Ambroise Tshiyoyo, President of the Franco-Congolese Chamber of Commerce
At a time when France is affirming its willingness to reinvest vigorously in the DRC, M&B wanted to know more and proposed to Ambroise Tshiyoyo, President of the Franco-Congolese Chamber of Commerce, to share his first assessment in 2018 and present us with the 2019 outlook. Interview.

Mining and Business Magazine: Mr Speaker, what does first report in 2018 on the activities of the CCIFC inform us?  

Ambroise Tshiyoyo: I would like to remind you first of all that our mission as the Franco-Congolese Chamber of Commerce is to create dynamic exchanges between the two countries also, that these dynamics must benefit both French investors in the DRC and Congolese investors.

In practice, this mission consists in providing economic information to investors, present or willing to set up, to provide training, legal monitoring, to support and assist French economic actors in the DRC and Congolese in France, and to encourage the creation of Franco-Congolese joint ventures.

In all these areas, the 2018 vintage was particularly positive. We also noted a definite increase in membership and active participation in our thematic luncheons, not to mention the success of the new formula for French Week.

M&B: I understand that the nursery is also doing well...

AT: Absolutely. We have set up an incubator for French companies wishing to invest in the DRC. We gave them a postal address and offered them various services which allow them to familiarise themselves with the Congolese ecosystem and to refine their project if necessary. In turn, this also allows us to verify the technical expertise and financial soundness of the company...

M&B: Let's look back at French Week 2018...

AT: The actors had expressed their wishes to see the event become more technical, more B2B, and a little less public. We had to respond to this request. I believe that this renewed formula has satisfied them, without excluding the general public. We are already preparing the 2019 edition, which will be placed under the theme "Subcontracting and transformation".

M&B: Subject at the heart of French interests...

AT: Yes, and Congolese interests! It is often important to remember this.  

France has real expertise in construction, the extractive industry and telecommunications in particular. The DRC is a land of opportunities for these major groups. As a leading country regarding research and development, with highly advanced technology, it is a partner of choice to promote the transfer of skills in the DRC and thus enable it to develop. However, I do not forget the agri-food industry, of which France is, once again, one of the world champions. Between the arable land available at low prices, a young and cheap labour force, an ideal climate, a pool of nearly 100 million consumers, not to mention the sub-regional economic area, I find it difficult to understand why the major French groups are not present!  

M&B: Are they too cautious?

AT: Maybe... However, it's primarily due to all these clichés about the DRC. Too few people in France know that the vast majority of the territory is peaceful and that the risk of the DRC is ultimately no higher than in some Eastern European countries...

M&B: How to fix it?

AT: This is part of our 2019 projects. In partnership with ANAPI, we are going to Paris to present business opportunities in the DRC to French investors. It is necessary to multiply business meetings in France to convince, and this requires bringing a new perspective on the country.

M&B: Maybe there is also a lack of political will?

AT: French side, certainly! (Laughs) Even if things are changing. The movement of economic actors is difficult, France is not playing the partnership game in the long term and, I fear, has not yet fully understood the immensity of the Congolese potential. It is true that the DRC is willing to turn to China, India, and other countries. However, it doesn't have to be by choice. Especially since linguistic and cultural barriers, which, it should be remembered, remain a considerable obstacle to business, are much more important.  

Our economies are interdependent and are no longer dependent; moreover, everyone must understand this by taking strong action.

M&B: For example?

AT: I remain sincerely convinced that France must increase its offer concerning training young Congolese executives, especially if it wants to maintain its economic aura here, as the Asian giants are doing. We must not forget that these young people, who are currently studying in Beijing or Bombay, will be the decision-makers of tomorrow. It must also be entirely in line with a balanced business partnership approach.

M&B: Should there be closer links between African Chambers to strengthen relations on a continental scale?

AT: Yes, absolutely! Moreover, it is also one of our 2019 objectives. We have already spoken with our colleagues from Morocco and Côte d'Ivoire and intend to go much further.

M&B: Your South African counterpart, Yves Guenon, also gave us an interview in this issue. He seems to be on the same wavelength and plans to lead a delegation of French investors to the DRC Mining Week 2019.

AT: That's perfect! The headquarters of several French international groups are located in South Africa, so it is an excellent thing. I even think it would be good if we could have a joint pavilion at the event. Our interests are crossed. I also hope that they will come to the French Week...

M&B: Sometimes we get the impression that France seems to want to beat Belgium on Congolese soil. What do you think of that?  

AT: France has been constructively involved in stabilising the situation in the DRC in recent years, without a

 priori. Maybe that's what gives that impression. And if I may, without any value judgment, mention the attitude of certain authorities of the former metropolis for the same period, I have the impression that they have riskily interfered in the internal affairs of the Congo... And that does not please! We have enough internal actors to handle it!

M&B: Of which act! Also, that goes for all the others, I suppose?

AT: You understood me!  

M&B: Anything else?

AT: Yes, two things. First of all, I would like to remind French investors that while country risk is higher than in most developed countries, the return on investment is also commensurate. In real estate, for example, there is depreciation at 8 or 10 years, Which is still exceptional.

I would then like to remind you that there is still time for our two countries to establish a genuine win-win partnership on a large scale, but that time is running out. In any case, I am delighted that relations with France are improving and I am sure that this will be beneficial to both our countries.

M&B: Mr President of the CCIFC, thank you.

AT: Thank you very much.

M&B: Maybe there is also a lack ofpolitical will?

AT: French side, certainly! (Laughs) Even ifthings are changing. The movement of economic actors is difficult, France isnot playing the partnership game in the long term and, I fear, has not yetfully understood the immensity of the Congolese potential. It is true that theDRC is willing to turn to China, India, and other countries. However, itdoesn't have to be by choice. Especially since linguistic and culturalbarriers, which, it should be remembered, remain a considerable obstacle tobusiness, are much more important. 

Our economies are interdependent and are nolonger dependent; moreover, everyone must understand this by taking strongaction.

 

M&B: For example?

AT: I remain sincerely convinced that Francemust increase its offer concerning training young Congolese executives,especially if it wants to maintain its economic aura here, as the Asian giantsare doing. We must not forget that these young people, who are currentlystudying in Beijing or Bombay, will be the decision-makers of tomorrow. It mustalso be entirely in line with a balanced business partnership approach.

 

M&B: Should there be closer links betweenAfrican Chambers to strengthen relations on a continental scale?

AT: Yes, absolutely! Moreover, it is also one ofour 2019 objectives. We have already spoken with our colleagues from Moroccoand Côte d'Ivoire and intend to go much further.

 

M&B: Your South African counterpart, YvesGuenon, also gave us an interview in this issue. He seems to be on the samewavelength and plans to lead a delegation of French investors to the DRC MiningWeek 2019.

AT: That's perfect! The headquarters of severalFrench international groups are located in South Africa, so it is an excellentthing. I even think it would be good if we could have a joint pavilion at theevent. Our interests are crossed. I also hope that they will come to the FrenchWeek...

 

M&B: Sometimes we get the impression thatFrance seems to want to beat Belgium on Congolese soil. What do you think ofthat? 

AT: France has been constructively involved instabilising the situation in the DRC in recent years, without a

 priori. Maybe that's what gives thatimpression. And if I may, without any value judgment, mention the attitude ofcertain authorities of the former metropolis for the same period, I have theimpression that they have riskily interfered in the internal affairs of theCongo... And that does not please! We have enough internal actors to handle it!

 

M&B: Of which act! Also, that goes forall the others, I suppose?

AT: You understood me! 

 

M&B: Anything else?

AT: Yes, two things. First of all, I would liketo remind French investors that while country risk is higher than in mostdeveloped countries, the return on investment is also commensurate. In realestate, for example, there is depreciation at 8 or 10 years, Which is stillexceptional.

I would then like to remind you that there isstill time for our two countries to establish a genuine win-win partnership ona large scale, but that time is running out. In any case, I am delighted thatrelations with France are improving and I am sure that this will be beneficialto both our countries.

 

M&B: Mr President of the CCIFC, thankyou.

AT: Thank you very much.

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