THE national export promotion agency, ZimTrade, says the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a ripe export market for Zimbabwean products and has called on local producers to seize the opportunity.

Zimbabwe produces an array of top-quality products from key sectors such as horticulture, construction and engineering, which can compete in any market around the world. With Zimbabwe being a land-linked country, ZimTrade says there is a need for local companies to diversify their markets and take advantage of the opportunities that arise in the neighbouring countries.

The agency said DRC is one such market, offering lucrative opportunities for Zimbabwean companies across all sectors such as mining, agriculture, services and more.

“DRC is one of the largest countries by land mass in Africa, with a population five times the size of Zimbabwe, estimated at over 75,2 million by the Southern African Development Community secretariat.

“This population is an indication of a huge consumer base that could provide opportunities for Zimbabwean manufacturers and farmers,” said ZimTrade.

The DRC is predominantly rich in mineral resources and relies on imports of goods and services for its huge population. Statistics from Trade Map show that DRC imported products worth US$6,67 billion in 2019. This was dominated by machinery, mechanical appliances (US$1,1 billion), electrical machinery and equipment (US$615 million), and pharmaceutical products (US$471 million). Other top products imported last year were vehicles and parts, articles of iron or steel, plastics, and inorganic chemicals as well as salt, sulphur, earths and stone, plastering materials, lime and cement.

The top exporting countries to DRC are China, South Africa, Zambia, Belgium, India, Netherlands, Namibia and France. Trade Map noted that Zimbabwe’s exports to DRC are “very” low, and last year, were largely dominated by plastics and articles of plastics.

“However, there is room to increase trade to DRC by diversifying exports and targeting high demand products in the DRC,” said ZimTrade.

Contrary to popular belief about the risks associated with exporting to the DRC market, ZimTrade said there was invaluable potential in that market, in particular, the Katanga province where ZimTrade conducted a market survey and identified vast opportunities in the mining sector. DRC produces more than three percent of the world’s copper and half its cobalt, most of which comes from Katanga region. Moreover, the mining sector in the Katanga region is composed of both large-scale mining firms and the small artisanal mining operations.

“This presents a good opportunity for Zimbabwean exporters of mining consumables, engineering and safety solutions to do business with both small and large-scale miners in the Katanga region.

“Some buyers in the DRC mining sector have indicated an appetite for Zimbabwe-produced mining supplies such as protective clothing,” said ZimTrade.

In the agriculture and processed foods sector, ZimTrade said over the past few years, DRC has been moving towards modernising its agriculture sector, creating opportunities for Zimbabwean companies to supply appropriate technologies. Required products that local businesses can supply include hand-held farming equipment, tractors, cultivators, and planters. In addition, a survey by ZimTrade indicated that most of the smallholder farmers do not have livestock such as cattle or donkeys to provide animal-drawn implements.

“This deficit, therefore, presents an opportunity for Zimbabwe to consider both livestock and agricultural implement exports.

“Related to this, there is a growing interest in animal husbandry in DRC, which is creating opportunities especially in poultry farming.

“Already some local companies are receiving inquiries for hatching eggs, an area that smallholder farmers could capitalise on,” said the export promotion organisation. For agricultural products, there is potential to supply tobacco, meat, sugar, cereals, cotton, vegetables, fats and oils, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables. The DRC is also ripe for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and local firms could maximise on this. Zimbabwean companies could also partner Zambian suppliers and provide a lucrative passage into DRC. The successes recorded by the South African suppliers, whose trucks pass through Zimbabwe daily, is an indication of potential in the DRC market that local companies are still to take full advantage of, said the trade agency. Zimbabwe and DRC also enjoy cordial bilateral relations, which form a good basis for improving trade between the two countries.

“This drive, coupled with the aspirations of Vision 2030, which targets an enabling environment that can support a meaningful contribution by Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises to national exports, means the Government and related institutions are ready to support local companies in penetrating the DRC market,” said ZimTrade.

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