Congo, the Democratic Republic of the - Country Commercial Guide
Democratic Republic of the Congo - Distribution and Sales Channels
Last published date:

Most products enter through the maritime ports of Matadi and Boma in Kongo Central Province, the N’djili International Airport in Kinshasa, the Kasumbalesa customs post on the Zambian border, or various entry points on the Rwandan and Ugandan borders.

After customs clearance, importers transport the products by truck to their warehouse, although limited rail service is available from Matadi and in Katanga Province.  Importers either sell their products directly from the warehouse or take them to wholesales shops.

Wholesalers sell products to retailers, whose shops can range from Western-style buildings to open-air markets.  Major distribution centers include Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Matadi, Mbuji-Mayi, Mbandaka, Kananga, Kikwit, Kisangani, Goma, and Bukavu.  The DRC’s distribution system functions at both modern and traditional levels, and the informal sector tends to grow in proportion to economic recessions.  Many companies, particularly Congolese, Lebanese, Indian, and Pakistani firms, conduct at least part of their business through informal channels.  Smuggling, under-invoicing, and tax evasion are widespread.

Large trading firms that engage in a variety of commercial activities dominate most sectors.  The formal sector caters to the Congolese elite, the expatriate community, and small traders engaged in traditional commercial activities who buy wholesale from larger traders.  There are a growing number of small and medium-sized businesses that work with traditional merchants or serve DRC’s middle and lower classes.  Often dynamic, but small and frequently inexperienced, these firms are generally unable to obtain credit, are often ignored by chambers of commerce, and increasingly look to cooperative credit associations for assistance.  Commercial activities such as operating small shops continue to flourish as unemployed former wage earners turn to agriculture, commerce, and artisanal mining to make ends meet.

Most economic activity centers on the DRC’s major cities.  In the country’s interior, transportation is difficult, expensive, and nearly impossible in the rainy season.  Since the economic crisis of 2016, the situation has worsened, and the resulting increase in fuel prices, combined with the lack of adequate roads and infrastructure in the country, has made it increasingly difficult to distribute products beyond the major cities and ports.

Using an Agent or Distributor

Using a local agent is the fastest way to deploy a sales force in the DRC.  Local agents bring experience, a portfolio of customers, and knowledge of the local market.  The Economic and Commercial Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa can provide assistance in identifying local agents and distributors.

Establishing an Office

Establishing an office in the DRC is a complex and time-consuming undertaking.  Residency permit requirements, domestic labor regulations, and tax regulations change with little advance notice or without official notification or announcement.  Hiring an attorney with local and commercial legal experience is critical.  Joining a local business or commercial association may ease the burden of remaining in compliance with national and local regulations and provide valuable connections. 

The Guichet Unique is a single point (“one-stop shop”) for business creation.  The Guichet Unique performs essential formalities for business creation with the aim of approving business applications within three business days from receipt.   ANAPI assists investors who are interested in doing business in the DRC.  To benefit from incentives under the DRC’s Investment Code (which include customs duty and tax exemptions), investors need to submit a business plan and a $1,000 fee to ANAPI to assess eligibility.  Businesses investing less than $200,000 pay a $500 fee for the assessment.  According to current regulations, ANAPI has 30 days to decide on an investment project.

Corporations pay the Guichet Unique fee of $120 to certify the company’s charter, register at the Trade and Personal Property Credit Register, publish the company’s charter in the Official Journal, and obtain authorization and a business license.  Sole proprietorships pay $30 to receive a National Identification Number, business registration, and authorization to open a business.  There is no minimum capital requirement for corporations.  Limited liability companies must provide capital of at least $20,000.  For the latest Investment Climate Statement (ICS) which includes information on investment and business environments in foreign economies pertinent to establishing and operating an office and to hiring employees, visit the U.S. Department of Department of State’s Investment Climate Statements website.


DRC business representatives are very interested in franchising well-known U.S. brands.  There have been limited franchises with South African and other companies, but consumer purchasing power is low and companies are concerned about speed of supply chains and maintaining quality.  This opportunity is a possible growth area.

Direct Marketing

Marketing is primarily done through word of mouth, radio, cell phone ads, print newspapers, and outdoor campaigns.  The internet, social media, and cell phones are becoming important marketing mediums.  All media advertising is subject to approval by the Superior Council of Audiovisual and Communication –Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel et de la Communication (CSAC).  The DRC’s postal system is not sufficiently developed to support large-scale direct marketing. 

Joint Ventures/Licensing

There are opportunities for foreign firms to establish joint ventures (JVs) with foreign and domestic firms operating in the DRC.  Congolese private companies and parastatals seek foreign partners when undertaking resource-intensive and innovative projects, such as infrastructure, IT, power generation, mining, and other extractive activities.  While joint ventures present real opportunities for companies seeking to work in the DRC, companies should conduct due diligence before entering into agreements with foreign or local partners in the DRC.  Licenses are required in certain sectors such as telecommunications, mining, banking, and insurance.

Express Delivery

The Société Congolaise des Postes et Télécommunications (SCPT) is the public postal and telecommunications service of the DRC.  It has mail service, express mail, small packets and parcel post, national and international money transfers, postal checking account, optical fiber, internet, and telephone services.  One of SCPT’s recent strategic partnerships is with Flash, which will provide postal accounts and access to a multitude of services, including international financial messaging with Western Union and MoneyGram, domestic and cross-border messaging with Flash Cash, mobile money deposits and withdrawals, transfers to all bank accounts, tax payments, top-ups for all telephone operators, as well as TV subscription renewals and many other payment services.  FedEx and DHL operate in the country through franchisees.  International courier services (e.g., DHL, FedEx, and UPS) are available in major cities. 

Due Diligence

U.S. companies should perform appropriate due diligence on their potential local partners, distributors, or agents prior to any proposed business deals.  The Economic and Commercial Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa offers customized and non-personalized services to U.S. companies in their search for potential buyers, distributors, and business partners in the DRC.  With the International Company Profile (ICP), the section assists in verifying the credibility of potential buyers and partners based on accurate information.