Restive DR Congo’s big challenge, fulfilling economic potential


KINSHASA (DNA) – “A Land of Many Potentials” is how DR Congo’s investment promotion agency touts the mineral-rich nation of 80 million people, just weeks away from crucial elections.Yet the business community’s wish list is frighteningly long in a country that is synonymous with corruption, according to its Transparency International profile, which ranked it 161 out of 180 countries last year.

The gap between potential and the current state of affairs poses a daunting challenge for whoever succeeds President Joseph Kabila in the December 23 presidential poll.

Major progress is needed on all fronts from agriculture, electricity, roads, customs tariffs and fiscal policy to tackling endemic corruption.

Business leaders say people are crying out for a savvy leader in a country ranked 176 on the Human Development Index by UNDP.

“He must learn to manage the country like a business. We have excelled in political politics rather than a realistic economic policy producing wealth,” businessman Yves Kabongo told a recent investment forum as the nation approaches the end of the Kabila era that has stretched almost two decades.

The next head of state must “avoid making political arrangements and instead choose expertise”, insisted Alain Kahasha, managing director of the Congolese branch of Indian telecoms operator Airtel.

DR Congo is blessed with an abundance of mineral riches and fertile land but is one of the world’s poorest nations. Annual economic output totals just $457 dollars per person — or $1.25 per day.