Visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo a few weeks ago it is clear that although the will is definitely there among the stakeholders involved in the slowly evolving agriculture sector, the timing needs to be managed to avoid the cart going before the horse. To make a clear statement that puts the country on the map for potential investors in the sector, the proper implementation of policies and plans on the ground must happen first. Only then will the true potential of the fertile land be unlocked for business and transformation can happen.
2014 was Africa’s Year of Agriculture and Food Security. Across the Continent leaders renewed their commitment to transforming the agriculture sector into a force for job creation, improved incomes, and access to nutritious food. This commitment is also present in the DRC, although trying to find up-to-date data confirming the translation of this commitment into real-world progress accredited to the agriculture sector (as per the reports by worlds largest institution) is challenging to say the least. DR Congo’s neighbours claim that further growth of their own agri-sectors is based not just on meeting local demand, but also on the proximity of the DRC market. It seems that Zambia, Rwanda, and Uganda are all planning to feed one of the largest countries on the continent. But surely the DRC should be the agricultural heart of Africa? And as the heart, it should pump its agricultural products around the country and across its borders, ensuring firstly that it is self-sufficient and able to feed its own nation.
Agriculture is an exceptionally important element of DRC’s economy – arguably equal to that of mining. The potential of the country’s agribusiness sector is enormous, given the vast extent of as-yet-unproductive arable land. But challenges remain, challenges that are similar to those across many countries in Africa; commercialization of production by smallholders, access to private-sector investment by farmers, SMEs and international companies, and the ever-present infrastructure gap manifesting as developed logistic corridors and power availability.
A recent visit to the country by the Managing Director of the World Bank Group, Dr. Sri Mulyani Indrawati in May, addressed some of these challenges and shone a light on the future outlook of the country. The visit focused on encouraging the government to implement further reforms to improve the overall economy of the country through addressing these key challenges. During the visit Dr Indrawati met with President Joseph Kabila Kabange, Prime Minister Matata Ponyo and key members of the Congolese Government to discuss long-term development prospects for the region, and to review progress made as part of the Great Lakes Regional Initiative.
Dr. Indrawati emphasized that the World Bank and the IFC, are ready to provide expertise to develop important sectors including the DRC’s agro-industrial parks. Prime Minister Matata Ponyo explained the government’s proposal to expand the number of sites in the country from 22 to 26.
In her opinion such investments will help reduce the threshold costs that otherwise might deter the engagement of private sector investors. Dr. Indrawati also recommended that the DRC devote more resources to the development of human capital, especially in the health and education sectors.
“The agro-industrial park project represents an even greater potential because it addresses another sector, agriculture, upon which the vast majority of the population depends.” said Dr. Indrawati.
The World Bank Group’s existing portfolio in the country includes 25 current projects amounting to US$3.5 billion, including two regional projects totaling US$1.14 billion. The projects supported range from improvements to infrastructure, public finance management, public enterprise reform, improvements to health and education infrastructure, national parks and forest management, agriculture and more.Texte AFRICA Point Group Article publié dans Mining and Business n°1 – Juillet/Août 2015