Identifies common practices used in selling in this market, including sales material that needs to be in the local language.
The DRC is a French-speaking country with four others officially recognized languages, Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, and Tshiluba, as well as nearly 200 regional and local languages spoken throughout the country. French is the language of government, administration, and business, and is spoken by approximately 40 percent of the DRC’s population. Lingala is spoken as a mother tongue in the north and west of the country, particularly in Kinshasa, and is a lingua franca for a significant portion of the population. Swahili is spoken in the east of the country, particularly in Lubumbashi, Kisangani, Goma and Bukavu. Kikongo is spoken in Central Kongo around the port city of Matadi, while Tshiluba is spoken in the Kasai provinces in south-central Congo.
Product names and slogans may be in English, but detailed information and advertising materials are usually in French, Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, or Tshiluba, depending on the region. The average Congolese consumer generally has low purchasing power: price is often far more important than quality. Companies prefer to advertise their products independently of wholesale distributors. Distinctive packaging helps to identify products and distinguish them from Asian and West African imitations. Placing the U.S. flag and highlighting “made in USA” on products is advantageous because U.S. products are well regarded in the DRC.
Companies wishing to work in the DRC are encouraged to develop promotional materials in French, Lingala, Kikongo, Tshiluba, or Swahili, depending on the region in which they operate. Companies are also encouraged to hire translators for business negotiations.
Trade Promotion and Advertising
Only a few firms in the DRC use mass advertising, as it is comparatively expensive for local businesses. For example, in Le Potentiel, a major Congolese daily with a circulation of 4,000, a quarter-page advertisement costs $250 and half-page is $500 for a one-page print advertisement – more than most Congolese make in a month. Billboards and street banners are a popular medium in the major cities, as are novelty items such as pens, t-shirts, caps, and pocket calendars.
Radio and television are the most effective means of communication; all broadcasters accept paid advertising. The radio division of the state-owned Radio Télévision Nationale Congolaise (RTNC) has regional stations that offer a mix of recorded local and national programs. The national midday news and some special events are broadcast live on most stations in the network. Programs are broadcast in French and the major local languages. Private FM radio stations emerged in the 1990s; private companies and, in some cases, religious organizations are the main operators.
RTNC currently broadcasts television programs in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and several other cities. Kinshasa also has more than 40 private television stations, some of which have branches in the interior cities. In Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, private companies rebroadcast international programs to subscribers with decoders. Like state radio, government television broadcast syndicated local and international programs, although broadcasts were frequently interrupted due to equipment failures. As of June 2015, GDRC announced plans to switch from analog to digital broadcast frequencies to give viewers access to more channels and reduce subscription costs.
Kinshasa has daily newspapers (published five days a week) and many weekly newspapers. Some regional capitals also have newspapers, but these are generally published sporadically. Because newspapers are relatively expensive and copies are shared among several readers, the total number of readers is higher than circulation figures indicate. Radio remains a more accessible medium. According to one survey, 97 percent of Kinshasa residents watch television, while only 2 percent read a newspaper. Outside Kinshasa, reliable surveys are often impossible to obtain. However, Les Experts does collect reliable data for Kinshasa. The only newspapers in Kinshasa with significant advertising sections are Le Palmares, La Référence Plus, Le Phare, L’Avenir, Le Potentiel, and L’Observateur. The DRC’s business press is limited. Business et Finances, Numerica, and La Bourse are weekly newspapers devoted primarily to economic affairs, but they contain little advertising. Some businesses, NGOs, and chambers of commerce publish newsletters and are receptive to outside advertising.
The Agence Congolaise de Presse (ACP) is a news agency of the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It covers national and international news in text and photos.
Transportation costs and government regulations affect prices in the DRC. The lack of passable roads, limited barge and rail traffic, and the high cost of air travel significantly increase retail costs. Prices at any given location are largely dependent on transportation links. Price controls, while not always enforced, have a significant impact. Since almost all manufactured goods and many food items sold in the DRC are imported, price controls limit availability and encourage black market activity.
Price setting is theoretically under the control of the Ministry of the Economy and the Inter-Ministerial Price Advisory Commission. The Commission is responsible for setting the prices of electricity, water, transport, and fuel. The regulations set a scale of authorized profit margins, expressed as a percentage of the selling price, and varying according to the product. The selling price of an imported product is calculated by adding to the purchase price (often the manufacturer’s “list price”) in the country of origin the following items: (1) transportation; (2) import duties and fees; (3) breakage, insurance, taxes, and bank charges; and (4) storage (including cold storage if necessary). The wholesaler’s profit may be 10 to 20 percent of the selling price, while the retailer’s profit ranges from 15 to 25 percent. The Internal Market Police, which is part of the Ministry of Economy, checks that sellers comply with price regulations. The DRC introduced a 16 percent value-added tax (VAT) on January 1, 2012. Transportation costs and multiple, often duplicate, taxes add a substantial amount to the price of imported goods.
In determining the price, the following must be considered: taxes and fees paid to the government and regional entities, high and variable transportation costs, the limited purchasing power of the population, trends in the USD/CDF exchange rate, finished consumer goods, and products that tend to be imported. With the exception of water, electricity, and fuel prices, which are set by the GDRC, firms can set their prices on products sold if they do not exceed the profit ceiling set by the price regulators.
Sales Service/Customer Support
Local sales agents and distributors are usually the only entities offering after-sales service. Local independent companies offering after-sales service and/or spare parts are usually unreliable or unavailable. Developing a strong customer base depends on the quality of the product but also on after-sales service. Congolese consumers are becoming increasingly demanding about the quality of service and support they receive; a U.S. company that intends to sell consumer goods in the DRC should consider developing or contracting with local after-sales businesses in the DRC.
Local Professional Services
U.S. Embassy Kinshasa maintains a list of physicians and attorneys working in Kinshasa. In addition, all four of the major international accounting firms have local offices in Kinshasa.
Principal Business Associations
The Congolese national business association “La Fédération des Entreprises du Congo” (FEC) is the largest and best known of the Congolese business associations. Major industries such as mining have their own business associations. An American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) has been established and is in the process of being accredited.
Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services
There is no restriction on selling U.S. products and services as long the products comply with Congolese law.