An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Benin

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Beninese government encourages foreign investment, which it views as critical for economic development and successful implementation of the $15 billion PAG. APIEX 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 processing times for registration of new companies (from 15 days to one day) and construction permits (from 90 to 30 days), but the World Bank 2020 Doing Business report indicates that it takes 88 days to deal with construction permits. In practice, APIEX faces capacity constraints, processing times can be longer than stated, and its website is often out of date and lacks information on the latest regulations and laws.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. Additional information on business startup is available at https://monentreprise.bj/  .

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: https://bj.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Business Facilitation

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 other foreign nationals. 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 between 30 and 45 randomly selected shipping containers per hour. 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

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 https://unctad.org/news/how-un-helped-benin-become-worlds-fastest-place-start-business-mobile-phone , 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 a 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 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 numerous government 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. The GOB website 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 Antitrust 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 July 2020 West African hotel developer Teyliom International filed a request for arbitration with the World Bank International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in relation to the Beninese government’s expropriation of a hotel the company had been constructing in Cotonou. The arbitration case is currently pending at ICSID.

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.

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 alleged 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. In 2020, the ICC upheld its earlier decision. The government has not respected the ICC 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.

Burundi

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Burundi (GoB) is generally supportive of 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 initial foreign investment of $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 is the 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. 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.

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 are no other restrictions nor are there any other 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 the capabilities of the one-stop shop at API, 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.

Business registration takes approximately four hours and costs 40,000 Burundian francs (around $21). For more details and information on registration procedures, time and costs, investors may visit API’s website at 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 much necessary regulatory framework. 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 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.

Draft bills or regulations are not subject to a public consultation process. There are no conferences that involve citizens in a consultative process to give them an opportunity to make 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 respective 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 on the website are not up to date.

International Regulatory Considerations

Burundi is a member 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: a customs union, a common market, a monetary union, and political federation. Each member state must harmonize its national regulatory system with that of the EAC.

Burundian law and regulations reference several standards, including the East African Standards, Codex Alimentarius Standards, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and Burundi’s own standards. ISO remains the main standard of reference.

The country joined the WTO on July 23, 1995. According to the Ministry of Trade, Transport, Industry and Tourism, Burundi has not notified the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade of all its 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.

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 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 Antitrust 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 compensation based on the fair market value prior to expropriation.

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 the 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 parties, 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 investment disputes between private parties, international arbitration is accepted as a means of settlement provided one of the parties is a non-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 GoB lost the case, but enforced the ICSID’s against the GoB.

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.

Cameroon

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Creating a conducive business environment to attract foreign direct investments is a corner stone of Cameroon’s development strategy. Governance and strategic management of the state constitutes one of the four pillars of the National Development Strategy 2030 (NDS 30), which was launched on November 16, 2020. The government of Cameroon acknowledges that the challenging nature of the domestic business climate remains a concern. To fight corruption, rebuild a weak legal system, and modernize an inefficient public service, the NDS 30 has adopted a holistic approach to governance, which includes political and institutional governance, administrative governance, economic and financial governance, regional governance, and social and cultural governance.

Cameroon has put in place an arsenal of institutions and laws to improve governance. The country has prevention programs and has reinforced the powers of the judiciary through the creation of the Special Crime Tribunal on corruption and economic crimes. This special tribunal, which began activities on December 14, 2012, is empowered to trial perpetrators of economic crimes amounting to at least $100,000. The court specifically targets custodians of public funds as well as officials who have the prerogatives to collect or spend money on behalf of the state. Since its creation, the tribunal has tried 225 cases and recovered $323 million. However, corruption and administrative mismanagement continue to hamper the business climate in Cameroon. Cameroon consistently ranks at the bottom of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index and Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. In 2020, Cameroon ranked 167 of 190 on the Ease of Doing Business index and 149 of 180 on the Corruption Perceptions Index.

Despite the active presence of state-owned companies in important 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 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 (IP)/technology transfer requirements. Cameroon has a screening process, which is applicable to all domestic and foreign investments.  This screening process ensures that investors have legitimate registered businesses and are able to meet criteria, such as employment creation and export quantities, to qualify for private investment incentives.

The Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) was created in 2010. To date, the CIPA has signed 172 investment agreements and generated the creation of over 60,000 jobs. CIPA’S mission, in collaboration with other state institutions and private bodies, is to contribute to the development and implementation of government policy in the field of investment promotion. The agency seeks also to foster an enabling environment for investments in Cameroon.

The investment incentives offered by CIPA cover existing and emerging economic sectors. The agency also serves as a one-stop-shop facilitator through the assistance it provides to foreign and domestic investors. It processes application files for approval in compliance with its investment charter and assists in the alignment of projects with the general tax code. It can support potential foreign investors for visas applications. The agency also follows up to monitor the implementation of commitments made by approved companies.

CIPA’s sector coverage

Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) Sector Coverage

Sources: National Institute of Statistics, IMF, Internal estimates 2019-2020

The government maintains dialogue with business associations such as the Groupement Inter-Patronal du Cameroun (GICAM) and Enterprise Cameroon through the Cameroon Business Forum, which is sponsored by the World Bank.  Over the past year, GICAM has been critical of the government handling of the negative impact of COVID-19 on business.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no general economy-wide (statutory, de facto, or otherwise) limits on foreign ownership or control. Apart from national defense and security areas, there are no sector-specific restrictions, limitations, or requirements applied to foreign ownership and control. 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 joint ventures and public-private partnerships with the government.

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

On June 22, 2020, the Minister of Economy and Regional Planning (MINEPAT) announced an economic stimulus package to counter the negative economic and social impacts of the COVID –19 pandemic. With a total expected budget of $798 million, the package planned to allocate funds to five areas, which include strengthening the health system ($97.3 million), supporting economic and financial resilience ($625 million), and maintaining strategic suppliers of essential goods ($9.1 million). In addition to these financial measures, the government introduced a set of temporary tax rebates, incentives, moratoria, and deferred payments for private companies. Cameroon has also benefitted from regional measures introduced by the regional central bank, Banque des Etats de l’Afrique Centrale (BEAC). Throughout 2020, BEAC maintained low interest rates, increased liquidity provisions, and widened the range of private financial instruments accepted as collateral for monetary policy operations.

The pandemic emerged as Cameroon prepared to close a three-year Extended Credit Facility agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which it signed in June 2017.  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 outlined below.  Copies of the reviews can be found on the IMF website.

  • First Review (January 2018)
  • Second Review (July 2018)
  • Third Review (December 2018)
  • Fourth Review (July 24, 2019)
  • Fifth Review (February 14, 2020)

The evaluation and closure of the program has been disrupted by the eruption of COVID-19. But on January 22, 2021, IMF said the economic shock associated with the COVID-19 pandemic was set to have long-lasting effects on the economic outlook for the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). The IMF indicated that the CEMAC economic outlook is highly uncertain and contingent on the evolution of the pandemic and its impact on oil prices. Before COVID-19, IMF expressed satisfaction with the progress of the implementation of reforms, while urging the country to implement stronger measures on budget transparency and improvement of the business climate.

Cameroon: Historical and Forecast Growth and Inflation 2015-2024

Sources: Cameroon Ministry of Finance and IMF

The IMF estimates that the economic shock associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is set to have long-lasting effects on the economic outlook for Cameroon and other CEMAC members. The IMF has granted financial resources to individual countries in the region to fight the pandemic. This emergency financial support has contained the initial economic fallout. Uncertainties remain in the long-term impact, especially in the context of stagnating oil prices. The IMF outlook projects that CEMAC’s fiscal and external adjustments will be slower than previously envisaged, entailing large external financing needs (around $7.7 billion for 2021–23). The IMF concludes that the outlook is highly uncertain and contingent on the evolution of the pandemic and its impact on oil prices.

Business Facilitation

Entrepreneurs obtain a unique tax identifying number when they open a company in Cameroon. This taxpayer’s identification number, known as the single identification number, is attributed to the business owners immediately when they start the registration procedure of their business. Any entity or sole proprietor starting a business in Cameroon is attributed this single identification number by the Directorate General of Taxation. The number is attributed on a permanent basis upon effective localization of the taxpayer and only after the taxpayer has filed an application to register the business with the competent tax authority within 15 working days following the commencement of activities.

According to the World Bank, it takes 14 procedures and 82 days to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company in Douala, Cameroon’s largest city and economic capital.  This process is lengthier and more complex than regional and global averages.  For foreign investors, a declaration of foreign investment to the Ministry of Finance is mandatory 30 days prior to the beginning operations. 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 must obtain prior approval.  The Minister of Finance issues such authorization, which is subject to approval from the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) 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 1,800) for establishing LLCs.

In Cameroon, business registration remains manual after the failure of a registration portal launched by the Ministry of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises that was supposed to automate the process. To register, entrepreneurs must go to one of the regional centers for the creation of enterprises, which can complete the registration procedure within one week.

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 laws are consistent with international business and legal norms. Cameroon legal architecture is made of national, regional (CEMAC), and supra-national regulations, most of which are applicable to domestic and foreign businesses. 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 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 there is no evidence that such processes disadvantage U.S. or other foreign investors.

Cameroon’s National Assembly and Senate pass laws. The Executive proposes bills and then executes laws. Though there is technically a separation of powers, the Presidency is the supreme rule-making and regulatory authority. Decentralized institutions in the regions and municipalities have little additional regulatory authority. 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.

Ministries and regulatory agencies do not have a 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 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.

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 2020 Investment Climate Statement.

Cameroon does not meet the minimum standards of fiscal transparency. This is partly because many of the state-owned enterprises do not have public accounts. But companies that are listed or aspire to be listed on the Central African Stock Exchange (CASE) have more stringent transparency requirements. There are only four publicly listed companies on the CASE. All four use the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) accounting system, which does not align completely with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) standards. Cameroon is a member of CEMAC and is thus subject to its regulations, though implementation remains weak. CEMAC’s central bank, BEAC, controls monetary policy and is the de facto finance sector regulator, in coordination with the Ministry of Finance.

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, empirical evaluation and data-driven assessments of the impact of new and existing regulations are limited. Similarly, public comments are not the main drivers of regulations. However, some consultations take place for the national budget, which is produced each year, but there is little oversight to ensure adherence to the document. The framework of the IMF’s 2017 Extended Credit Facility has induced the publication of more information on public debt by the Debt Management Office (better known by its French acronym CAA).

International Regulatory Considerations

Cameroon is a CEMAC member. CEMAC regulations supersede those of individual members, though areas such as the free movement of people, goods, and services are not respected by some states. Recent reforms by CEMAC’s central bank, BEAC, have met stiff resistance and delays in their application by individual member states, including Cameroon.

The government requires use of OHADA accounting standards, which is used by 14 African nations. 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 CFA (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), English (Common law), and domestic national customs, 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 opinions. This project, however, is being met with stiff resistance from English-speaking lawyers, who believe that the initiative will undermine the English system to which they are accustomed.

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. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (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. In OHADA, regulations and enforcement actions are appealable, and they can also be 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 towards 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 2021 finance law is the main new legal instrument to have been published in the past year.  The new finance law has created new taxes, while maintaining some existing exonerations, notably on value-added taxes and life insurance savings. Full implementation started on February 2021. The Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency maintains a list of relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors ( https://investincameroon.net/en/ ).

Competition and Antitrust 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 tend to have quasi-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 16 December 1987 outline 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 29 December 2005. Essentially, for the public interest the state may expropriate privately-owned land. The laws also explain 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 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 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, OHADA standards prevail 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 jurisdiction overall 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 ranked 167th out of 190 economies in the World Bank’s ranking of the ease of doing business and 129th on its ability to resolve insolvency. In bankruptcy situations, it 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.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The ascension of Felix Tshisekedi to the Presidency in January 2019 and his welcoming attitude toward foreign direct investment (FDI), particularly from the United States, have raised hopes that the DRC government (GDRC) can impose and follow through on favorable FDI policies.  Favorable FDI laws exist, but the judicial system is slow to protect investors’ rights and is susceptible to political pressure and corruption.  Investors hope Tshisekedi can create a more favorable enabling environment by business climate reform, better rule of law, and tackling corruption. The DRC’s rich endowment of natural resources, large population and generally open trading system provide significant potential opportunities for U.S. investors.

The major regulations governing FDI are found in the Investment Code Act (No. 004/2002 of 21 February 2002). Current regulations reserve the practice of small retail commerce in DRC to nationals and ban foreign majority-ownership of agricultural concerns.  The ordinance of August 8, 1990, clearly stipulates that “small business can only be carried out by Congolese.”  Foreign investors should limit themselves to import trade as well as wholesale and semi-wholesale trade. Investors have expressed concern that the ban on foreign agricultural ownership will stifle any attempts to kick-start the agrarian sector.

The National Investment Promotion Agency (ANAPI) is the official investment agency, which provides investment facilitation services for initial investments over USD 200,000.  It is mandated to promote the positive image of the DRC and specific investment opportunities; advocate for the improvement of the business climate in the country and provide administrative support to new foreign investors who decide to establish or expand their economic activities on the national territory.  More information is available at https://www.investindrc.cd/.

The GDRC maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors to hear their concerns. There are several public and private sector forums which speak to the government on the investment climate in specific sectors.  In 2019 President Tshisekedi created the business climate cell (CCA) to monitor the improvement of the economic environment and the business climate in the DRC, and to interface with the business community.  The CCA in June 2020 presented a roadmap for reform.  The public-private Financial and Technical Partners (PTF) mining group represents countries with significant mining investments in the DRC. The Federation of Congolese Enterprises (FEC), which is a privileged partner of the government and the workers’ unions, has a dialogue on business interests with the government.  The FEC has relayed information to the government about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the private sector.  The FEC is also tracking post-Covid-19 investment sectors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The GDRC provides the right for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

The DRC law reserves small commerce exclusively for Congolese nationals and does not allow foreign investors to own 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.

The GDRC promulgated a 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 GDRC 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 https://asycuda.org/wp-content/uploads/Etude-de-Cas-SYDONIA-Contr%C3%B4le-de-la-Valeur-RDC.pdf, which is an advanced software system for custom administrations in compliance with ASYCUDA WORLD. (ASYCUDA is a large technical assistance software program recommended by UNCTAD for custom clearance management.)

Business Facilitation

The GDRC operates a “one-stop-shop” for Business Creation (GUCE) that brings together all the government entities involved in the registration of a company in the DRC.  The goal is to permit the quick and simple registration of companies through one office in one location.  In October 2020, President Tshisekedi instructed the government to restructure GUCE in order to ease its work with the various state organizations involved in its operation.  More information is available at https://guichetunique.cd/.

At the one-stop-shop, companies fill in a “formulaire unique” in order to register with the: Commercial Registry (GUCE); tax administration (Direction Générale des Impots); Ministry of Labor; and National Institute for Social Security (Institut National de Sécurité Sociale (“INSS”)).  The Labor Inspection Department and the National Office of Employment (l’Office National de l’Emploi (“ONEM”)) are also to be notified of the establishment of the company.  Companies may also need to obtain an operating permit, as required from some municipal councils.  The registration process now officially takes three days, but in practice it can take much longer.  Some businesses have reported that the GUCE 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 or incentivize it.

There are no current government restrictions preventing domestic investors from investing abroad, and there are no currently blacklisted countries with which domestic investors are precluded from doing business.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Passed in 2019, the Law on Pricing, Freedom and Competition (the “Competition Act”) created a new Competition Commission charged with limiting control by one party over a market.  DRC law mandates review if the turnover achieved is equal to or exceeds the amount determined by Decree of the Prime Minister upon proposal of the Minister of the Economy; if the parties hold a combined market share of 25% or more; or if the contemplated transaction creates / reinforces an already dominant position.  DRC law requires notification prior to a corporate merger. It is unclear what penalties apply if there is no pre-notification.

The DRC is a member of the regional competition bodies, COMESA and OHADA. OHADA does not have an operational merger control regime in place, while COMESA does have merger control. Merger activities in the DRC should be conducted with COMESA in mind.

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

The GDRC authority on business standards, the Congolese Office of Control (OCC), oversees and develops regulations relevant to 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.

The Official Gazette of the DRC is a specialized service of the Presidency of the Republic, which publishes and disseminates legislative and regulatory texts, judicial decisions, acts of companies, associations and political parties, designs, industrial models, trademarks as well as any other act referred to in the law.  More information is available at http://www.leganet.cd/.

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

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.

Tshisekedi created the Business Climate Unit (CCA) by a presidential order issued in February 2020. The mission of the CCA is to monitor the national business climate and enact regulatory reforms.  The CCA announced a roadmap for reform in June 2020, but has yet to implement the recommended reforms.

In November 2020, the GDRC launched the construction of the first Special Economic Zone, with the aim of attracting foreign investment and stimulating the creation of local businesses. This free zone offers tax and regulatory advantages for investors and entrepreneurs including a 5-to-10-year tax exemption. More information is available at https://www.azes-rdc.com/.

The roadmap details priority and urgent reforms and awaits action by the Prime Minister and the new cabinet. In the long term, the first Special Economic Zone will promote exports and create 3,500 direct jobs.

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.  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 2020, 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 Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (“OHADA”), 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, which are based on the European system.

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.

The DRC has written commercial and contractual law.  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 the judicial system.  A lack of qualified personnel and reluctance by some DRC jurisdictions to fully recognize OHADA law and institutions have hindered the development of commercial courts.  Legal documents in the DRC can be found at: http://www.leganet.cd/index.htm.

The current executive branch has generally not interfered with judicial proceedings.  The current judicial process is not procedurally reliable and its rulings are not always respected.

The national court system provides an appeals mechanism under the OHADA framework.

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 $3,000 to $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 Antitrust 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.  In May 2020, Tshisekedi instructed the cabinet to better defend the GDRC’s interests in outstanding investor disputes, including if necessary, by agreeing to a settlement.  This decision followed the announcement of two international court decisions unfavorable to the GDRC, which put the government liable for hundreds of millions of dollars.

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.

Companies report that the GDRC levies heavy fines in a form of financial expropriation.  A government agency imposes fines due to a company’s failure to pay a tax, though often the tax regime is unclear and multiple government bodies impose different taxes.  Companies that appeal these fines through the courts often encounter a long wait.  There has not been an expropriation of property 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).

There is no specific domestic legislation providing for the enforcement of awards under the 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 $13 million, and the GDRC started paying back the awarded amount plus interest to the U.S. Company.

There have been charges of extrajudicial action against foreign investors, including levying fines and imprisonment.  In one case an investor left the country after being jailed on charges of corruption.

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 in the domestic courts of 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.

In general, companies which fail to find a favorable judgment in domestic courts go to international courts for relief.  This often drags the judicial process on for years.  For domestic cases involving SOEs the courts often rule in favor of the SOEs.  One attorney estimated that  about five percent of cases have any transparency.

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 2020, making it impossible to assess the time, cost or outcome for an insolvency proceeding.  According to the World Bank, the DRC ranked 168th out of 190 countries on ease of resolving insolvency.

Malawi

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Malawi is open to foreign and domestic investment and grants national treatment to all investors. Foreign investors may invest in almost any sector of the economy and may access government investment incentives. There are no restrictions on ownership, size of investment, source of funds, investment sector, or whether the products are destined for export or for domestic markets. Furthermore, an investor can disinvest 100%, make international payments, and cannot be forced into local partnerships. However, the Malawi Stock Exchange limits an individual foreign investor to 10% of any company’s initial public offering (IPO) and the stake of all foreign investors in an IPO is limited to 49% of total shares of the company.

The GOM prioritizes investment retention and maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors through the Malawi Investment and Trade Center (MITC), Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Industry, Public Private Partnership Commission, and other government agencies. The Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry ( MCCCI ) represents all sectors of the economy and has been successful in lobbying the GOM on issues affecting the private sector. In recent years, the government has hosted Malawi Investment Forums to present a platform for marketing the country, fostering partnerships, and bringing in foreign direct investment.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The GOM does not impose restrictions on the ownership or location of investments. It permits FDI in all sectors of the economy except for those sectors or activities that may pose a danger to health, the environment or national security. Restrictions are not imposed on fund source, destination, or final product. There is, however, a requirement for companies registered in Malawi to appoint at least two Malawian residents as directors.

There are some limitations on foreign ownership of land. Under the Land Act of 2016, neither Malawians nor foreigners can acquire freehold land. Foreigners can secure lease-hold land for terms up to 50 years, after which the lease may be renewed. In addition, foreigners can only secure private land when no citizen has made an equal offer for the same land.

During the privatization of government assets, Malawian nationals are offered preferential treatment including discounted share prices and subsidized credit. A 2017 amendment to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA) Bill includes an indigenization clause that calls for “the prioritization of all bids submitted to give preference to sixty percent indigenous black Malawians.” In 2020, GOM gazetted the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Participation Order, which empowers government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to allocate procurements below certain thresholds to MSMEs. GOM is also in the process of gazetting Indigenous Black Malawian (IBM) Preference regulations, which orders MDAs to offer 60% of national competitive bidding procurements to IBM ( PPDA Legal Instruments ).

There is no government policy to screen foreign direct investment but minimum investment capital for foreign investors is $50,000. Such investors must register with MITC  and RBM . Registration of borrowed invested funds allows investors to externalize profits to pay back loans contracted abroad and repatriate funds when disinvesting. MITC has revised the threshold for capital requirements but is waiting for gazetting to make the threshold official. The new thresholds will depend on the sector and will be revised upwards ( MITC Malawi ).

Other Investment Policy Reviews

WTO last performed a periodic Trade Policy Review of Malawi in April 2016. The full report can be accessed at WTO TPR  . OECD and UNCTAD have not conducted reviews for Malawi.

Business Facilitation

MITC  assists foreign and domestic investors of all sizes to navigate relevant regulations and procedures of starting a business. It operates a One Stop Center where representatives from the Registrar General , the Malawi Revenue Authority , the Department of Immigration , and Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development  are available to help potential investors. MITC’s main website, the iGuides  and its online trade portal ( www.trade.mitc.mw ) ( http://www.malawitradeportal.gov.mw/ ) provide further information.

In addition to MITC’s One Stop Center, businesses can register online at Registrar General , although the process may take longer and the website is sometimes inaccessible. To operate in Malawi, a business must register with the Registrar General, the Malawi Revenue Authority and often the Ministry or regulatory body overseeing their sector of activity. For example, construction companies need to register with the National Construction Industry Council . Businesses are also supposed to obtain business licenses from the city assembly, register the workplace with Ministry of Labor, and allow health officials to carry out an inspection of the company premises ( HYPERLINK “https://mitc.mw/invest/index.php” https://mitc.mw/invest/index.php ).

Outward Investment

Domestic investors are not restricted to invest abroad except in the case of the Pension Act of 2010 and accompanying regulations which do not allow for the investment of pension funds or umbrella funds abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The GOM continues to undertake various reforms to ensure that tax, labor, environment, health, and safety laws do not distort or impede investment. The legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are partially transparent and consistent with international norms. Almost all proposed laws, regulations, and policies (including investment laws) are subject to public consultation before submission to the Cabinet, the Parliament, or the Ministry of Justice. However, sometimes the public notice of such consultations comes late, with the effect that only insiders engage. Parliamentary procedures call for debate on drafts in relevant committees before presenting the bill to the floor for a vote. Rules allow fast-tracking bills as well.

Relevant government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) develop technical regulations and forward them to Ministry of Justice for review and gazetting. All regulations are set at the national level with input from relevant stakeholders. Regulations and enforcement actions are legally reviewable in the national court system. The Ministry of Justice provides oversight or enforcement mechanisms to ensure MDAs follow administrative processes for developing and implementing regulations. If they feel procedures were not followed, private individuals and entities can raise the issue with the appropriate MDA, parliament, or bring a case against the government in court or seek redress through the Office of the Ombudsman. There are no specific regulatory guidelines for reviewing regulations or conducting impact assessments, including scientific or data-driven assessments. What’s more, there are no specific criteria for determining which proposed regulations are subject to an impact assessment nor is there a specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by other individual agencies or government bodies

The GOM uses a mix of fiscal, financial, and regulatory instruments to administer policy, and thus management and responsibility spreads across multiple ministries and agencies. Taxation policy is the jurisdiction of the Treasury Department in the Ministry of Finance. The Malawi Revenue Authority is the main implementing agency for tax policy. The Reserve Bank of Malawi administers the exchange rate of the Malawi Kwacha, as well as liberal exchange controls to allow free flow of capital and earnings — repatriation of dividends, profits, and royalties. Immigration department administers the Employment of Expatriates Policy, Temporary Employment Permits (TEPs), and business residence permit. The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development is responsible for land policy administration. The Malawi Bureau of Standards is responsible for metrology, standardization, and quality assurance. The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority administers the communications act.

Certain professional associations have sectoral rule-making power that amounts to regulatory power. These professional bodies include the National Construction Industry Council, Malawi Law Society, Malawi Accountants Board, Medical Council of Malawi, and the Employers Consultative Association of Malawi. Some of these associations require the use of local labor, local contractors, or other means to achieve localization or skills transfer to Malawians. The rule-making process is not always transparent to firms that are new to the Malawi market.

Interested parties can purchase copies of recent laws from the government printing office or access them at the National Library and in the High Court libraries. An increasing number of laws are also available online at https://malawilii.org/  . The GOM has no central repository for technical regulations. Relevant MDAs manage regulations and publish the regulations in the Malawi Government Gazette after which they form part of the schedules to relevant acts. MDAs websites do not usually post these laws and regulations but do provide them upon request.

The GOM also implemented reforms aimed at improvements in workplace registration and the implementation of the warehouse receipt systems act of 2018, the commodity exchange guidelines, and the cannabis bill of 2020. In 2020, GOM gazetted Export Processing Zone (EPZ) regulations which, among others, make provision for 20% allowance for local sales by an export enterprise under EPZ. GOM also gazetted Control of Goods Act (COGA) regulations which outline steps to take when issuing export and import restrictions ensuring that the process is fair, transparent, and predictable. Immigration rolled out an electronic permit system in 2019/20 and plans to roll out e-passport system in 2021. There are several reforms  which the government seeks to implement through the MDAs. These reforms and regulations may improve the business environment. MDAs develop technical regulations and forward them to the Ministry of Justice for final review. The MDAs then present the regulations to Cabinet for final approval and gazetting. Thereafter, relevant government MDAs enforce regulations under their purview.

Transparency of public finances and debt obligations is mixed. Publicly available budget documents provide a full picture of Malawi’s proposed/estimated revenue, including natural resources revenues and off-budget donor support, and expenditures. However, the approved budget provides expenditure data at the level of ministry/budget vote, and not below, where the details necessary to gauge investment potential in given sectors should be visible. End of year financial statements detailing actual revenues and expenditures are presented alongside the budget proposal for the following financial year. The government also makes public general information about debt obligations in its financial statement and annual debt report. The documents are available at Ministry of Finance . The RBM also publishes public debt information in its quarterly economic reviews, published at RBM . In contrast to the visibility into government finances, contingent liabilities are generally unknown to the public, as the books of State-Owned Enterprises are usually not presented to the public in a transparent manner. The government shares additional debt information with the World Bank for debt sustainability analysis and with the IMF for evaluation of compliance with its Extended Credit Facility (ECF) and these analyses are made public through the IMF’s release of its ECF reviews.

International Regulatory Considerations

Malawi is a member of the COMESA Customs Union and the SADC Free Trade Area, governed by the SADC Protocol on Trade. The government develops all new regulations roughly in line with the regulatory policy provisions set out by COMESA and SADC, but national regulations rule if there is a conflict. As a member of both SADC and COMESA, Malawi is bound by their respective norms and standards. Malawi is also a member of Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). One can find details on the organizations’ respective websites:

  • SADC:
  • COMESA:
  • AfCFTA:

Since 1995, there is no record of Malawi providing notification on draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade. The last time Malawi submitted a statement on implementation and administration of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade was in 2007. Malawi signed the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) on July 12, 2017. Malawi has made progress on implementing the TFA provisions through the launch of a trade information portal which one can access at https://www.malawitradeportal.gov.mw/ .

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Malawi’s legal system is based on English Common Law. The judiciary consists of local courts and a local appeals court in every district. The higher tiers consist of the Supreme Court of Appeal, the High Court, and the magistrates’ courts. Judges of the High Court are appointed by the President and posted to the five divisions of the high court: civil; commercial; criminal; family and probate; and revenue. The High Court has judicial authority over all civil and criminal cases. Magistrates’ courts are located throughout the country. The High Court hears appeals from the magistrates’ courts and the Supreme Court of Appeal in Blantyre hears appeals arising from the High Court. As of end 2020, there were 35 High Court judges and 11 Supreme Court judges. The Commercial Division of the High Court, presided over by a single judge, deals exclusively with disputes of a commercial or business nature while the Revenue Division deals with any revenue and tax related matter under written laws set out under the Malawi Revenue Authority Act. The Industrial Relations Court handles labor disputes and issues relating to employment. The Child Justice Court handles matters of justice affecting children but falls under the High Court. More information on the judicial system in Malawi can be found at Judiciary .

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The legal system supports both local and foreign investment without bias. Key regulations that came out recently include The Trademarks Act of 2018, Control of Goods Act of 2018, The Corrupt Practice (Amendment) Act of 2019, The Reserve Bank Act of 2018, The Tobacco Industry Act of 2018, The Mines and Minerals Act of 2018 and the Cannabis Regulation Bill of 2020. The Malawi Investment and Trade Center (MITC) operates a One Stop Center and assists foreign investors to navigate relevant regulations and procedures. MITC  and the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry ( MCCCI ) have relevant information.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

The GOM established the Competition and Fair-Trading Commission ( CFTC ) in 2005. The CFTC safeguards competition by regulating and monitoring monopolies, protecting consumer welfare, and by ensuring fair market conditions. Since 2013, the institution has overseen over 26 applications for merger and acquisition and dismantled five cartels. CFTC decisions may be appealed, first to the Board and subsequently to the Commercial (High) Court. COMESA Competition Commission  is responsible for mergers and acquisitions across the COMESA block and the office is in Lilongwe. It promotes and encourages competition by preventing restrictive business practices and other restrictions that deter efficient operation of markets in COMESA.

Expropriation and Compensation

Section 44 of Malawi’s constitution permits expropriation of property only when done for public utility and with adequate notification and appropriate compensation. Even in such cases, there is always a right to appeal to a court of law. There are laws that protect both local and foreign investment. However, measures that carry expropriation effects are occasionally imposed, including export bans and implicit bans due to the government’s authority to require export licenses for any key commodities at any time for. These restrictions apply equally to foreign and domestic investors. There are no measures that deliberately deprive investors of substantial economic benefits from their investments.

Land acquisition is governed by the Land Acquisition Act of 2016. Accordingly, acquisition must be in the public interest and fair market value for the land must be paid. If the private landowner objects to the level of compensation, it may obtain an independent assessment of the land value. According to the Act, however, such cases may not be challenged in court; the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development remains the final judge. In most cases, land is expropriated to give way to GOM development projects, such as construction of roads. Some landowners have refused to relocate due to disagreements; however, these cases are usually settled amicably and where necessary compensations are made. In such expropriations, claimants are well informed and fully engaged.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Malawi has not ratified the New York Convention but has ratified the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID Convention). As a member of the ICSID, Malawi accepts binding international arbitration of investment disputes between foreign investors and the GOM. The Investment Disputes (Enforcement of Awards) Act of 1966 makes provision for the enforcement in Malawi of awards of the Tribunal of the ICSID.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The government is not a signatory to a treaty or agreement recognizing binding international arbitration of investment disputes such as the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention). Malawi does not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) or Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with an investment chapter within the United States. Since 1996, there have been no known major investment disputes involving U.S. companies, although taxation disputes do occur. The court system in Malawi accepts and enforces foreign court judgments registered in accordance with established legal procedure. There are reciprocal agreements among Commonwealth countries to enforce judgments without this registration obligation. There is no such agreement between Malawi and the United States, but judgments involving the two countries can still be enforced if the judgment is registered appropriately in Malawi. There have been no known extrajudicial actions taken against foreign investors in the recent past.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

With respect to litigation, cases commenced in the High Court of Malawi or a subordinate court must, where the defendant indicates an intention to defend, first go to mediation. The Assistant Registrar of the High Court maintains a list of mediators and experts. A mediator chosen by agreement of the parties conducts the mandatory mediation. If the matter is not settled during mediation, the action will proceed in the court in which it was commenced. Malawi does not have an arbitration body. There is no statutory requirement for parties who have contractually agreed to arbitration to go through mediation. Parties will only be required to go through mediation before proceeding to arbitration if their agreement stipulates it. As in the case of Investor-State Dispute Settlements, the court system in Malawi accepts and enforces foreign court judgments that are registered locally. Statistics and information on investment disputes involving SOEs are not readily available. Court processes do not favor or discriminate SOE’s and there is adequate transparency in the domestic courts.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The commercial courts govern all bankruptcies under the provision of the consolidated Insolvency Act of 2016. The Act encourages alternatives to bankruptcy such as receivership and reorganization and gives secured creditors priority over other creditors. Monetary judgments are usually made in the investor’s currency. Cross-border provisions of the Insolvency Act are modeled after UN Commission on International Trade Law models. Malawi moved from 141/190 in 2019 to 134/190 in 2020 on WB Doing Business’s ease of “resolving insolvency”.

Zambia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

In general, Zambian law does not restrict foreign investors in any sector of the economy, although there are a few regulations and practices limiting foreign control laid out below. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) continues to play an important role in Zambia’s economy. The Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) is charged with attracting more FDI to Zambia, in addition to promoting trade and investment and coordinating the country’s private sector-led economic development strategy.

Zambia has undertaken certain institutional reforms aimed at improving its attractiveness to investors; these reforms include the Private Sector Development Reform Program (PSDRP), which addresses the cost of doing business through legislation and institutional reforms, and the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which addresses issues relating to transparency and good governance ( https://data.mcc.gov/evaluations/index.php/catalog/72/study-description ). However, frequent government policy changes have created uncertainty for foreign investors. Recent examples include a rapid transition from a value-added tax regime to a sales tax that was slated to take effect in July 2019, but ultimately scrapped in September 2019 after multiple last minute delays and stakeholder backlash; taxes and royalty increases in the mining sector that took effect in January 2019 and marked the tenth significant change to mining taxes and regulations in 16 years; a labor law update with insufficient public consultation that significantly increased hiring costs for formal businesses; and unpredictable changes to limits on various crop exports.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The ZDA does not discriminate against foreign investors, and all sectors are open to both local and foreign investors. Foreign and domestic private entities have a right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activities, and no business ventures are reserved solely for the government. Although private entities may freely establish and dispose of interests in business enterprises, investment board approval is required to transfer an investment license for a given enterprise to a new owner.

Currently, all land in Zambia is considered state land and ownership is vested in the president. Land titles held are for renewable 99-year leases; ownership is not conferred. According to the government, the current land administration system leaves little room for the empowerment of citizens, especially the poor and vulnerable rural communities. The government began reviewing the current land policy in earnest in March 2017; though shorter terms continue to be suggested, no changes have been adopted to date.

Foreign investors in the telecom sector are required to disclose certain proprietary information to the ZDA as part of the regulatory approval process. Further information regarding information and communication regulation can be found at the website of the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority at http://www.zicta.zm 

The ZDA board screens all investment proposals and usually makes its decision within 30 days. The reviews appear to be routine and non-discriminatory and applicants have the right to appeal investment board decisions. Investment applications are screened, with effective due diligence to determine the extent to which the proposed investment will help to create employment; the development of human resources; the degree to which the project is export-oriented; the likely impact on the environment; the amount of technology transfer; and any other considerations the Board considers appropriate.

The following are the requirements for registering a foreign company in Zambia:

  1. At least one and not more than nine local directors must be appointed as directors of a majority foreign-owned company. At least one local director of the company must be resident in Zambia, and if the company has more than two local directors, more than half of them shall be residents of Zambia.
  2. There must be at least one documentary agent (a firm, corporate body registered in Zambia, or an individual who is a resident in Zambia).
  3. A certified copy of the Certificate of Incorporation from the country of origin must be attached to Form 46.
  4. The charter, statutes, regulations, memorandum and articles, or other instrument relating to a foreign company must be submitted.
  5. The Registration Fee of K5,448.50 (~ USD 250.00) must be paid.
  6. The issuance and sealing of the Certificate of Registration marks the end of the process for registration.

This information can also be found at the web address of the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA), http://www.pacra.org.zm 

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The GRZ conducted a trade policy review through the World Trade Organization (WTO) in June 2016. The report found that Zambia recorded relatively strong economic growth at an average rate of 6.6 percent per year up to 2015. The improvement was attributed to growing demand for copper (the main export product) and its spillover effects on some other sectors such as transport, communications, and wholesale and retail trade. Buoyant construction activity and higher agricultural production also helped.

The trade policy review report of 2016 reached the following conclusions: the government should continue to implement programs and initiatives directed at attaining inclusive growth and job creation and pay particular attention to macroeconomic stability, diversification of the economy, support to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), engagement with cooperating partners, and promotion of investment. Zambia also uses bilateral, regional, and multilateral frameworks to support economic growth and development.

Report found here: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp440_e.htm 

Business Facilitation

The Zambian government, often with support from cooperating partners, has undertaken economic reforms to improve its business facilitation process and attract foreign investors, including steps to support more transparent policymaking and to encourage competition. The impact of these progressive policies, however, has been undermined by persistent fiscal deficits, struggling economy, high cost of doing business and widespread corruption. Business surveys, including TRACE International, generally indicate that corruption in Zambia is a major obstacle for conducting business in the country.

The Zambian Business Regulatory Review Agency (BRRA) manages Regulatory Services Centers (RSCs) that serve as a one-stop shop for investors. RSCs provide an efficient regulatory clearance system by streamlining business registration processes; providing a single licensing system; reducing the procedures and time it takes to complete the registration process; and increasing accessibility of business registration institutions by placing them under one roof.

The government established RSCs in Lusaka, Livingstone, Kitwe, and Chipata, and has plans to establish additional RSCs so that there is at least one in each of the country’s 10 provinces. Information about the RSCs can be found at the following links:

The Companies Act No. 10 of 2017 was operationalized through a statutory instrument (June 2018) and implementing regulations (February 2019) aimed at fostering accountability and transparency in the management of companies. Companies are required to maintain a register of beneficial owners, and persons holding shares on behalf of other persons or entities must now disclose those beneficial owners.

In order to facilitate improved access to credit, the Patents and Company Registration Office (PACRA) established the collateral registry system, a central database that records all registrations of charges or collaterals created by borrowers to secure credits provided by lenders. This service allows lenders to search for collateral offered by loan applicants to see if that collateral already has an existing claim registered against it. Creditors can also register security interests against the proposed collateral to protect their priority status in accordance with the Movable Property (Security Interest) Act No. 3 of 2016. Generally, the first registered security interest in the collateral has first priority over any subsequent registrations.

Parliament passed the Border Management and Trade Facilitation Act in December 2018. The Act, among other things, calls for coordinated border management and control to facilitate the efficient movement and clearance of goods; puts into effect provisions for one-stop border posts; and simplifies clearance of goods with neighboring countries. While one-stop border posts have existed for several years and agencies are co-located at some border crossings, the new law seeks to harmonize conflicting regulations and processes within the interagency.

Outward Investment

Through the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA), the government continues to undertake a number of activities to promote investment through provision of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, establishment of Multi-Facility Economic Zones (MFEZs), the development of SMEs, as well as the promotion of skills development, productive investment, and increased trade. However, there is no incentive for outward investment nor is there any known government restriction on domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Proposed laws and other statutory instruments are often insufficiently vetted with interest groups or are not released in draft form for public comment. Proposed bills are published on the National Assembly of Zambia website ( http://www.parliament.gov.zm/ ) for public viewing and to facilitate public submissions to parliamentary committees reviewing the legislation. Hard copies of the documents are delivered by courier to the stakeholders’ premises/mailboxes. Finalized statutory instruments can be purchased through the Printing Department under the Ministry of Works and Supply or viewed online via https://www.enotices.co.zm/categories/statutory-instruments-2020/ .

Opportunities for comment on proposed laws and regulations sometimes exist through trade associations and policy thinktanks such as the Zambia Institute for Policy Analysis and Research, Centre for Trade Policy and Development, Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Zambia Association of Manufacturers, Zambia Chamber of Mines, and the American Chamber of Commerce in Zambia. Stakeholder consultation in developing legislation and regulation has, however, generally been poor under the current administration. The government established the Business Regulatory Review Agency (BRRA) in 2014 with the mandate to administer the Business Regulatory Act. The Act requires public entities to submit for Cabinet approval a policy or proposed law that regulates business activity, after the policy or proposed law has BRRA approval. A public entity that intends to introduce any policy or law for regulating business activities should give notice, in writing, to the BRRA at least two months prior to submitting it to Cabinet; hold public consultations for at least 30 days with relevant stakeholders; and perform a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). The BRRA works in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, which does not approve any proposed law to regulate business activity without the approval of BRRA. While this framework exists on paper, the BRRA and the consultative process is still relatively new and unknown even by other government officials, and in some cases, it appears that the BRRA was informed after the Ministry of Justice had already approved a law.

While there are clear public procurement guidelines, concerns persist regarding transparency and a level playing field for U.S. firms. To enhance the transparency, integrity, and efficiency of Zambia’s procurement system, the GRZ launched the Electronic Government Procurement (e-GP) in July 2016. In 2018, Cabinet approved legislation to repeal the Public Procurement Act of 2008 in order to introduce price benchmarking and expert estimates in tendering for capital projects and other high value goods and services, and to make the use of e-GP mandatory. President Lungu assented to the Bill in October 2020 effectively passing it into law, but as of April 2021 the Act’s Implementation still awaits the commencement order and regulations from Ministries of Finance and Justice respectively.

International Regulatory Considerations

Zambia is a member of a number of regional and international groupings aimed at expanding markets for domestically produced goods and services. These include membership in both COMESA and SADC Free Trade Areas (FTAs). Zambia is also an active participant in the establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area between COMESA, SADC, and the East African Community (EAC).

In February 2019, Zambia signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and on February 05, 2021, Zambia deposited the instruments of ratification to the AfCFTA to the African Union, making Zambia the 36th African Union member to fully accede to the agreement. The trade agreement among 54 African Union member states creates a continent-wide single market, followed by the free movement of people and a single-currency union; much work remains to develop implementation protocols and mechanisms across Africa.

At the multilateral level, Zambia has been a WTO member since January 1, 1995. Zambia’s investment incentives program is transparent and has been included in the WTO’s trade policy reviews. The incentive packages are also subject to reviews by the Board of the ZDA and to periodic reviews by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee. Zambia is a signatory to the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), but still faces major challenges in expediting the movement, release, and clearance of goods, including goods in transit, which is a major requisite of the TFA. Zambia has benefited from duty-free and quota-free market access to the EU through its Everything but Arms FTA, and to the United States via the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and AGOA agreements.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Zambia has a dual legal system that consists of statutory and customary law enforced through a formal court system. Statutory law is derived from the English legal system with some English Acts of Parliament still deemed to be in full force and effect within Zambia. Traditional and customary laws, which remain in a state of flux, are generally not written or codified, although some of them have been unified under Acts of Parliament. No clear definition of customary law has been developed by the courts, and there has not been systematic development of this subject.

Zambia has a written commercial law. The Commercial Court, a division of the High Court, deals with disputes arising out of commercial transactions. All commercial matters are registered in the commercial registry and judges of the Commercial Court are experienced in commercial law. Appeals from the Commercial Court, based on the amended January 2016 constitution, now fall under the recently established Court of Appeals, comprised of eight judges. The Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act, Chapter 76, makes provision for the enforcement in Zambia of judgments given in foreign countries that accord reciprocal treatment. The registration of a foreign judgment is not automatic. Although Zambia is a state party to international human rights and regional instruments, its dualist system of jurisprudence considers international treaty law as a separate system of law from domestic law. Domestication of international instruments by Acts of Parliament is necessary for these to be applicable in the country. Systematic efforts to domesticate international instruments have been slow but continue to see progress.

The courts support Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and there has been an increase in the use of arbitration, mediation, and tribunals by litigants in Zambia. Arbitration is common in commercial matters and the proceedings are governed by the Arbitration Act No. 19 of 2000. The Act incorporates United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Zambian courts have no jurisdiction if parties have agreed to an arbitration clause in their contract. The establishment of the fee-based judicial commercial division in 2014 to adjudicate high-value claims has helped accelerate resolution of such cases.

The courts in Zambia are generally independent, but contractual and property rights enforcement is weak and final court decisions can take a prohibitively long time. At times, politicians have exerted pressure on the judiciary in politically controversial cases. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable, and adjudication depends on the matter at hand and the principal law or act governing the regulations.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The major laws affecting foreign investment in Zambia include:

  1. The Zambia Development Agency Act of 2006, which offers a wide range of incentives in the form of allowances, exemptions, and concessions to companies.
  2. The Companies Act of 1994, which governs the registration of companies in Zambia.
  3. The Zambia Revenue Authority’s Customs and Excise Act, Income Tax Act of 1966, and the Value Added Tax of 1995 provide for general incentives to investors in various sectors.
  4. The Employment Code Act of 2019, Zambia’s basic employment law that provides for required minimum employment contractual terms.
  5. The Immigration and Deportation Act, Chapter 123, regulates the entry into and residency in Zambia of visitors, expatriates, and immigrants.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

Market competition operates under a relatively weak regulatory framework, although there is freedom of pricing, currency convertibility, freedom of trade, and free use of profits. A fairly strong institutional framework is provided for strategic sectors, such as mining and mining supply industries, and large-scale commercial farming. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is a statutory body established with a unique dual mandate to protect the competition process in the economy and to protect consumers. The CCPC’s mandate cuts across all economic sectors in an effort to avoid restrictive business practices, abuse of dominant position of market power, anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions, and cartels, and to enhance consumer protection and safeguard competition.

In 2016 the CCPC published a series of guidelines and policies that included adoption of a formal Leniency Policy intended to encourage persons to report information that may help to uncover prohibited agreements. In certain circumstances the person receives immunity from prosecution, imposition of fines, or the guarantee of a reduction in fines. The policy also calculates administrative penalties. In addition, the CCPC in 2016 published draft Settlement Guidelines, which provide a formal framework for parties seeking to engage the CCPC to reach a settlement.

The Competition and Fair Trading Act, Chapter 417, prevents firms from distorting the competitive process through conduct or agreements designed to exclude actual or potential competitors, and applies to all entities, regardless of whether private, public, or foreign. Although the CCPC largely opens investigations when a complaint is filed, it can also open investigations on its own initiative. Zambian competition law can also be enforced by civil lawsuits in court brought by private parties, while criminal prosecution by the CCPC is possible in cartel cases without the involvement of the Director of Public Prosecution under the Competition and Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) No. 24 of 2010. However, the general perception is that the Commission may be restricted in applying the competition law against government agencies and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), especially those protected by other laws.

Expropriation and Compensation

Zambia is a signatory to the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) of the World Bank and other international agreements. This guarantees foreign investment protection in cases of war, strife, disasters, and other disturbances, or in cases of expropriation. Zambia has signed bilateral reciprocal promotional and protection of investment protocols with a number of countries. The ZDA also offers further security for investments in the country through the signing of the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPAs).

Investments may only be legally expropriated by an act of Parliament relating to the specific property expropriated. Although the ZDA Act states that compensation must be at a fair market value, the method for determining fair market value is ill-defined. Compensation is convertible at the current exchange rate. The ZDA Act also protects investors from being adversely affected by any subsequent changes to the Investment Act of 1993 for seven years from their initial investment.

Leasehold land, which is granted under 99-year leases, may revert to the government if it is determined to be undeveloped after a certain amount of time, generally five years. Land title is sometimes questioned in court, and land is re-titled to other owners.

There is no pattern of discrimination against U.S. persons by way of an illegal expropriation by the government or authority in the country. There are no high-risk sectors prone to expropriation actions.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Zambia is party to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards of 1958, and party to the Convention of the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States of 1965. These are enforced through the Investment Disputes Convention Act Chapter 42.

Zambia is a member state of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention and a signatory to the United Nations Commission of International Trade Law (UNCITRAL Model Law). In 2002 Zambia ratified the convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention).

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Over the past ten years, U.S. specific investment disputes involved delayed payments from SOEs to U.S. companies for goods and services and the delayed deregistration of a U.S.-owned aircraft that was leased to a Zambian airline company that went bankrupt. Currently, a U.S. company is in dispute over the refusal of payment by its local joint venture partner that resulted from goods delivered to the government of Zambia. The case, however, has not officially reached Zambian courts.

Relatively few investment disputes involving U.S. companies have occurred since Zambia’s economy was liberalized following the introduction of multi-party democracy in 1991. The Zambian Investment Code stipulates that claimants must first file internal dispute claims with the Zambian High Court. Failing that, the parties may go to international arbitration. However, U.S. companies can encounter difficulties in receiving payments from the government for work performed or products and services rendered. This can be due to inefficient government bureaucracy or, more often, due to a lack of funds available to the government to meet its obligations.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Zambian Arbitration Act Number 19 of 2000 incorporates the UNCITRAL and the New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards. The Act applies to both domestic and international arbitration and is based on the UNCITRAL model law. Foreign lawyers cannot be used to represent parties in domestic or international arbitrations taking place in Zambia. There are no facilities that provide online arbitration, although the Zambia Institute of Arbitrators promotes and facilitates arbitration and other forms of ADR. The New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards has been domesticated into Zambian legislation by virtue of Section 31 of the Arbitration Act. Arbitration awards are enforced in the High Court of Zambia, and judgments enforcing or denying enforcement of an award can be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Bankruptcy Act, Chapter 82, provides for the administration of bankruptcy of the estates of debtors and makes provision for punishment of offenses committed by debtors. It also provides for reciprocity in bankruptcy proceedings between Zambia and other countries and for matters incidental to and consequential upon the foregoing. This applies to individuals, local, and foreign investors. Bankruptcy judgments are made in local currency but can be paid out in any internationally convertible currency. Under the Bankruptcy Act, a person can be charged as a criminal. A person guilty of an offense declared to be a felony or misdemeanor under the Bankruptcy Act in respect of which no special penalty is imposed by the Act shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

Zambia has made strides in improving its credit information system. Since 2008, the credit bureau, TransUnion, requires banks and some non-banks to provide loan requirement information and consult it when making loans. The credit bureau eventually captures data from other institutions, such as utilities. However, the bureau’s coverage is still less than ten percent of the population, the quality of its information is suspect, and there it lacks clarity on data sources and the inclusion of positive information.

Investment Climate Statements
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select A Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future