The Forum on the Congolese Economy within the European Union (Forum Économique Congolais dans l’Union Européenne) was held in Brussels (17-18 November 2014) bringing together officials and investors from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) and EU working towards the development of DR Congo’s agribusiness sector and encouraging investors to take part in the transformation of the country’s vast agricultural lands.
The Central African country has set in motion the development of its agricultural and agribusiness sectors through the National Plan for Agricultural Investment (Plan National d’Investissement Agricole – PNIA) part of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). The details of this 2013-2020 strategy, which consists of a US$5.7 billion expansion blueprint, were reiterated during the two-day forum.
The Minister of Agriculture, H.E. Jean Chrysostome Vahamwiti Mukesyayira, expressed his government’s desire to engage with private sector. The government aims to achieve 6% annual agricultural growth which will in turn reduce the country’s poverty rate. The emphasis is on inclusive growth, which promotes the role of small and medium enterprises within the national, regional and global food chain, as well as the integration of the smallholder farmers in the agricultural value chains.
Leading Congolese business people and their European counterparts were present at the forum, having vested interests in investing in the country’s agri-food chain. In line with the national drive to increase investments, Minister Vahamwiti highlighted the upcoming annual EMRC AgriBusiness Forum 2015. The forum will showcase the role that agricultural modernization, responsible finance and inclusive growth can play in transforming the sector. The forum will also showcase business opportunities and national incentives to establish a conducive business environment.
DR Congo has all the necessary elements to produce significant amounts of agricultural yields to feed itself and possibly the region and the world’s growing population.
The National Plan for Agricultural Investment puts a strong emphasis on agro-parks. These agro-parks will stimulate food production, diversify outputs and create non-agricultural rural jobs. The government will invest in basic infrastructure such as roads and electricity but calls on the global private sector involved in agri-food to partner in achieving successful commercial results for DR Congo’s farming communities.
A number of these pilot projects have been established. The Bukanga Lonzo agro-park, inaugurated in mid-July 2014, focuses on large scale farming sustained by appropriate infrastructure, roads, electricity and schools and hospitals for the farmers. Covering an area of 80.000 hectares the project will eventually provide agricultural products for local and international markets. Outputs will consist of: corn, soy, beans, manioc, potatoes, and tomatoes to name a few. The Congolese government has invested US$83 million to ensure the necessary infrastructure.
In a similar vein, another project is under way to set up a multi-disciplinary farm which includes poultry farming, aqua-culture, and fruit farming in addition to other cultivations as well as building the infrastructure to accompany the large-scale farming – all complete with a training center. The estimated annual returns for this project are US$10 million.
These two projects reflect the willingness of the DRC Government to develop high impact initiatives, and boost agriculture through a comprehensive development corridor approach. The ambitious RD Congo Government action should soon harvest impressive results, and international private and public sectors are invited to contribute to this progress.
The EMRC Team.