Democratic Republic of the Congo - Country Commercial Guide
Selling Factors and Techniques

Identifies common practices used in selling in this market, including sales material that needs to be in the local language.

Last published date: 2021-10-11

Product names and slogans can be in English, but detailed information and publicity materials are usually in French, Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, or Tshiluba depending on the region.  Products aimed at the average Congolese consumer typically account for low purchasing power: price is often far more important than quality.  Businesses prefer to advertise products independently of wholesale distributors.  Distinctive packaging helps to better identify products and distinguish them from Asian and West African imitations.  Placement of the American flag and highlighting “made in USA” on products is advantageous as U.S. products are well-regarded in the DRC.

The DRC is a French-speaking country with four additional officially recognized languages, Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo, and Tshiluba, as well as nearly 200 regional and local languages spoken across the country.  French is the language of government, administration, and business, and is spoken by approximately 40 percent of the DRC population.  Lingala is spoken as a native language in the north and west of the country, particularly in Kinshasa, and is a lingua franca for a substantial portion of the population.  Swahili is spoken across the east of the country, particularly in Lubumbashi, Kisangani, Goma, and Bukavu.  Kikongo is spoken in Kongo Central around the port city of Matadi, while Tshiluba is spoken in the Kasaï provinces of south-central Congo.

Firms seeking to work in the DRC are encouraged to develop promotional materials in French, Lingala, Kikongo, Tshiluba, or Swahili depending on where 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 communication outlets; 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 local and taped national programming.  The national midday news and some special events are carried live on most stations on the network.  Broadcasts are in French and major local languages.  Privately operated FM radio stations emerged in the 1990s; private businesses and in some cases religious organizations are the primary operators. 

RTNC currently broadcasts television programming in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and several other cities.  Kinshasa also has more than forty private television stations, some of which have branch operations in interior cities.  In Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, private firms re-broadcast international programming to subscribers with decoders.  Like state radio, government television broadcasts both local and internationally syndicated programming, though broadcasts are frequently interrupted due to equipment failures.  Beginning in June 2015, the GDRC announced plans to transition from analog to digital broadcasting frequencies with the intent of giving viewers access to more channels and reduce subscription costs.

Kinshasa has daily newspapers (published five days a week) and numerous weekly papers. Some regional capitals also have newspapers, but these are usually published sporadically. Because newspapers are relatively expensive and copies are shared among multiple readers, total readership 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.  Reliable survey research outside Kinshasa is often not available.  However, Les Experts collects reliable data for Kinshasa.  The only Kinshasa papers with any significant advertising sections are Le Palmares, La Référence Plus, Le Phare, L’Avenir, Le Potentiel, and L’Observateur.  DRC’s business press is limited.  Numerica and La Bourse are weekly newspapers devoted primarily to economic affairs but carry little advertising.  Some companies, NGOs, and chambers of commerce publish informative newsletters and are receptive to external advertising.

  • Newspaper websites : The Agence Congolaise de Presse (ACP) is a news agency of the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (https://acpcongo.com/), Le Potentiel), Le Phare , Forum Des As,  La Reference Plus, La Prospérité
  • Television and radio station websites: https://www.digitalcongo.net/, www.zoom-eco.net, www.congowebtv.cd, www.radiookapi.net, www.topcongo.fm, www.actualite.cd.
  • Online news sites: www.mediacongo.net, www.syfia-grands-lacs.info, www.politico.cd

Pricing

Transportation costs and government regulations affect prices in the DRC.  The lack of usable roads, limited barge and rail traffic, and the high cost of air transport add considerably to retail costs.  Prices at a particular location depend largely upon transportation links.  Price controls, although inconsistently enforced, have a significant impact.  As nearly all manufactured goods and many food items sold in the DRC are imported, price controls limit availability and encourage black market activities.

Pricing falls nominally under the control of the Ministry of Economy and an inter-ministerial consultative price commission.  The inter-ministerial consultative price commission is responsible for setting prices for electricity, water, transportation, and fuel.  The regulations set a schedule of permissible profit margins expressed as a percentage of the selling price, varying according to the product.  The selling price of an imported product is calculated by adding the following to the purchase price (often the manufacturer’s “list price”) in the country of origin: (1) transportation; (2) import duties and fees; (3) breakage, insurance, taxes, and bank fees; and (4) storage (including cold storage when needed).  Wholesaler profit may be 10 to 20 percent of the selling price, while retailer profits range from 15 to 25 percent.  The Interior Market Police under the Ministry of Economy verifies that sellers are complying with price regulations.  The DRC introduced a 16 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on January 1, 2012.  The cost of transportation and multiple, often duplicative taxes add a substantial amount to the price of imported goods.

When determining pricing the following points should be considered:

  • Taxes and fees paid to government and regional entities
  • High and variable transportation costs
  • Limited purchasing power of the population
  • Trends in the USD-CDF exchange rate
  • Finished consumer goods and products tend to be imported 

Other than water, power and fuel, whose prices are set by the GDRC, businesses may set their prices on products sold if these do not exceed the ceiling profit margin set by the price regulators.

Sales Service/Customer Support

Local sales agents and distributors tend to be the only entities offering after sale customer service.  Independent local firms offering after-sales service and/or spare parts are generally unreliable or unavailable.

Developing a strong customer base depends on the quality of the product but also the after-sale service.  Congolese consumers are becoming increasingly demanding about the quality of service and support they receive; a US firm intending to sell consumer goods in the DRC should consider developing or contracting with local after-market sales businesses in the DRC.

Local Professional Services

U.S. Embassy Kinshasa maintains a list of physicians and attorneys working in Kinshasa: https://cd.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/.  In addition, all four of the major international accounting firms have local offices in Kinshasa.

Principal Business Associations

Business associations can often assist in working with government entities.  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. 

Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services

There is no restriction on selling US products and services as long the products comply with Congolese law.