Democratic Republic of the Congo Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public holidays

Introduction

Congo is a civilized country, in many areas influenced by French culture and customs. A number of rich and influential businessmen have studied in Europe and Canada and therefore have a high-quality demeanor, rich experience in world trade, use modern technology, and therefore it is good to approach it this way (Africans generally do not trade for colored slides anymore). However, African vices must be taken into account, such as especially lateness and attention to the infamous “Nigerian scams” even in the Congo.

Addressing

The first step is to realize whether your product or service is applicable on the Congolese market. The market here is 81% purely pro-import and most things are imported from abroad. It is important to remember that the market is very price sensitive. A lot of cheap goods are imported from China, but there are a lot of companies that are rich and prefer quality. The second step is the selection of suitable clients. The Congolese are a very proud people and like to pretend that they want everything and in a big way. But the reality is that behind this mask they hide the fact that they are not rich enough to buy your product. The third step is to find a partner (client) with whom you can do business. The choice of a partner is absolutely key here and can bring you either the expected profit or great difficulties. There are no quality paid databases in Congo and most of the companies listed in the various search engines do not work. 99% of business here is done through acquaintances. If the company writes to you “send an official letter or e-mail”, then you already know that they will not talk to you.

Personal contact is completely irreplaceable here. The Congolese are a proud nation, and therefore it is not good to acquiesce in everything when dealing with them. Price is important and always comes first. It is not a good idea to increase the price extremely and then negotiate, because with a final price that is 25% or more lower, the client will feel, and rightfully so, that you wanted to cheat him. It is also important to realize that most letters where someone claims to work for ECOWAS or is interested in your product, without further specification, is a scam. Don’t waste your time with these companies. Secure your payment instruments very well. Most often, a confirmed irrevocable letter of credit (L/C) is used with the simplest possible terms to avoid payment delays. Try to have most of your payments cleared and in your account before shipping. We are decent Europeans,

Business meeting

Unfortunately, English is not enough for negotiations. It is very advantageous to speak French or to have an interpreter. Plan your trip outside of Christmas and Ramadan. Keep in mind the country’s ethnic, cultural and religious differences. A very common and frequent phenomenon in the Congo is general indiscipline and tardiness. Perceive what is happening around you, be cautious, be careful with your property, take care of your safety and avoid risky situations. Find out who your business partner is with whom you work. You absolutely cannot do without a quality local partner who will open the door to customers. It is better to check the partner through the local embassy to avoid possible fraudulent activity. It is good to meet your Congolese partner in person. Congolese are very self-confident and assertive in business dealings. negotiations usually take place in the office, but there is a common meeting at lunch or, in case of positive developments, at dinner. Negotiations can be preceded by a long, informal prelude, during which the client gladly boasts about his achievements. Above all, present yourself well. A suit with a tie is required for meetings at central offices, a shirt with a tie is tolerated for business meetings. Be careful with alcohol, at least it is good to check in advance whether the business partner is Muslim and act accordingly. Don’t be swayed by the initial impression that the client wants everything and in bulk. Congolese are masters of manipulation and like to create the impression that a deal is already agreed during the first meeting. Prepare for unexpected delays and changes in the entry of requirements from the Congolese side. In the case of meetings being prepared at the offices for Friday, only the morning should be taken into account, the Muslim part of the population has been at prayers since noon, and in the afternoon the authorities tend to no longer function. Prayer is customary at public gatherings, conferences, and sometimes before an official lunch or dinner.

The best time for business meetings is in the morning from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Most Congolese are punctual. The rate of lateness increases during the rainy season. Lengthyness is typical for the negotiations of Congolese traders. The meeting style is very much influenced by the French culture with long lunches. Women are respected as businesswomen. In Congo, with the exception of the oil sector, there are not many people who speak English, French is a basic condition for successful negotiations. What is required is the perfect outfit that the Congolese will put up with. Due to the small population, “everyone knows everyone” in business circles. Word of an unusual trade or fraudulent practice will spread quickly, and the unscrupulous trader, especially if he is a foreigner, is ostracized from the trading community. It is necessary to refrain from criticizing the political system or the functioning of the authorities. Photographing official buildings, infrastructure buildings, etc. is prohibited, it is better to ask for prior permission to photograph people. Traffic in the capital is heavy and it is necessary to always count on a time reserve. Outside of Kinshasa, poor road conditions must be expected, especially during the rainy season.

Communication

The official and therefore the main language of communication is French. Other major local languages ​​are: Fang, Myene, Teke, Punu, Eshira, Kikongo, Mbere, Kota, Ndjabi and Lumbu. They all belong to the Bantu language family. For several thousand Congolese, French is the mother tongue. In Congo, with the exception of the oil sector, there are not many people who speak English, French is a basic condition for successful negotiations. It is better to refrain from criticizing the political system or the functioning of the authorities. Photography of persons, official buildings, etc. without prior permission should be avoided. You can communicate by email and by phone, Whatsapp and other modern communication technologies are very popular. Personal meetings are highly recommended for business relations. Visit Allunitconverters for more information about Democratic Republic of the Congo culture and traditions.

Recommendation

The best time for business meetings is in the morning from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Most Congolese are punctual. Grandiosity and unrealistic promises are typical for the actions of Congolese businessmen. A number of Belgian merchants settled in the Congo for a long time adopt Congolese business customs. Women are respected as businesswomen. The business language is French, only exceptionally English. What is required is the perfect outfit that the Congolese will put up with. It is better to refrain from criticizing the political system or the functioning of the authorities. Photographing official buildings, infrastructure constructions, etc. is prohibited, it is better to ask for prior permission to photograph people. Traffic in the capital is heavy and it is necessary to always count on a time reserve.

Public Holidays

  • January 1 – New Year
  • January 4 – Martyrs’ Day
  • January 16-17 – Heroes’ Day (anniversary of the death of Patrice Lumumba and L. Kabila)
  • Easter Monday
  • May 1 – Labor Day
  • May 17 – Anniversary of LD Kabila’s entry into Kinshasa
  • June 30 – Independence Day – the country’s main holiday
  • August 1 – Parents’ Day
  • December 25 – Christmas

Working and sales hours: Monday – Friday 8.00 – 18.00, usually with a lunch break 12.00 – 15.00. Large shops are also open on the weekend.

Democratic Republic of the Congo Culture of Business