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Mr. Yuma Mulimbi’s View of the
DR Congo’s Private Sector
From Left to Right: Albert Yuma Mulimbi, President of FEC (Congolese Employers’ Federation), Rizanur Meral (President of Tuskon), S.E.M. Abdullah Gül (President of Turkey), and Adolph Muzito (RDC Prime Minister)
Mr. Albert Yuma Mulimbi is President of the Congolese Employers’ Federation (FEC), Director of the Central Bank, Chairman of the Audit Committee and director of the Chamber of Commerce between Belgium and the Congo. While he is very optimistic about his country’s future, he also understands the effort that will have to go into putting the DRC on a sound economic, social and political footing.
Mr. Yuma knows that his country, ravaged by decades of instability, is in need of good investors who will help it along a path of strong economic recovery. To do this, the DRC will have to ensure that a friendly and favorable business climate is in place.
“I am very optimistic about the future of this country, especially due to its diversity,” says the businessman, adding that there are lots of opportunities in mining, electricity provision, water, banking and infrastructure. Companies from China, Russia, India, Turkey, the U.S. and Africa are already actively pursuing these opportunities, he says.
“However, there is plenty to be done, and it is going to take time to put everything in place,” he adds, saying that despite this, he has a good feeling about the next 50 years.
The FEC: Driving the DRC’s Economic and Social Interests
The FEC, which is the connection between the private sector and the government, has 3,000 members, ranging from small firms to big billion-dollar mining companies.
The FEC’s mandate is to provide services as a chamber of commerce, industry and agriculture, and to serve as a professional organization for employers to promote the economic and social interests of enterprises in the economy. The executive committee of the board meets with the government once a month to talk about issues affecting the business community and seeks ways to make business conditions more favorable.
For example, Mr. Mulimbi points out how taxation is carried out in the country. There is currently no system in place, and FEC members have expressed frustrations over this. “Members are not sure how to pay their taxes,” he explains. “There is no proper law in place, leaving them unsure of how to proceed. The members also want corporation tax reduced from 6% to 1%.”
Easing the Way for Aspiring Businesses
In order to work out such problems, Mr. Mulimbi has met with members from the private sector, the IMF and the World Bank. Members of the FEC also hope to be able to cut through the red tape that currently restricts local and foreign investors.
“People should be able to set up and register businesses in seven days instead of the 180 days it takes,” he says.
He adds that the Ministry of Justice should also hasten its pace and process paperwork in three days, while the employment regime must be improved through proper training of employees and strengthening of skills.
“We must invest in human resources by training the new generation if the country is to achieve meaningful development. If all this happens under the able supervision of the president and the new measures that have been put in place, there will be obvious results by the end of this year,” he says with optimism.
Mr. Mulimbi draws inspiration from countries such as India, China and Malaysia that have managed to change the living standards of their people.
“We in the Congo can do the same and should follow the path chosen by the President to improve the lives of the have-nots,” he says.
Jaynet Kabila Kabange
A Woman Dedicated to Her People’s Well-Being
Jaynet Kabila Kabange has always striven to fulfill her father’s dream. Laurent-Désiré Kabila, Jaynet’s father and the former president of the DRC, envisioned a life of peace and plenty for his people—one in which they would be self-reliant, active and hopeful. But his wishes were cut short when he was assassinated by a bodyguard on January 16, 2001.
In the wake of her tragic loss, Jaynet, the then 29-year-old twin sister of the new DRC president, Joseph Kabila, vowed to follow in her father’s footsteps to help ease the pain of her country’s people.
For this elegant intellectual who speaks fluent English, the vision was clear: Form a foundation and carry out her father’s dreams.
The Kabila Foundation
Though the idea for the foundation was born in April 2001, its implementation was not an easy feat to achieve. “Getting support at the beginning was a tall order. Going by our country’s history and the Kabila name, many were reluctant to give us a hand,” she says. However, she was eventually able to start the foundation the same year. It has been all systems go since then.
Today, the Foundation Mzee Laurent-Désiré Kabila is a large organization that seeks to assist those most in need of help. It is comprised of 100 dedicated workers and has drawn an impressive lineup of supporters, including the Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation, Vodacom Congo, UN Aid, China, Zimbabwe, Japan, Libya and former NBA basketball star Dikembe Mutombo.
With this support, the organization has touched the lives of women who have lost their husbands to war or HIV and AIDS, orphaned children, the handicapped and many others. Its mandate includes addressing existing harsh social conditions; acting as a catalyst in sourcing means, equipment and materials; providing advice; and contributing to the development of programs aimed at reducing unfavorable living conditions. All of this has been achieved via revolving micro-credit loans provided by the organization for start-up micro projects.
Jaynet has been very happy with the results of projects she has initiated, especially those that have taken root and succeeded immediately, giving the organization a chance to move on to others. She visits the rural areas several times a year to talk to the local people and learn from them firsthand how to better their lives.
Jaynet admits it has not been easy. Some people have such high hopes that she can achieve all they need, “but I can only do the best I can in the circumstances,” she says.
A Positive Outlook
Jaynet says she is very optimistic about the future of the country. Though the past should not be forgotten, she is insistent that the collective focus should be on the future and what to pass on to the next generation to make the DRC a better place to live.
“Like any other country, there are problems in Congo, but the international media should not be too biased in its reporting,” she says. “There is no going back for the DRC. We are moving forward, and it is we the people of this country who will do it for ourselves. We should not wait for others to do it for us.”
The DRC’s Unique Beauty Welcomes Visitors
Beneath the DRC’s shroud of mystery lies a wealth of attractions waiting to be discovered by adventurous, worldly travelers.
Though the country currently has no framework for the industry, the Minister of Environment Conservation, Nature and Tourism, José E.B. Endundo, says the opportunities for the sector are in fact endless due to the country’s natural diversity. Endowed with natural splendor, the DRC is home to one of the largest rainforests in the world.
Spanning much of Central Africa, covering 700,000 square miles and representing about one-fifth of the world’s remaining closed-canopy tropical forests, this area is host to a wealth of biodiversity, including over 10,000 species of plants, 1,000 species of birds and 400 species of mammals, including three of the world’s four species of great apes.
The DRC is also home to the spectacular Ruwenzori range of mountains, which tops off at 5,119-meter Pic Marguerite, offering some of the most spectacular scenic views on the entire continent. The Ruwenzori Mountains boast seven national parks and ten natural reserves. Some of the animal species, like the okapi, white hippopotamus and bonobo, are exclusively found here.
Among some of the native species in Upemba National Park, which is intersected by the Lualaba River and marked by several lakes, are crocodiles, hippos and many types of birds. At Garamba National Park—an area comprising 990,000 acres of parkland—lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and giraffes are among the most common species sighted. Lions and elephants are also found in the Virungu National Park, which, covering two mountain ranges, is most renowned for its mountain gorillas. The Inkisi Falls in the southwest also add to the country’s beauty with its display of water, which falls 60 meters.
Bene L. M’poko, the DRC Ambassador to South Africa, with HRH Prince Charles
In the more urban environment of Kinshasa, the DRC’s capital city, visitors will find diversity of another sort. Tourists in Kinshasa will be treated to a rich collection of prehistoric and ethnographic artifacts at the University. The capital city also has a lively nightlife and vibrant markets.
Minister of Environment Conservation, Nature and Tourism, José E.B. Endundo, and UNESCO General Director Irina Bokova
Bene L. M’poko, the DRC Ambassador to South Africa who is now located in Johannesburg, proudly shares his deep love for his country and its beauty. “When I was growing up in the DRC, I always felt that the rain forest was a burden. I feared the animals, the snakes and the bush, and always dreamed of getting away from that ‘terrible’ place. Little did I know what a beauty and blessing this forest was. When I grew up, I began to realize that it was not a symbol of poverty but of wealth, and to appreciate the cool fresh air,” says Ambassador M’poko, who is also a member of the Prince Charles Foundation to Protect the Rain Forest.
Nevertheless, Minister Endundo believes that the DRC can do better to promote itself and open up the tourism industry. He is seeking investors to fund the construction of hotels, airports, a hospitality training school and all the essential institutions necessary to sustain a thriving tourism industry.
“We are starting from zero and want to work with partners who can help us move to the next level,” he says. “It is only if we can improve our roads and means of communication that our industry will take root.”
Moise Ekanga Lushyma, Executive Director of the BCPSC, Meeting China’s President Hu Jintao
The DRC-China Relationship:
Based on Mutual Trust and Respect
“We are very happy with the relationship we have with China,” says Moise Ekanga Lushyma, Executive Director of the BCPSC, which oversees the DRC’s relations with China.
Three years ago, China finalized one of its biggest deals ever with an African nation when it signed an agreement with the Congolese government in Kinshasa, promising to bring a new lease on life to a country that has for decades lived through mismanagement, war, plunder and devastation. While the DRC is endowed with natural resources, it is currently among the poorest nations.
Under the terms of the agreement, the DRC will receive $6 billion to fund the building of roads, railways, hospitals and universities. In return, China will receive a slice of the country’s copper and cobalt deposits: 10m tonnes of copper and 400,000 tonnes of cobalt.
“Work has already begun since we signed the agreement. The Chinese are building roads, bridges, hospitals and schools,” says Mr. Lushyma.
However, the interest China has shown in the DRC and the rest of Africa has aroused suspicion. China has been accused of engaging in development without giving due consideration to good governance or human rights.
But Mr. Lushyma disagrees with these accusations. “The Europeans are upset because they do not know the kind of deal we struck with China. They like complaining that China is plundering Africa, has no care for human rights and is only here for profits. That is not true,” he says.
“The difference between Europeans and Chinese is very simple: When Africa is in need of something, Europeans come up with all sorts of rules; but the Chinese act quickly. For them it is less talk and more action,” the director says.
Mr. Lushyma says he likes the Chinese way of doing things. If there is a problem, you can talk to them one-on-one, without red tape. Theirs is a ‘win-win’ situation in which they get their agreed share of minerals while they spend money in building schools, social care programs, education and housing. “With its rapidly expanding economy, China has a need—raw materials—and we can provide them. We too have needs that they can cater to. It’s a win-win situation, a barter trade of sorts,” he says.
To ensure that no one takes advantage of the country, the DRC has included specific terms in the agreement as to what is to be done, the labor force to be used and environmental costs. It took two years for China and the DRC to hammer out a deal that would be based on mutual trust and respect, but the end result has been a positive one, according to Mr. Lushyma.
He adds that the Chinese government has a lot of confidence in President Kabila, “and believes his leadership can raise this country out of economic limbo.”
Looking ahead, Mr. Lushyma explains that China is hoping to expand its investments into agriculture.
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