"We know that the DRC is a great country with huge potential and influence within the entirety of the continent. We must take up the challenge of enhancing integration and trade development. There is a perception of high risks, which is why foreign investors remain hesitant, but I believe that is misplaced. African economies have their best chance in decades, and we must use windfall gains from the commodities boom for broader development," Mpahlwa asserted at a forum in Johannesburg on Friday.
As in South Africa, the government of the DRC sought to attract responsible investment that would leave a lasting legacy, and placed particular emphasis on the inclusion and development of small, medium-sized and micro enterprises (SMMEs), when a multinational company established their supply chain. For this, the banking and financial sector would also play an important role in the provision of loans and facilities.
DRC Ambassador in South Africa Bene M'Poko invited companies that wished to invest in the DRC to consider not only the financial importance of their businesses, but also good corporate citizenship.
M'Poko stressed that the programme of the government emphasised industrial development so that growth could be extended beyond the primary sectors of mining and agriculture.
The Ambassador placed particular emphasis on sectors such as agro-processing, construction, pharmaceuticals and chemicals and agricultural equipment.
BIG FARMING, FISHERIES PUSH
"Agriculture is at the heart of our policy as it will fight against poverty and hunger - also much priority is placed on fisheries. DRC has the potential to obtain 850 000 t of fish from lakes, and 150 000 t of fish from artificial lakes," M'Poko said, lamenting that 1-billion t/y of fish died from natural causes.
"The government of the DRC imports 90% of all fish consumed - so investment here has lots of potential, we invite fisheries to set up business in our country so that the fish can die on our plates rather than of natural causes," he added.
There was also significant potential for cattle and animal rearing, which would help to develop rural areas, create jobs and improve access to basic social services.
M'Poko said the DRC was keen to foster relationships with companies capable of processing agricultural products.
MATERIALS FOR RECONSTRUCTION
As the country started to rebuild itself after years of civil war, construction materials would also be required.
"We need cement and wood products, as the rehabilitation and building of new infrastructure is a high priority. We support the work of cement companies in DRC, we have a market demand of 300 million tons of cement and that could increase to 600-million tons of cement, and we also have the resources of chalk and lime to facilitate this cement manufacture," indicated M'Poko.
There was also much interest in the forests of the DRC, and the government wanted to stimulate investment into downstream wood processing, so as to end the cycle of raw-timber exportation.
Transport was also highlighted as an important sector as the rehabilitation of community infrastructure was to be accelerated to improve the rail and road networks and the rural-urban gaps can be reduced.
SA INVESTORS CONFIRM BIG OPPORTUNITY
But it was also acknowledged that South African private-sector investment into the DRC was not without its challenges. Foremost among these were the language barrier, infrastructural and supply-chain inefficiencies, a skills dearth, an under developed business-facilitation infrastructure, and corruption.
Representatives from AngloGold Ashanti, Standard Bank, and De Beers gave presentations on their experience of doing business in the DRC, all of which noted the huge opportunities available in the country.
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) was driving the establishment of private sector steering committees and facilitating dialogue between the governments and the private sector, to support development in the DRC, which was viewed as enhancing stability on the entire African continent.
The GTZ had undertaken research, and compiled documents for the Responsible Investment in the DRC initiative, which gave guidelines and important information on doing business in the country.
"It is highly desirable that businesses that invest, abide by those principles and contribute to the establishment of a responsible economic and social development and environmental protection. Importantly, the extreme difficulties that are inherent in the political and historical landscape in the DRC need to be tackled through combined efforts of both international and national, public and private engagement," said GTZ researcher Jens Possel.