What are the main reforms offering more investment security and better risk management for private companies entering the market in DRC?
The physical security issues that we had have been resolved by strengthening community consultation to avoid new conflicts and problems arising. We have also passed new legislation that gives more guarantees to investors. This is part of the World Bank's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) system that protects investors. The DRC is also party to a relevant New York Convention and to OHADA. This is a common system used by 16 African countries whereby if a party is not satisfied with local justice, they can conduct proceedings outside the country, and we agree to respect the outcome. These mechanisms give more of a guarantee to investors. Furthermore, we have created some national institutions to protect investors and to ameliorate the business climate in the DRC. We have a group that meets two times a year to identify and consider problems relating to business activities. If there are policy, administration, or security shortfalls affecting business, then that group makes recommendations for improvements. We have also established the National Agency for Investment Promotion (ANAPI) to promote investment. Now it only takes three days and a fee of $120 to obtain all the necessary documentation to create a new company in the DRC. We have done all this to attract investors.
What are the key areas for the economy's diversification in which you are seeking more foreign investment?
In 2014 GDP growth was 9.5%, but in 2015 I predict a rate closer to 7.7% because of problems related to the cost of raw materials. The DRC exports mining resources and the price of these is dropping on the global market. We also have an energy shortage problem. The Grand Inga Dam project on the Congo river will produce around 100,000 MW of electricity. We are looking at how to utilize that and share it with other countries, such as South Africa, Egypt, and other countries that need that energy. In terms of the country's economic situation, the DRC is looking at how to diversify its economy because, currently, our GDP is essentially dependent on the mining, agriculture, and banking sectors. We aim to make agriculture our number one sector because we have 80 million ha of arable land and we have the advantage that 70% of our population is already involved in agriculture. Therefore, if we develop the agricultural sector, GDP growth will have a positive impact on a wide segment of our population. Infrastructure, factories, and industry are needed, particularly in agriculture, to modernize the sector. In the meantime, the mining sector only involves a small group of investors. Our mining legislation allows investors to recover their entire investment before they have to pay any contribution to the state. That is why while we have high mining profits. However, these do not directly benefit the population at the moment. The government has to wait around five to eight years for mining interests to start paying contributions to the state. We also have to start extracting more oil as studies indicate that three-quarters of the country bear petroleum reserves.
What advantages does the agriculture sector specifically offer to investors based in Dubai?
We have implemented an approach that gives more advantages to investors. They only have to pay $120 to open a company, they have customized facilities, and they do not have to pay anything to the government until they have recuperated the capital they have invested. Furthermore, we have a good climate in the DRC that allows for seasonal production year round.
What benefits do you see in strengthening bilateral ties with Dubai?
Dubai is a hub and it can facilitate us in making contact with investors. Dubai is a gateway for us. Currently we buy a number of things from Dubai. We import 3,000 containers from Dubai per month, but we could do more than that. Dubai gives us access to big investors interested in key areas for DRC's diversification, like hydroelectricity and infrastructure. For example, without electricity reserves it is not going to be possible for the DRC to have rapid development and economic diversification.
In what direction would you like to see relations between the UAE and the DRC going?
Until now relations have been good; however, we should reinforce them. I intend to advise our president to nominate an ambassador to come here in order to facilitate communication between the two states. The DRC suffers from a lack of air transportation companies. If flydubai could come to our country it would be supportive for our economy. The DRC is extremely large at 2,345,000 sqkm, and we need aircraft to transport both goods and passengers. The east of the country has many exchanges with Dubai, Kenya, and Uganda, but mostly with Dubai. We should reinforce our relations on the political and diplomatic level to push business interests to come to the DRC and take up the opportunities we have. We would also like to see an office of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce established in the DRC. The Dubai Chambers in Africa are all based in English-speaking African states. There are many French speaking countries in Africa that have exchanges with Dubai, including the DRC, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Cameroon, and Senegal. There are 26 countries that speak French and it would be good for the Dubai Chamber of Commerce to open an office in the DRC for the francophone nations in Africa. That would help push businesses to increase their activities in our region.