirements to encourage a free market economy by promoting fair competition.  Liberia does not have anti-trust laws.

Expropriation and Compensation

The 2010 Investment Act protects foreign enterprises against expropriation or nationalization by the government “unless the expropriation is in the national interest for a public purpose, is the least burdensome available means to satisfy that overriding public purpose, and is made on a non-discriminatory basis in accordance with due process of law.”  Liberia is a signatory to the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) Convention.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Liberia is a member of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID) – also known as the Washington Convention – and the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards – also known as the New York Arbitration Convention.  The Commercial Code provides for enforcement of awards under either convention. The Investment Act provides that “the courts of Liberia shall have jurisdiction over the resolution of business disputes, parties to an investment disputes may however specify any arbitration or other dispute resolution procedure upon which they may agree.”

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Liberia is a member of the ICSID Convention and a signatory to the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) Convention that guarantee the protection of foreign investment.  The Civil Procedure Law governs both domestic and international arbitrations, but there is not a stand-alone arbitration law.  Enforcing foreign or domestic arbitration awards may require several years, from filing an application to the court of first instance to obtaining a writ of execution, with provision for an appeal.

Under the ICSID and the New York Arbitration Conventions, Liberian courts are bound to recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government. Liberia is also a signatory to the ECOWAS Treaty, which contains investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions.

There have been no recent extrajudicial actions against foreign investors. 

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Investment Act provides for trade dispute settlement between two private parties through either the judicial system or alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Other codes, statutes, and legislative provisions, including the Liberian Civil Procedure Law, govern commercial arbitration and recognize arbitration as a means of resolution between private parties in commercial transactions, based on the model of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL model law).

Investment contracts between private entities and the government frequently include arbitration clauses specifying dispute settlement outside of Liberia.

Given the general weakness of the judiciary, judicial processes are not always procedurally competent and reliable.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Liberia does not have a bankruptcy law. The Commercial Court has limited experience protecting the rights of creditors, equity holders, and holders of other financial contracts.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The government provides tax deductions for equipment, machinery, cost of buildings and fixtures used in manufacturing, as well as import duties, and goods and services tax exemptions as investment incentives for the following sectors: tourism, manufacturing, energy, hospitals and medical, housing, transportation, information technology, banking, poultry, horticulture, exportation, agricultural (food crop cultivation and processing), and rubber and oil palm cultivation and processing.

The government does not issue guarantees or jointly finance foreign direct investment projects.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

In 2019, the government established a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Steering Committee, “to create, drive, guide, enhance, coordinate, and manage single, multiple and mixed-use [SEZs] in Liberia.” The government identified the port city of Buchanan in Grand Bassa County for the first special economic zone (Buchanan Special Economic Zone); feasibility studies are underway.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The Decent Work Act gives preference to employing Liberians; the act states that the Ministry of Labor “shall not issue a permit to work in Liberia unless it is satisfied that no suitably qualified Liberian is available to carry out the work required by the employer and the applicant satisfies the requirements for foreign residence in Liberia.” However, these requirements are not always strictly enforced.

Visa, residence, and work permit procedures do not generally inhibit mobility of foreign investors and their employees.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Liberian law protects property rights and interests, but with weak enforcement mechanisms.  “Long term” mortgages or construction loans of up to 10 years are only available through the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment .  Only Liberians may own land, with the limited exception provided in Article 22(c) of the Constitution that non-citizen missionary, educational, and other benevolent institutions shall have the right to own property, as long as that property is used for the purposes for which acquired; property no longer so used shall revert to the Republic.

Other foreigners and non-resident investors may acquire leases, which ordinarily run for 25-50 years.  Liberian law provides for no official waiver mechanisms to limitations on foreign land ownership.

Although the Liberia Land Authority  (LLA) encourages property owners to identify and register land titles, it does not have systemic enforcement programs.  The LLA estimates that less than 20 percent of the country’s total land is formally registered. Conflicting land ownership records are common. Investors sometimes experience costly and complex land dispute issues, even after concluding agreements with the government. In the interest of minimizing lost productivity and in the absence of government adjudication, companies often make additional community level payments or agreements to resolve competing land claims, although such settlements may still not resolve future disputes. See Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment, above, for further information, including implementation of the Land Rights Act. Also, see https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/liberia#DB_rp  .

Foreign companies seeking to lease land may lease privately- or publicly-held land. Frequently, foreign companies seeking to acquire land leases do so through direct negotiations with the relevant landlords/owners.  In September 2018, Liberia enacted the long-awaited Land Rights Act, designed to resolve historical land problems that have caused conflicts and communal strife in the past. With implementation still underway, the Act categorizes land ownership as:

  • Public land, which is owned, but currently not used by the government
  • Government land, which is used by government agencies (for office buildings or other purposes)
  • Customary land, on which the livelihoods of most rural communities depend
  • Private land, owned by private citizens.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Liberia Intellectual Property Act covers domain names, traditional knowledge, transfer of technology, and patents/copyrights; enforcement is weak.  The Liberia Intellectual Property Office (LIPO) operates as a semi-autonomous agency functioning under the administrative oversight of MOCI. It lacks the technical skill to address IPR infringements.  However, in November 2019, MOCI and LIPO established the Copyright Society of Liberia (COSOL) to develop legal and international frameworks agreements to guide the collection and distribution of royalties. The government also committed to fast-tracking the ratification of outstanding international IP treaties and legal instruments in line with WTO standards.

There is not a system to track and report on seizures of counterfeit goods. The government does not prosecute IPR violations.  Many Liberians are unfamiliar with IPR, and IP and industrial property rights infringement is prevalent, including unauthorized duplication of movies, music, and books. Counterfeit drugs, apparel, cosmetics, mobile phones, computer software, and hardware are sold openly.

Liberia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report or the notorious market report (see the 2019 Report: https://ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/press-office/press-releases/2019/april/ustr-releases-annual-special-301 ).

For additional information about national laws and local IPR points of contact, see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Liberian government welcomes foreign investment, although Liberia does not have a well-developed domestic capital market. Private sector investors have limited credit and investment options. In 2019, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) issued T-bills, but there were few subscribers. The CBL respects IMF Article VIII and does not implement restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions. Many foreign investors prefer to obtain credit from and retain profits in foreign banking institutions.

Money and Banking System

Nine commercial banks, branch outlets including payment windows/annexes, a development finance company, and a deposit taking microfinance institution provide banking services within Liberia.  Eight of the commercial banks are foreign banks. Numerous licensed foreign exchange bureaus, microfinance institutions, credit unions, rural community finance institutions, and village savings and loan associations (“susus”) also provide financial services.  However, the health of the financial sector is concerning. According to a 2019 report by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), most of the commercial banks’ assets were held in instruments such as Liberian government bonds and T-bills which cannot easily be converted into liquid assets (cash), which has resulted in cash availability issues. Starting in 2018, commercial banks and businesses have reported considerable difficulty in accessing Liberian dollars, including withdrawals from saving accounts of private individuals at commercial banks and by commercial banks at the CBL.  In addition, since 2019, commercial banks, businesses, and private individuals have had difficulties accessing U.S. dollars.

The issue of non-performing loans (NPLs) remains a major challenge in the banking sector and continues to negatively affect profitability.  Commercial banks face persistent challenges in profit generation and loan repayment.

Foreign banks or branches can establish operations in Liberia, subject to regulations set out by the CBL.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Foreign investors may convert, transfer, and repatriate funds associated with an investment (e.g., remittances of investment capital, earnings, loans, lease payments, and royalties).  Liberian law allows for the transfer of dividends and net profits after tax to investors’ home countries.

Liberia has a floating exchange rate system. Both the Liberian Dollar (LD) and U.S. Dollar (USD) are legal tender. Market supply and demand dictates the exchange rate. The CBL displays and requires commercial banks and licensed money exchange bureaus to display daily LD to USD market exchange rates.  In addition to commercial banks, licensed foreign exchange bureaus, petrol stations, supermarkets, and other stores provide exchange services. Many unregistered or unlicensed money exchangers exchange money throughout the country.

Remittance Policies

Liberia permits 100 percent repatriation of funds and does not have currency exchange restrictions.

Remittances may be sent to Liberia through Western Union, MoneyGram, RIA Money Transfer, and wire transfer.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The government does not maintain a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) or similar entity.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

The President of Liberia appoints Boards of Directors to govern wholly-government-owned, semi-autonomous state-owned enterprises (SOEs).  The Public Financial Management (PFM) Act requires SOEs to submit periodic financial statements to their boards.

SOEs employ more than 10,000 people in sea and airport services, electricity supply, oil and gas, water and sewage, agriculture, forestry, maritime, petroleum importation and storage, and information and communication technology services. Not all SOEs are profitable. Liberia does not publish a list of SOEs. Some SOEs maintain their own websites.

Privatization Program

Liberia does not have a privatization program or policy.

9. Corruption

Liberia suffers from corruption in both the public and private sectors. Some officials engage in corrupt practices with impunity. Liberia has laws against economic sabotage, mismanagement of funds, bribery, and other corruption-related acts, including conflicts of interest. In 2019, Transparency International lowered Liberia’s rank from 120 to 137 out of 180 countries in its corruption perception index. See https://www.transparency.org/country/LBR  .

The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission  (LACC) cannot directly prosecute corruption cases. It must first submit/refer cases to the Ministry of Justice  (MOJ) for prosecution. If the MOJ does not prosecute within 90 days, the LACC may then take those cases to court. The LACC continues to seek public support for the establishment of a specialized court to exclusively try corruption cases.

Foreign investors generally report that corruption is most pervasive in government procurement, contract and concession awards, customs and taxation systems, regulatory systems, performance requirements, and government payments systems.  Multinational firms often report paying fees not stipulated in investment agreements. No laws explicitly protect NGOs that investigate corruption.

Liberia is signatory to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on the Fight against Corruption, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), and the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agencies responsible for combating corruption:

Baba Borkai, Chief Investigator
Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Monrovia, http://lacc.gov.lr/ 
bborkai@lacc.gov.lr

Toll free: (+231) 777-313131
Email: bborkai@lacc.gov.lr

Contact at a “watchdog” organization (local or nongovernmental organization operating in Liberia that monitors corruption):

Anderson Miamen, Executive Director
Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL)
Tel: (+231) 886-818855
Email: admiamen@gmail.com

10. Political and Security Environment

President George Manneh Weah’s inauguration in January 2018 marked the first peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected president to another since 1944.  Increasing freedom of speech for Liberians as well as the relatively free media landscape in the country has led to vigorous pursuit of civil liberties, resulting in active, often acrimonious political debates and organized, non-violent demonstrations.  In 2019, the government signed into law the Kamara Abdullah Kamara Act of Press Freedom to strengthen its commitment to several legal instruments it previously signed, such as the Freedom of Information Act and the Table Mountain Declaration.  Numerous radio stations and newspapers distribute news throughout the country. The government has identified land disputes and high rates of youth and urban unemployment as potential threats to security, peace, and political stability.

The Government of Liberia has shouldered national security responsibility since the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) officially withdrew from the country in March 2018.  Protests and demonstrations may occur with little warning. The United States and other international donors continue to assist in the education and training of the Armed Forces of Liberia and law enforcement agencies.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

With a literacy rate of just under 50 percent, much of the Liberian labor force is unskilled.  Most Liberians, particularly those in rural areas, lack basic vocational or computer skills.  Liberia has no reliable or official data on labor force statistics, such as unemployment rates.  Government workers comprise the majority of formally-employed Liberians.

An estimated four out of five Liberian workers (80 percent) engage in “vulnerable” and/or “informal” employment. Many in the informal and vulnerable employment sectors suffer from inadequate earnings as well as difficult and/or dangerous conditions that undermine workers’ basic rights.  The Ministry of Labor (MOL) largely attributes high levels of vulnerable and informal employment to the private sector’s inability to create employment.  An acute shortage of specialized labor skills, particularly in medicine, information and communication technology, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics remains a challenge.

Migrant workers are employed throughout the country, particularly in the services sector and at artisanal diamond and gold mines.

Liberia’s labor law, the 2015 Decent Work Act, gives preference to employing Liberian citizens and most investment contracts require companies to employ a defined percentage of Liberians, including in top management positions.  Foreign companies often report difficulty finding local skilled labor as one of their most significant operational hindrances. Child labor remains a problem, particularly in the extractive industries.

The Decent Work Act guarantees freedom of association, and employees have the right to establish and become members of organizations of their own choosing without prior authorization, apart from civil servants and employees of state owned enterprises.  The Act allows workers’ unions to conduct activities without interference by employers. The law also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of membership in a labor organization. Unions are independent from the government and political parties.  Employees, through their associations or unions, often demand and sometimes strike for compensation. When company ownership changes, workers sometimes seek payment of obligations owed by previous owners or employers.

The Decent Work Act provides that labor organizations, including trade or employees’ associations, have the right to draw up constitutions and rules regarding electing representatives, organizing activities, and formulating programs.

There were no major labor union-related negotiations affecting workers or the labor market during 2019, though public teachers and health workers went briefly on strike.  There have not been any major labor negotiations or collective bargaining agreements in 2020.  In 2019, Firestone Liberia, the country’s largest private sector employer, worked closely with the Ministry of Labor and the Agricultural Agro-Processing and the Industrial Workers Union of Liberia (AAIWUL) to ensure that a 13 percent reduction of force was done in accordance with Liberian labor laws, company policies, and the company’s collective bargaining agreement with AAIWUL.  However, as global rubber prices declined during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it became even more critical for Firestone to cut its losses through further reduction of its workforce and the use of contract tapping firms, a strategy which met strong resistance from Liberia’s legislature.  Workers, except civil servants, have the right to strike provided that the MOL is notified of their intent to do so.

While the law prohibits anti-union discrimination and provides for the reinstatement of workers dismissed because of union activities, it allows for dismissal without cause provided the company pays statutory severance packages. The law sets out fundamental rights of workers and contains provisions on employment and termination of employment, minimum conditions of work, occupational safety and health, workers’ compensation, industrial relations, and employment agencies.  It also provides for periodic reviews of the labor market as well as adjustments in wages as the labor conditions dictate.

The MOL does not have an adequate or effective inspection system to identify and remedy labor violations and hold violators accountable. It lacks the capacity to effectively investigate and prosecute unfair labor practices, such as harassment and/or dismissal of union members or instances of forced labor, child labor, and human trafficking. The MOL is charged with coordinating the government’s efforts on trafficking in persons and it made some progress in 2019 in coordinating efforts across the Government of Liberia, in particular for case tracking, service provision, and referring hotline cases to the Liberia National Police.  No new labor-related laws or regulations were enacted during the last year.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

Liberia qualifies for U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) project financing. As of July 2020, the DFC was conducting due diligence to fund a banking sector project. In July 2019, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), DFC’s predecessor agency, approved a new facility of USD 20 million for the Liberian Enterprise Development Finance Corporation (LEDFC), OPIC’s local partner, in addition to USD 16 million in loans from other sources to increase the LEDFC’s total lending facility to USD 36 million. The facility supports short to medium term lending to the Liberian private sector.

Generally, the Government of Liberia finances large scale projects through international bilateral and multilateral donors, including the United States, EU, World Bank, African Development Bank, and IMF.  Eligible American businesses, investors, lenders, contractors, and exporters may seek DFC support for commercially attractive opportunities in Liberia.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Liberia Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2018 $3.24 billion 2019 $3.07 billion https://data.worldbank.org/
country/LR
 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in Liberia ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $-94 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Liberia’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $ 461 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2017 7.54% 2018 3.96% WB data available at
https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
BX.KLT.DINV.WD.GD.ZS?locations=LR
 

* Source for Host Country Data – https://www.cbl.org.lr/  – Central Bank of Liberia 2018 Annual Report

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Mozambique

Executive Summary

Mozambique stands on the cusp of transformative economic growth driven by the development of one the largest natural gas discoveries in the world. In the next five years, Mozambique expects to see nearly $60 billion in investment to develop its offshore natural gas reserves and an onshore facility that will convert the gas to liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export to global markets. However, between the combination of the outbreak of COVID-19, an increasingly violent extremist movement in northern Mozambique, and the impact of the global downturn on Mozambique’s resource dependent economy, the start of that transformation is likely to be delayed.

Following three years of slow economic growth, driven by a combination of the lingering impacts of Mozambique’s 2016 hidden debt crisis and the back to back devastating cyclones in 2019, 2020 was supposed to be Mozambique’s breakout year. Throughout 2019 Mozambique made important strides toward realizing its potential.

In June 2019, Anadarko made the Final Investment Decision (FID) on the first of two expected LNG megaprojects. However, nearly a year later, the LNG site (now run by Total) is the center of Mozambique’s COVID-19 outbreak and the violent extremists in the surrounding province have grown in size and effectiveness, declaring themselves an affiliate of the Islamic State and conducting increased attacks throughout the province. Against this backdrop, ExxonMobil, the co-lead of the second major LNG project in northern Mozambique announced in April 2020 that it would delay FID on its project until at least 2021 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global commodity prices.

Despite these setbacks, however, there are still reasons for optimism about Mozambique’s mid- term outlook. Following three years of reforms since the hidden debt scandal, Mozambique has made progress in the fight against corruption. Since February 2019, it arrested more than 20 politically connected officials for their role in the scandal and in August 2019, the country adopted a 27 point plan to fight corruption and improve governance with the IMF. Thanks in part to this solid progress, the IMF and Mozambique entered into discussions to re-launch a new lending program, potentially the first non-emergency budgetary assistance to the government in four years. If Mozambique continues on this path of reform, it will be better placed to manage its eventual resource income and attract other investments.

The country has also made significant progress toward consolidating the peace process. In August 2019, the government and the main opposition party signed a ceasefire agreement and peace accord, bringing to an end years of sporadic conflict. These agreements also set the stage for national elections in October 2019 that brought President Nyusi back to power for a second five-year mandate. Despite credible allegations of significant election-related fraud and intimidation, President Nyusi and the opposition leader Ossufo Momade continue to work together to consolidate the peace agreement finalize the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former opposition movement fighters.

As Mozambique looks to its future, U.S. businesses are poised to play a key role in this country’s transformation. In June 2019, Mozambique signed a commercial Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Commerce, outlining five key areas for investment including energy, infrastructure, financial services, agri-business, tourism and fisheries, opening the door to increased cooperation and U.S. investment. In December, the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation also announced that Mozambique was eligible to develop a second compact. While still under development, this compact will make available $350 million or more in targeted development assistance to create the enabling environment for additional investments.

Mozambique offers the experienced investor the potential for high returns, but remains a challenging place to do business. While the country welcomes foreign investment, investors must factor in corruption, an underdeveloped financial system, poor infrastructure, and significant operating costs. Transportation inside the country is slow and expensive, while bureaucracy, port inefficiencies, and corruption complicate imports. Local labor laws remain an impediment to hiring foreign workers, even when domestic labor lacks the requisite skills. In addition to the LNG and associated industries there are also significant opportunities for investment in the power and infrastructure sectors, particularly related to the reconstruction after Cyclones Idai and Kenneth devastated large swaths of the country in March and April 2019. The agriculture and tourism sectors remain underdeveloped relative to their potential, as do critical services sectors, such as health care.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 146 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 138 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 119 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 USD 332.0 million https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/