By way of example, Basaula points to timber production in the DRC, which is mainly designed for the export of logs, while there is increased demand for sawn timber among South African companies.
Basaula stresses that South African firms interested in exploring such opportunities are free to seek assistance from the DRC embassy in Pretoria, and that further help in this regard will be provided by a newly-established South Africa–DRC Business Forum that is scheduled to be launched in July.
“The embassy is a good contact point, while the aim of the new business forum is to widen the scope of activi-ties relating to business and investment promotion. These, together with con-ferences that the embassy organises, will make it easier for South African firms to establish themselves in the DRC and form partnerships there,” Basaula explains.
Some of the business forum’s key functions will be to organise missions for potential investors, to provide project-specific information, to keep clients informed about tenders, and to introduce them to potential partners in the DRC.
Moreover, in conjunction with the DRC embassy, another of its objectives will be to advise interested South African firms on how best to go about business in the DRC, and to provide them with valuable information about business regulations and social culture in the country. “The business forum will thus help develop mutual business cooperation between the DRC and South Africa,” Basaula explains. Various new codes, that have been established in the DRC’s mining and forestry sectors under the leadership of President Joseph Kabila, guarantee the security of foreign investment in the country and make establishing and running a business, as well as partner- ing in the DRC, an attractive propo-sition to foreign firms.
In the same context, in order to provide South African investors with further transparency and security in the DRC, the governments of the two countries will sign an Investment Protection Agreement in July this year.
To this end, three representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry and one from Tisa travelled to the DRC earlier in May to prepare the documents for signing.
The DRC has successfully restored its macroeconomic fundamentals.
Inflation is under control, and a stable exchange rate has been achieved.
It is also clear that fiscal reforms made during the last few years are beginning to pay dividends.
For example, inflation has been reduced from 511% in 2000 to 135% at the end of 2001 and 12% at the end of 2002, while the economy achieved a growth rate of 3% in the same year.
The target growth rates are 5% for this year and 6% for next year.
Thus, Basaula maintains that fiscal improvements, coupled with the return of political stability, provide a favourable investment climate in the DRC.