Shocking Potential: Doing Business in the Congo

Shocking Potential: Doing Business in the Congo

Have you ever thought about doing business in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a very viable option for success? Most of you will probably reply with ‘No’. And I have to confess to you: this includes me.

The last thing I saw about the Congo was a documentary of mass rapes of Congelese women, one of the most disturbing films I have ever watched.

There is not much information out there about doing business in the DRC and maybe that coupled with the shocking images on my TV screen contributed largely to my own ignorance towards the country as a upcoming market and a valuable business destination in Africa growing at around 7% each year.

Now, here is what happened. Waiting for my flight from Nairobi to Kigali I met a Rwandan business man at the airport who works in Kinshasa, DRC (it is a long story indeed, but I will make it short here). We had afternoon tea together with him and three other Rwandans talking about business opportunities in the region. Here are the words of this young man, who I will call B.:

B.: “Doing business in Rwanda is great, but wait until I tell you about doing business in Congo and you will cry”.

And you know what?! He was right! We were crying tears….from laughter….by the time he finished. Because here we sat with all these ambitious Rwandan business people and suddenly all of them wanted to buy a plane ticket to Kinshasa. He gave us incredible insights, and while I could not verify them, I will take his words for it (maybe with a pinch of salt).

kinshasa Congo business transport
A transport business has huge potential for you in Congo

B. explained to us that the potential in Congo was beyond imagination. The DRC is a country with over 70 Mio people, and according to B.’s latest figures with about 12 Mio of them living in the capital Kinshasa, yet at the moment the Congolese were hardly producing anything themselves. Everything was either largely imported or simply unavailable on the market.

He talked about bread and how one Indian lead company was producing around a million loafs a day covering most of Kinshasa, owning almost the entire market, because no-one else was competing.

There were only a handful of banks for a tiny portion of the population, which opened incredible potential for financing businesses covering risk with short-term loans offered at staggering interest rates. Locals were still grateful for those high-interest loans, because they provided a rare opportunity to grow their small businesses.

There is hardly any agricultural production or manufacturing taking place in this huge country, which is heavily depending on minerals, and this makes Congo one of the biggest regional buyers of imports.

“In the Congo you can produce or import anything, and it will sell. Look at my laptop. It costs a maximum of US$500 anywhere in the world. In Kinshasa I bought it for almost US$2,000. I needed it urgently and had no choice. You need to come and see it for yourself and you will be amazed.” B. said.

We sipped our tea, while B. continued to give us insights into Congo’s business climate. He told us that there were small shops where people would pay $10 just to get What’sUp downloaded onto their mobile phones and how it was difficult to find a barber in Kinshasa. This also demonstrated the need for very basic services on the ground.

 “What about safety”, I asked.

“The conflict and dangers you hear about are happening in Eastern Congo, it’s a small portion of the country and it is very far away from the capital city. Kinshasa is certainly safer than Nairobi”, B. claimed.

More Congolese are now returning home to build businesses. One of them is Olivier Ndombasi, who turned his father’s small store into a supermarket franchise called Peloustore, with four locations and more on the way. “It’s very exciting to be able to do things in a new environment, and do things you didn’t think you’d be able to do,” Ndombasi tells CNN in an interview. “The challenge is great, but it’s very exciting.”

In the same report, Alain Yav, founder of Pygma Group, which produces the country’s most popular TV show, seems to share that belief: “Come to Kinshasa, you unlearn what you thought you knew. You take your MBA book, your business plan, put it in your pocket and start from scratch”

According to a 2013 report by Clifford Chance the main investment sectors are the following three:


The potential for investment is enormous as the DRC has the largest untapped deposits of raw mineral ores in the world.


Even if the telecommunications sector has already experienced tremendous growth in the last few years, the potential for further growth is enormous, considering the current telephone (landlines and mobiles) penetration rate is only 18.6%. It is the second most dynamic market, after the mining sector

Energy and Power

The DRC has the potential capacity to generate 100,000 MW of hydropower, of which only 6% is currently used. The hydropower sector in particular has a huge potential for growth since 52% of Africa’s surface water reserves are located in the DRC.

For us in the Africa Business Jumpstart community, these industries seem often far-fetched, having said that, telecommunications/ICT and energy solutions can also be introduced by you at a small-scale level targeting households.

There are new efforts by the Congolese government to industrialize the agricultural sector, but again the plan does not involve the millions of Congolese small-scale farmers, but addresses international investors. Some investors are said to have expressed interest but no deals have been signed yet, according to Reuters. The images of war and instability are probably the reason for that and up to this day, doing business in the DRC is no straight forward undertaking. According to the World Bank it still is one of the most difficult places in the world to do business in, but the new 2015 index is finally showing some improvements in this regard.

This surely demonstrates to you that the DRC still has a very long way to go, but with Kinshasa being a safe hub to do business in, this is precisely why the current situation offers amazing opportunities for you with little or no competition. There is huge potential to start something small and grow it to a big success story in a short period of time. Consider manufacturing, agriculture, construction, transport, finance, and an often highly competitive segment in other countries: import-export. This could even work if you are based abroad finding a partner in Kinshasa handling the business with him or her.

The DRC is a dynamic market place with immense potential and it is certainly on my list from now on – I want to visit, see, learn, and possibly implement. It is a high-risk high-reward area – but the risks are different from those so widely perceived. I hope this article has managed to bring the market place Congo a little closer to you and filled you with excitement. Because that is a major driver towards our path to success in Africa!

What was your image of doing business in Congo so far or which experiences can you share with our Africa Business Jumpstart Community? As always , we look forward to hearing from you in the comment section below!

JumpStart Poster (red)



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Dr. Harnet
Dr. Harnet Bokrezion is the Founder of and co-author of the book '101 Ways to Make Money in Africa'. She coaches individuals and consults existing companies assisting them to make smart and strategic business decisions in Africa’s new emerging markets faster and more confidently. Dr. Harnet also regularly writes for the renowned DHL powered publication Get in touch to inquire how she can be of assistance to your own Africa business endeavors:

User Comments ( 16 )

  • These are interesting insights Harnet! “… the DRC holds 52% of Africa’s surface water reserves” Amazing!

    This shows again how little the rest of the world (Africans included) knows about the continent. In my mind, I’d imagined the DRC would be a “No go area” – war, hunger etc. No thanks to the gory stories and images from the media.

    This explains why the few businesses that summon the courage to enter ‘bad image countries’ and see things for themselves almost always achieve tremendous success.

    Your revelations here prove again that most of the perceptions we have about Africa are far from its realities. Thanks for bringing this to light.

    Great article as always!

    • Dr. Harnet

      Hi John-Paul, I completely agree. Even as Africans we largely remain unaware of real situations on the ground. I hope this will change with an increasing Pan-African approach to development and the growing business interest across the continent.

      The way I see it is that Congo is in a similar situation like Angola was 5-10 years ago. ANgola was suffering from its war image for years and is only slowly recovering now from that. Following the end of the war most would never consider doing business there, but a few people did (among them my cousin’s husband by the way) making an absolute fortune, Today these opportunities, like the Angolan import-export market, are pretty crowded.

      Right timing and place count a lot!
      Thanks again for stopping by 🙂

  • $2k for a $500 laptop? $10 to load Whatsapp? Wow. Just wow. Somebody is getting rich in the DRC!

    • Dr. Harnet

      Yes, Tim. Seems like there is a lot of market opportunity for those who are doing business in the DRC right now.

  • Israel OCholi John

    I so much enjoyed this story about congo, i think i would one day pay a visit to that country. Thanks

  • Israel John

    Hi Dr,
    Wow, very interesting story and at the same time, am not happy the way my Africa brothers are suffering over there. We need to go over there to bring solution to the congolese in near future.
    I will defenately go there and help the congolese, and at the sametime make my success.
    But, what about accommodation in kinshasa, is it cheap if i want relicate to congo? Thank you!


  • Grâce K

    Hi Dr ,
    Glad I came across this article. I was saddened at first for the lack of articles about the DRC, then AHA
    I am a 27 years old lady from Congo who can confirm to you and the people who commented above that this country is a land of opportunities… If a man from Rwanda can come to do business this side while the 2 countries are still at “war” it has to show you it’s a safe and welcoming place beside the estearn part torn by the war .
    I came back 7months ago to study and start a business back here and right in Kinshasa. It might sound crazy to do that while I have the opportunities to study abroad but I don’t want to come back when the market is saturated. So I was browsing your website in search of business ideas…
    About the whatsapp at 10$ not anymore, a 2000$ for a laptop that seller was lucky to find someone who needed a computer ASAP but yes we import almost anything it’s incredible. So industrial businesses can easily flourish here, but the prices of products can be doubled this side. The bread factory I believe, people love bread here. Hairdresser nooo, there are plenty , Plz Google the ” sapeurs” Congolese are fashion oriented people. And hair saloon are even open at night ( impressive)
    I thank you for this great article and your website. It encourages me as I am in a new venture here, new beginning, I was in RSA since 2006 December, I could even go to Europe or anywhere else in developed countries. I took the risk because I could see the potential, my family is in another city called Lubumbashi in the Katanga region( mining) also full of opportunities 2000km from here. Visit the DRC when possible, you will see what I see and maybe one day my business and others made in DRC will be featured on one of your post

    Best Regards

    Grâce Kalima

    • Dr. Harnet

      Hi Grace
      Wow, thank you so much for sharing your insights, which are so rare to get for the DRC! So much of the article was based on that encounter with a business man. I am glad you are updating us and please if you can I would love to invite you to write short guest posts for us regarding any insights, tips, and opportunities on the ground. This is the info and guidance we want to share here at Africa Business Jumpstart. Would you be happy to do that?
      Thanks a bunch again and a warm welcome to our community here!

    • Erithier Macani

      Hi Grace,

      What type of Business do you run in the DRC?

    • EDDIE

      Hello Grace Kalima
      Good comments drop me a line for further details

      • Grace Kalima

        Hello Eddie,
        Thank you so much

  • Grace Kalima

    Hello Doctor Harnet ,
    Apology for late reply I didn’t get a notification when you replied to my comment.
    Thanks a lot, I would love to write short guest post anytime…
    Thanks again for the warm welcome
    Best regards

  • Matthew Chiang

    I am fro Taiwan. I just came back from Kinsahsa. I was robbed by policeman. As I know it is not safe in Kinshasa foreingers especially for the May be better in the country. There are many Chinese businessman from China now in DRC. By I met a lady she told me the Chinese company not earn any money till now. Still lose money in DRC.

    I stay few days in the Procure Center just the building that above photo. US$ 60-80 pp/day. A meal fro US$10-15.

  • Elvis

    I really think Congo has so much potential. I have been there and yes IT and electricals are expensive there. I need some people to work with there in Lubumbashi especially for power banks. Good and safe place to be in i reckon i was safe there

  • Esther.w.muturi

    I would wish to come and do business in congo especially in the pharmaceutical industry that my field

  • Sage Muhingu

    Hi Dr Harnet,
    I am surprised to find an article about DR Congo on your website.
    I am from DRC and precisely from the Eastern part of the country. I am currently living in Australia.
    Every time I read your articles I cry because of the opportunity we left in Africa and we are nobody in the West. I would like you to come to Australia and do seminars like you are doing in Europe and USA. I was in Congo last year for 3months and came back in February this year. Congo is a virgin country and full of opportunities. I would really love to work with you in terms of seminars here in Western Australia and arranging travels to Congo if you take a group of people there. I am also happy to be guest contributor to your website if that is okay with you.