Democratic Republic of the Congo
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign 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 GDRC can impose and monitor investor-friendly policies. FDI-friendly laws exist, but the judicial system is slow to protect investors’ rights and is susceptible to political pressure and corruption. Investors hope that Tshisekedi can create a more favorable environment by improving the rule of law and tackling corruption. The DRC’s rich endowment of natural resources, large population, and generally open trading system offer significant potential opportunities for U.S. investors. For more than a decade, the DRC has undertaken reforms related to investment in order to make its business environment competitive and attractive including reforms to the investment code, the mining code, the insurance code, the agricultural Act, the Act on the liberalization of electricity, and the telecommunications code. The GDRC has also promoted improvements in the tax, customs, parafiscal, non-tax and foreign exchange regimes, which are applicable to collaboration agreements and cooperation projects, as well as the decree on the strategic partnership on value chains, the Industrial Property Act, the Public-Private Partnership Act, the Competition Act, and the Special Economic Zones Act.
The main regulations governing FDI are found in the Investment Code Act (No. 004/2002 of February 21, 2002). Current regulations reserve the practice of small-scale commerce and retail commerce in DRC to nationals and prohibit majority ownership by foreigners of agricultural enterprises. The ordinance of “August 8, 1990” clearly states that “small business may only be carried out by Congolese”. Foreign investors must limit themselves to import trade and wholesale and semi-wholesale trade. Investors fear that the ban on foreign agricultural ownership will stifle any attempt to revive the agrarian sector.
The National Investment Promotion Agency (ANAPI) is the official investment agency, providing investment facilitation services for initial investments above $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 that address the government on the investment climate in specific sectors. In 2019, the GDRC created the Business Climate Unit (CCA) to monitor and improve the business enabling environment in the DRC, and to interface with the business community. In June 2020, the CCA presented a roadmap for reforms. In December 2021, the CCA developed a digital tool for monitoring and evaluating reforms and missions within the public administration, to allow the highest authorities, including the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, to follow in real time the progress of the implementation of reforms by the various ministers. The Public-Private mining group Financial and Technical Partners (PTF) represents countries with significant mining investments in the DRC. On March 1, 2022, the GDRC created, by decree, the Agency for the Steering, Coordination and Monitoring of Cooperation Agreements between the DRC and its Private Partners (APCSC). This agency will oversee the implementation of cooperation agreements that the DRC has concluded with private companies, particularly in the areas of basic infrastructure and natural resources. The APCSC serves as an interface between the various parties and entities interested in projects resulting from collaboration or cooperation agreements in basic infrastructure and natural resources, including the GDRC, private companies and/or groups of companies, as well as any joint venture or monitoring structure created for the purpose of exploring, exploiting, or marketing natural resources and/or carrying out infrastructure work. The Federation of Congolese Enterprises (FEC), a private sector organization that partners with the government and workers’ unions, maintains a dialogue on business interests with the government.
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.
Foreign ownership or control is possible except in certain excepted sectors. The DRC law reserves small-scale commerce and retail trade to Congolese nationals and there is a foreign ownership limit of 49 percent for agricultural concerns, which limits agricultural investment. Many investors note that in practice the GDRC requires foreign investors to hire local agents and participate in joint ventures with the government or local partners. The new telecommunications law enacted in 2022 includes a 25 percent ownership requirement.
Some foreign investors in the mining sector note that the 2018 mining code raised royalty rates from two to ten percent, raising tax rates on “strategic” metals, and imposing a surcharge on the “super profits” of mining companies. The code also removed a stability clause that protected investors from any new taxes or duties for ten years. The Tshisekedi government has indicated that it is prepared to reopen discussions on the mining code.
The GDRC does not maintain an organization to screen inbound investment. The Presidency and the ministries serve this purpose de facto. In May 2021 President Tshisekedi announced his intention to review the content of and compliance with mining contracts signed under former President Kabila, a process that is still ongoing.
In the past five years, has the GDRC not been subject to a third-party investment policy review (IPR) through a multilateral organization such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) or the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. 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.)
The international NGO The Sentry published a report in November 2021 on a multi-million-dollar embezzlement and bribery operation using money intended to support infrastructure development. The NGO Global Witness reported in 2019 that a DRC-based bank was involved in laundering money for Congolese officials.
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 with an electronic tracking system of the business creation file online. 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/ .
In December 2021, the GDRC attempted to make the GUCE more efficient for companies by implementing a system that allows for online business registration. Using the GUCE’s online portal, companies fill out a “single form,” which integrates all of the services involved in the process of creating a company including the Notary’s Office, the Registry of the Commerce and Personal Property Credit Register, the Administration of Tax Authority (DGI), a Center for Ordination of the General Directorate of Administrative, State, Judicial and Participation Revenues (DGRAD), the Administration of the National Economy, the National Fund of Social Security (CNSS), the Administration of the Environment, the National Office of Employment (ONEM), the National Institute of Professional Preparation (INPP), the General Inspection of Work; and a representation of Municipal Entities. Businesses may also need to obtain an operating permit as required by some city councils. The registration process should now take three days, but in practice it can take much longer. Some businesses have reported that the GUCE has significantly shortened and simplified the overall business registration process.
The GDRC does not promote or incentivize outward investment.
There are currently no government restrictions preventing domestic investors from investing abroad, and there is currently no blacklist of countries with which domestic investors are prevented from doing business.