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: 2021-10-11

Business Customs

Protocol: Congolese are generally open and accommodating in both personal and business dealings.  However, protocol remains important in business meetings and transactions, particularly with government officials.  Common sense, courtesy, and European traditions of social etiquette apply.  Do not use first names until invited to do so. “Monsieur,” “Madame,” and “Mademoiselle” are the usual forms of address.  Senior government officials should be addressed with the appropriate formal title (such as Excellency or Mr. Minister).  French is the language of business in the DRC; almost all meetings will be conducted in French, though it is acceptable to bring an interpreter.  Requests for meetings, particularly with government officials, should be sent by formal written request.

Time: It is the rare business trip to DRC that sticks to its schedule.  Most require more time, patience, and meetings than in the United States.  In scheduling appointments, allow extra time and resources to establish a date and time.  Be prepared for delays or cancellations on short notice, particularly meetings with government officials, with the length of delay increasing proportionally to the official’s position.  The private sector tends to be slightly more punctual.  Lunches generally run two hours, dinners begin at eight or nine, and nightclubs operate from midnight to dawn.  Reconfirm appointments one day in advance.

Attire: Business attire or tenue de ville is appropriate for business meetings with private sector or government officials, and is also recommended for most dinner engagements, unless more casual dress décontractée is explicitly indicated.  Bring casual wear for club or outdoor functions and an umbrella during the rainy season, which is usually October through April.  Given the heat and humidity, natural fibers provide the most comfort.  Laundry and dry cleaning are available at major hotels and several small outlets.

Travel Advisory

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

Visa requirements

A valid passport, visa, and vaccination certificate showing a current yellow fever immunization are required for entry into the DRC.  U.S. citizens should not travel to the DRC without a valid visa and should apply for one well in advance of any trip to allow for unanticipated delays.  Visas are available at the airport for a seven-day period.

Travelers should not count on Congolese visas being available in neighboring countries.  Visitors planning extended stays must apply for a “Visa d’Établissement” after arrival in DRC.  These have been difficult to obtain for business purposes if an original entry was made on a tourist visa, but many Congolese embassies will not issue business-entry visas.  Current information on Congolese visa requirements is available from the DRC’s Washington D.C. and New York missions.  See below for contact information for the Washington mission.

Congolese officials closely scrutinize travel documents at border crossings and while traveling within the country.  All airline passengers have their passports and travel documents examined and stamped, even for domestic flights.  Do not attempt to bully or bluster your way past officials.  Make photocopies of all travel documents; after arrival, make your business rounds with the copies and leave the originals in a secure place.  Other papers: Many areas in DRC’s interior (notably in Orientale, Kasai, Katanga, North Kivu, and South Kivu provinces) are officially demarcated as mining regions, travel to which requires government permission, regardless of the visitor’s purpose.  The Interior Ministry issues the permit, also known as a “sauf-conduit” and obtaining one may be a lengthy process.

Photography of public buildings, airports, harbors, military installations, hospitals, and border areas is forbidden, and photography is often frowned upon in other places, particularly in Kinshasa.  Offenders risk confiscation of equipment, arrest, and fines.  Penalties for possession, use, and trafficking in illegal drugs are strictly enforced.

U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspeople to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process.  Visa applicants should go to the following links:  State Department Visa Website

Embassy of the DRC in Washington, DC

1100 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 725,

Washington, DC 20036

Phone: (202) 234-2609, 7691; Fax: (202) 223-3377

https://www.ambardcusa.org/ https://ambardcusa.org/contact-us/

 

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 national currency in DRC is the Congolese Franc (CDF).  The country is highly dollarized, and U.S. dollars are accepted alongside the CDF for money transactions.  

The BCC is responsible for regulating foreign exchange and trade.  The DRC’s informal foreign exchange market is large and unregulated and offers exchange rates not widely dissimilar from the official rate.  The DRC’s economy remains highly dollarized.  In 2014, the BCC enforced new foreign exchange regulations, which, inter alia, declared the Congolese Franc as the main currency in all exchange transactions within the DRC.   Payment of fees related to education, medical care, water and electricity consumption, residential rents, and federal taxes were mandated to be paid in CDF.  This requirement was relaxed, and with agreement of the parties involved and the appropriate monetary officials, exceptions may be applied.  Payments exceeding $10,000 must be executed within the banking system unless there are no banking entities present. 

The largest banknote in circulation is the 20,000 CDF note (approximately $ 10). Far more common are the 500 and 1000 CDF notes worth approximately $0.25 and $0.50 respectively.  U.S. banknotes printed after 2008 of denominations of $5 or greater are readily accepted in virtually all transactions.  Banks provide accounts denominated in either currency.  In September 2013, the GDRC embarked on a process of “de-dollarizing” the economy by requiring that tax records be kept in CDF and tax payments from mining companies be paid in local currency.  In March 2016, however, the government required mining and oil companies to begin paying their customs fees and taxes in U.S. dollars.

  • Official Exchange rate (Central Bank of Congo): CDF 1988:  USD 1 (from December 2020)
  • Unofficial Exchange rate: CDF 2050: USD 1(December 2020)

Denominations - Bills, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000, 10000, 20000 CDF. For more information please visit: Banque Centrale Congolaise: www.bcc.cd

Telecommunications/Electronics

The DRC’s communications network epitomizes the country’s unpredictable blend of 21st century technology and glaring insufficiencies. Advanced telecommunications and modern courier services are often available, but the landline telephone system and state postal services are unreliable or non-existent.  The DRC also has several cellular phone providers and numerous private radio-telephone networks.  However, the cellular networks are not fully linked and suffer from overload and occasional service interruption.  Many people subscribe to at least two or more different service providers; satellite phones are popular for remote areas in the interior of the country.  The DRC’s major cellular phone providers are Airtel, Vodacom, Orange and Africell. International links are easier and more efficient than domestic networks.  Many large firms have their own radio-telephone systems, including satellite uplinks.  The DRC also has a growing number of private internet service providers (ISPs).

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

Transportation

The DRC’s road, railway, maritime, and airport infrastructure system is dilapidated and requires substantial public and private investment for rehabilitation.

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

Domestic Travel: Once in-country, most travelers prefer to hire a vehicle and driver for intra-urban ground transport.  Road conditions do not usually permit travel between major cities, but several airlines offer domestic air service.  The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the DRC’s Civil Aviation Authority as not following ICAO aviation safety standards for oversight of the DRC’s air carrier operations. 

Despite a reputation of being a dangerous and unpredictable aviation market, civil aviation in the DRC is experiencing a revival.  State-owned Congo Airways received the internationally recognized Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) in mid-2016.  After a period of consolidation there are now 14 airlines in the DRC.  Recently, the GDRC has taken a number of actions intended to boost Congo Airways.  Many of those measures have been arguably anti-competitive and have put other local airlines at a significant competitive disadvantage.

Public ground transportation is generally crowded, unreliable, unsafe, or in many cases non-existent.  Many taxis are unlicensed and thus not easily identifiable.  Rates vary and the fare should be established before entering the vehicle.  Because taxis carry several passengers, travelers wishing to be the vehicle’s sole occupant should establish this fact at the outset.  The DRC’s rail network is composed of several, non-contiguous components that have fallen into disrepair.  The DRC has three legacy portage rail lines connecting port cities between non-navigable stretches of the Congo and Ubangi rivers.  The south and east of the country has three narrow gauge rail lines connecting major cities, including Ilebo, Kindu, Likasi, and Kolwezi with Lubumbashi.  The SNCC’s eastern operation features an operating link with the Zambian rail network and a dormant connection to the Angolan rail network.  Passenger rail service is sporadic, and schedules are unpredictable.  The SCTP recently completed rehabilitation of the Kinshasa – Matadi portage railway line; a weekly train now runs between the two cities.

Language

French is the business language.  Four regional languages have official status: Kikongo (Kongo Central and Bandundu), Swahili (Katanga, Kivu, and Orientale), Lingala (Kinshasa, Equateur and within the Congo River Valley), and Tshiluba (Kasai).  Knowledge of English is limited, though a few Congolese businesspersons speak English well. Congolese who are fluent in English have a significant advantage for job 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.  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.  Guidebooks for Africa have good information and there are several health manuals for international travelers.  Specific information is available from the international traveler’s hotline, Center for Disease Control (Tel: +1-404-332-4559).  Medical facilities are limited, and medicine is not always available.  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.

For more health information regarding the DRC, please consult the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website:  http://www.cdc.gov

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 firms and government offices are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with a two-hour break taken at some point between noon and 3 p.m.   It is not unusual for offices to close early in the afternoon.  Many offices in the private sector are open on Saturday mornings, and government officials are often at work but usually do not take visitors.  Banks are closed to commercial transactions on Saturdays.

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

Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings

Entry of materials and personal belongings is mainly under the discretion of the DGDA, although the OCC and the DGM sometimes get involved.