Democratic Republic of the Congo - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel. 

Last published date: 2022-12-14

Business Customs

French is the official and business language in the DRC; almost all meetings will be conducted in French, but it is acceptable to bring an interpreter.  Business correspondence, catalogs, and advertising materials written in French are essential to be well understood by potential partners and buyers.  Business cards are widely used.  American business representatives usually have their title and company name translated into French.  Congolese are generally open and accommodating in their personal and professional relationships.  However, protocol remains important in meetings and business transactions, especially with government officials.  Common sense, courtesy, and European traditions of social etiquette apply.  Do not use first names until invited to do so.  The usual forms of address are “Monsieur”, “Madame” and “Mademoiselle.”  Senior government officials should be addressed by the appropriate official title (e.g., Excellence or Monsieur le Ministre).  Requests for meetings, especially with government officials, should be sent in a formal written request.

Business trips to the DRC are rarely on schedule.  Most require more time, patience, and meetings than in the United States.  When making appointments, allow extra time and resources to set a date and time.  Be prepared for delays or cancellations on short notice, especially for meetings with government officials, as the length of the delay increases in proportion to the position of the official.  The private sector tends to be slightly more punctual.  Lunches usually last two hours, dinners start at eight or nine, and nightclubs run from midnight to dawn.  Reconfirm appointments a day in advance.

Business or formal attire is appropriate for business meetings with private or government officials, and is also recommended for most dinner engagements, unless more casual attire is explicitly stated.  Bring casual clothing for outdoor clubs or functions and an umbrella during the rainy season, which generally runs from October to April.  Given the heat and humidity, natural fibers are the most comfortable.  Laundry and dry-cleaning services are available at major hotels and several small stores.

Travel Advisory

For the latest DRC travel alerts and warnings, see Democratic Republic of Congo Travel Advisory.

Visa Requirements

Entry into the DRC for any foreigner is conditioned by the possession of a national or international passport, or another valid travel document, a valid travel visa, an international vaccination booklet prescribed by the health police regulations, and a round-trip ticket (valid).  The Migration Control Authority “Direction Générale de Migration (DGM)” is authorized to issue visas to foreigners wishing to visit or settle in the DRC.  The visa can only be granted to applicants who meet the conditions determined by the legal and regulatory texts.

e-visa RDC is the official platform set up by the DGM, in order to facilitate applications, payments and the granting of flying visas.  Through this platform, all applications are processed within a period not exceeding 72 hours.

U.S. citizens should not travel to the DRC without a valid visa and should apply for one well in advance of their trip to account for unforeseen delays.  DRC Visas are available at the airport for a period of seven days.  Travelers should not rely on Congolese visas being available in neighboring countries.  Visitors planning extended stays should apply for an “Establishment Visa” after arrival in the DRC.  It is difficult to obtain this type of visa for business reasons if the initial entry was made on a tourist visa, but many Congolese embassies do not issue business entry visas.  Up-to-date information on Congolese visa requirements is available from the DRC missions in Washington, D.C., and New York.  See below for contact information for the Washington mission.

Congolese authorities closely scrutinize travel documents at border crossings and when traveling within the country.  All airline passengers have their passports and travel documents examined and stamped, even for domestic flights.  Do not try to intimidate or bully officials.  Make photocopies of all your travel documents; after you arrive, l- go on mission -with the copies and leave the originals in a safe place.  Many areas in the interior of the DRC (notably Orientale, Kasaï, Katanga, North Kivu, and South Kivu provinces) are officially demarcated as mining zones, where travel is subject to government authorization, regardless of the purpose of the visitor.  The Ministry of the Interior issues the permit, also known as a “safe-conduct,” and obtaining it can be a lengthy process.

Photography of public buildings, airports, ports, military installations, hospitals, and border areas is prohibited in some areas, and photographs are often frowned upon in other places, including Kinshasa.  Violators face confiscation of their equipment, arrest, and fines.  Penalties for possession, use, and trafficking of illegal drugs are strictly enforced.

U.S. companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following link(s):  State Department Visa Website

Embassy of the DRC in Washington, DC

Address1100 Connecticut Avenue NW #725

Washington, D.C. 20036, United States

Phone: (+1) 202 234 7690

Fax: (+1) 202 234 2609

E-mail: ambassade@ambardcusa.org

Website: www.ambardcusa.org

 

Permanent Mission of the DRC in New York

866 United Nation Plaza- Suite 511- New York, NY 10017

Phone: (212)319-8061; Fax: (212)319-8232

State Department Visa Website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en.html

Currency

The Congolese franc (symbol: FC; ISO code 4217: CDF) has been the official currency of the DRC since June 30, 1998. The free circulation of all foreign currencies in connection with the Congolese franc is ensured according to the exchange regulations in force. The most common conversions of the Congolese franc are the U.S. dollar, the euro, the CFA franc (BEAC) and the Chinese yuan renminbi.

ATMs in the DRC are generally not a problem.  However, most ATMs in the DRC charge withdrawal fees. Your own bank will probably also charge you a fee. Withdrawal limits depend on the bank, and there is usually a maximum per transaction and a daily limit. This means that you can make several withdrawals in one day, but also that the fees can add up.

Large hotels accept debit and credit cards, but less expensive accommodations, tourist sites, and small restaurants tend to accept cash only.  Visa is the most common card accepted at ATMs, but a growing number also accept Cirrus/MasterCard.

The Central Bank of Congo (BCC) is responsible for regulating foreign exchange and trade.  The informal foreign exchange market in the DRC is large and unregulated and offers exchange rates that do not differ greatly from the official rate.

The DRC economy is highly dollarized and U.S. dollars are accepted along with the CDF for foreign exchange transactions.  The U.S. dollar is used in parallel in the major cities of the DRC to pay for certain commodities worth five dollars or more.  Outside the major cities, it is much rarer.  Not all bills are accepted.  Only $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 denominations are accepted, and bills must be in crisp, almost perfect condition with no tears.

In September 2013, the GDRC embarked on a process of “de-dollarizing” the economy by requiring that tax records be kept in CDF and that tax payments by mining companies be made in local currency. 

In 2014, the BCC implemented new foreign exchange regulations, which, among other things, declared the Congolese franc as the primary currency in all foreign exchange transactions within the DRC.

Payments for education, medical care, water and electricity consumption, residential rents, and federal taxes were required to be made in CDF.  This requirement has been relaxed and, with the agreement of the parties involved and the appropriate monetary officials, exceptions may be made.  Payments of more than $10,000 must be executed within the banking system unless no banking entity is present.  The GDRC in March 2016 required mining and oil companies to pay their duties and taxes in U.S. dollars.

The largest denomination banknote in circulation is the 20,000 CDF (about $10). Much more common are the 500 CDF and 1,000 CDF bills, worth about $0.25 and $0.50, respectively.  U.S. banknotes printed after 2008 with a face value of $5 or more are accepted in virtually all transactions.  Bills of 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 francs are in circulation. There is interoperability and interconnection between the banking sector and telecom operators in the DRC.  This has allowed telecom operators to offer mobile money services in partnership with commercial banks and microfinance institutions.

Telecommunications/Electronics

The DRC has four main cellular telephone providers (Africell, Airtel, Orange, and Vodacom) and numerous private radio networks.  Many people subscribe to at least two or more different service providers; satellite phones are popular in remote interior of the country.  International connections are easier and more efficient than national networks.  Many large companies have their own radio telephone systems, including satellite uplinks.  3G coverage is available in most of the country; 4G/LTE service is widely available in Kinshasa.  The DRC also has a growing number of private Internet service providers (ISPs).

Travelers are advised to check with their cell phone service provider for international roaming options, fees, and the ability to use another operator’s network.  Travelers can easily purchase SIM cards and data units at kiosks in Kinshasa and most major cities.  Wi-Fi is available in most hotels.  U.S. travelers to the DRC should bring adapters because electrical outlets are European E/F and operate at 220 volts.

To dial from outside the DRC: (+ or 00) + 243 (country code) + the ten-digit number provided (drop the first zero if included).  To dial from within the DRC, use only the ten-digit number, always starting with a zero.

Transportation

The DRC’s road, rail, maritime, and airport infrastructure system is in disrepair and requires significant public and private investment for rehabilitation.

Travelers from the United States generally enter the DRC on flights from Paris or Brussels.  Flights are also available from Nairobi, Istanbul, Addis Ababa, and Johannesburg.

Once in the country, most travelers prefer to rent a vehicle and driver for intra-city ground transportation.  Road conditions generally do not permit travel between major cities, but several airlines offer domestic air service.  The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has found that the DRC government’s Civil Aviation Authority does not meet ICAO aviation safety standards for oversight of DRC air carrier operations. 

Despite a reputation as a dangerous and unpredictable aviation market, civil aviation in the DRC is experiencing a revival.  The state-owned Congo Airways received its internationally recognized Air Operator Certificate (AOC) in mid-2016.  Recently, the GDRC has taken several measures to stimulate the aviation sector by creating the new national airline “Air Congo”.  In November 2021, the GDRC called on the National Assembly to urgently pass the “civil aviation” bill to remove the DRC from the European Union’s (EU) blacklist.

Public ground transportation is generally crowded, unreliable, unsafe, and in many cases non-existent.  Many cabs are unlicensed and therefore not easily identifiable.  Fares vary and the price should? be determined before boarding the vehicle.  Since cabs carry several passengers, travelers who wish to be the sole occupant of the vehicle should make sure at the outset.  The DRC’s rail network consists of several non-contiguous and outdated elements.  The DRC has three old rail portage lines linking port cities between the non-navigable sections of the Congo and Ubangi Rivers.  The south and east of the country have three narrow-gauge rail lines connecting major cities, including Ilebo, Kindu, Likasi and Kolwezi, to Lubumbashi.  National Railway Company of Congo’s eastern operations include an operational link to the Zambian rail network and a dormant link to the Angolan rail network.  Passenger rail service is sporadic, and schedules are unpredictable.  The DRC Transport and Ports Trading Company recently completed the rehabilitation of the Kinshasa-Matadi portage rail line; a weekly train now runs between the two cities.

Language

French is the language of business.  Four regional languages have official status: Kikongo (Kongo Central and Bandundu), Swahili (Katanga, Kivu, and Orientale), Lingala (Kinshasa, Equateur, and the Congo River Valley), and Tshiluba (Kasai).  Knowledge of English is limited, although some Congolese business representatives speak English well.  Congolese who are fluent in English have a significant advantage in employment and business opportunities.

Health

Potential health hazards are widespread in tropical Africa and greatly impact the local population.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, travelers need to check the latest entry requirements on the DRC Embassy’s website as well as the U.S. Embassy Kinshasa’s Covid information page.  Most business travelers will have few difficulties if they secure proper immunizations, take an anti-malarial medication, and stick to some basic rules, including drinking only bottled water and seeing a doctor at the first sign of malaria.  Traffic accidents are one of the most common causes of death or serious injury, given poor road conditions, bad driving habits, and the lack of emergency services.  Specific information is available from the international traveler’s hotline, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Tel: +1-404-332-4559).  Medical facilities are limited, and medicine is not always available.  Travelers should bring a sufficient supply of prescription medications with them, as many U.S. pharmaceuticals are not available or may be counterfeit.  Full and immediate cash payment is expected for health services often beforehand.  Not all-American medical insurance is valid outside the U.S.; supplemental insurance with overseas coverage may be necessary.

Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays

The DRC spans two time zones, which are GMT+1 in the western part of the country, including Kinshasa, and GMT+2 in the eastern part, including Lubumbashi.  Business hours for most businesses and government offices are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with a two-hour break for lunch.  Many private sector offices are open on Saturday mornings, and government employees are often at work but do not usually receive visitors.  Banks are closed for business on Saturdays.

DRC public holidays are January 1: New Year’s Day, January 4: Martyrs’ Day, January 16 and 17: National Heroes’ Day, May 1: Labor Day, May 17: Liberation Day, June 30: Independence Day, August 1: Parents’ Day and December 25: Christmas Day.  Note that DRC holidays are often subject to confirmation by the government one day in advance, and that international organizations and diplomatic missions have varying vacation schedules.

Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings

The entry of materials and personal effects is primarily at the discretion of the DGDA, although the OCC and DGM