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Charting a Roadmap for Private Sector Development in the Congo Republic

Available in: Français

BRAZZAVILLE, April 13, 2009—Setbacks to private sector development in the Congo Republic were the subject of a workshop that brought together government officials, entrepreneurs, and representatives of the donor community and support structures in Brazzaville on March 16 and 17.

A roadmap was adopted at the end of these discussions, which focused on “Identifying priority constraints to private sector development in the Republic of Congo.” The roadmap identifies five major constraints to private sector development, outlines possible solutions to these constraints, and identifies key players that can work toward remedying existing problems.

These constraints entail access to financing, training, and information by entrepreneurs and society at large; infrastructure (energy, transport, water, etc.); judicial and legal uncertainty; corruption, as manifested by parafiscal taxes; and all kinds of administrative red tape.

The workshop was organized by the European Commission, Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and the World Bank. It is a response to a request made by the Government which, in a bid to diversify its economy, is seeking advice from its multilateral partners on how to give renewed impetus to the private sector.

A variety of studies conducted by both the Government and partners reveal that the entrepreneurial fabric of the country is severely eroded. Indeed while sectors such as petroleum, brewing, sugar, timber, cement, telecommunications, cigarette, and flour are fully operational, untapped opportunities in agribusiness, services, and wood processing have yet to be explored.

Several reasons account for the underdevelopment of these sectors—armed conflicts, inadequate and crumbling infrastructure, an ineffective institutional framework, and insufficient capacity.

During the workshop, the Government and its partners expressed the wish to hear the views of private entrepreneurs themselves. Time and time again, representatives of the World Bank, the European Commission, and AFD urged them to have their voices heard. “We are here to listen to you, so please speak up.”

Compared to other countries, the business climate in the Congo Republic is far from stellar. The country was ranked 178 out of 181 nations surveyed in the World Bank’s 2009 Doing Business report.

The Government assured participants of its willingness and resolve to implement the recommendations of the workshop. “We are open to all initiatives,” stated Ms. Adelaïde Moundellé-Ngollo, minister for small and medium enterprises, who also conducts government policy on the crafts industry.

The 60 participants in the workshop submitted to decision-makers a range of solutions aimed at easing the bottlenecks identified in the roadmap, and pointed to the State, local authorities, professional associations, and civil society as potential actors in reducing these problems.

The entrepreneurs’ message was concise and clear-cut – if the State curbs these problems, private sector recovery in Congo will begin.

With a view to starting this rebuilding process of the private sector framework in Congo, each party offered a suggestion. The Administration unveiled the new tool to support entrepreneurship in the private sector; AFD presented ARIZ (Assurance pour le Risque des Investissements dans la zone AFD), a mechanism to assist banks in providing financing solutions for small and medium enterprises; the World Bank and IFC put forward their financial policy for Central Africa; the European Union presented its instruments for facilitation and support of trade and the private sector; and AfDB outlined its project for the reinsertion of underprivileged groups.

Together, the partners expressed their willingness to assist Congo with its efforts to diversify its economy, particularly with private sector development.

The action plan outlined in the roadmap covers a five-year period and will be strengthened by additional recommendations that will be issued at the end of a similar workshop scheduled to take place next June Pointe-Noire, the country’s economic capital.

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