In this page:
Market Access Procedures |
Reaching the Consumers |
Distributing a Product |
Organizing Goods Transport |
Identifying a Supplier
Market Access Procedures
- International Conventions
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
- International Economic Cooperation
- The Republic of the Congo is a member of the CEMAC - Central African Economic and Monetary Community and the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC). The country is also a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
- Non Tariff Barriers
- According to the World Bank’s 2018 Logistics Performance Index - which measures countries’ trade logistics efficiency - the Congo was ranked 115th out of 160 countries. OECD’s Trade Facilitation Indicators shows that the Congo requires more documents, more days and higher cost to export and import than the Sub-Saharan African region’s average, and the procedures are often lengthy and costly. However, the country’s performance has improved between 2015 and 2017 in the areas of fees and charges, documents, and automation. Weak infrastructure, particularly poor transportation systems, still constitutes a hurdle to international trade. Furthermore, customs officials can enforce regulations unevenly or even arbitrary.
- Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
- As a member of the Customs Union of CEMAC, Congo adopts the common external tariff (CET), whose most favoured nation simple average is estimated at 18.1% by the WTO. However, the CET is difficult to be applied because members invoke country-specific exceptions and "safeguard" measures. Congo applies the exceptions to a varied range of product, however its average tariff rate is lower than the CET by being 11.6% (Heritage Foundation).
Products imported from outside the CEMAC region are subject to customs duties according to four tariff rate categories:
products of first necessity (e.g. flour, rice, etc.): 5%
primary materials and equipment: 10%
intermediate goods (e.g. tools, tires, etc.): 20%
consumer gGoods (e.g. canned foods, electronics, etc.): 30%.
In line with CEMAC legislation, Congo collects the Community Integration Levy (TCI), the OHADA levy, and the Community Integration Contribution (CCI), amounting to 1.45% of import value.
- Customs Classification
- The Republic of the Congo is a member of the World Customs organisation and does comply with the harmonised customs system.
- To be able to import or export products, economic operators must obtain an installation licence from the Ministry responsible for trade; be authorized and enrolled in the Trade and Personal Property Credit Register; be registered in the files of the National Centre for Statistics and Economic Studies; obtain a unique identification number from the Directorate General of Taxes; be registered with the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Agriculture and Trades; and be registered with the National Social Security Fund. For further information, consult the guide of the Agency for the Promotion of Investments (API) (in French).
All goods entering the Republic of Congo shall be accompanied by a commercial invoice, the certificate of origin, the packing list, the bill of lading or the airway bill according to the means of transport. Import permits and sanitary certificates are required for farm products (such as meat and poultry), as well as for hazardous products (weapons, explosives, chemical products). For a list of products subject to a specific import authorization, visit the Congolese Customs’ website.
- Importing Samples
- Products allowed for temporary admission are not subject to custom duties. After their use, they must be re-exported or destroyed, with the process being certified by a custom agent.
- For Further Information
Customs Office (Direction Générale des Douanes et Droits Indirect)
Business Portal for Africa
Reaching the Consumers
Generally, Congolese consumers have a limited income and low purchasing power, making price the main purchasing factor. For most people, the shopping basket is composed almost entirely of essential products (when food cannot be grown directly through subsistence farming).
- Consumer Profile
The Republic of Congo has a population of almost 4.8 million people (IMF, 2021), with a GDP per capita estimated at USD 2,510 by the IMF (2021), and it is classified a lower-middle income country by the World Bank. As in most countries in Africa, the Congolese consumers are generally young: according to data by the CIA, the proportion of children below the age of 14 is 41.57%, 17.14% of the population is between 15 and 24, 33.5% between 25 and 54, while only 7.79% are 55 or older; and it is equally split between men and women (2020 est.). The life expectancy in the country is 60.27 years for men and 63.16 for women (CIA Wolrd Factbook, 2021 est.). Families in the Republic of Congo are numerous, with an average fertility rate of 4.41 children per woman (CIA Wolrd Factbook, 2021 est.).
The population density is relatively low, with most people concentrated in the south and around the capital of Brazzaville (67.4% of the total population lives in urban areas - World Bank 2019, latest data available). According to the IMF, poverty and inequality are comparatively high in the Republic of Congo (47% of the population lives under the poverty line, a higher rate if compared to peer oil-exporting countries - World Food Programme, 2021), especially in rural areas.
Nearly all locally sold goods are imported, and domestic transportation costs contribute to increasing prices. As in most countries in the region, availability and proximity two important purchasing drivers. There is no sizeable middle class with robust education, skills, and material living standards.
Advertising is carried on mainly through radio, television and newspaper (in French). Online advertising is not very common, as the internet penetration rate is still low. Consumer credit is still not developed.
Good customer and follow-up services can confer a significant competitive advantage (especially for durable goods and B2B commerce).
- Main Advertising Agencies
Congo Web Agency
Distributing a Product
- Evolution of the Sector
The retail market in the Republic of the Congo is relatively developed. Though reliable figures about the market’s size are not available, several chains operate in the country, such as Casino Supermarché, Good Market, Metraco, Score and Regal Congo. The last one, in particular, opened the first hypermarket of Congo in 2016, with a total surface of 2,500 m2.
However, most people in the country buy from neighbours or in local markets (for the food that they cannot cultivate themselves by subsistence farming). The majority of products sold in the country are imported.
- Market share
The main retail chains operating in the Republic of the Congo are:
- Casino Supermarché (first hypermarket in the country in 2016)
- Good Market
- La Cité
- Regal Congo
- Retail Sector Organisations
National Union of the Economic Operators of Congo - (Union Nationale des Opérateurs économiques Congolais - UNOC)
- Internet access
According to the Digital 2019 report for the Republic of the Congo by Hootsuite and WeAreSocial, out of a population of 5.5 million people, only 12% have access to the internet. The country’s IT infrastructures are poor (although a fiber optic link should soon connect both Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville to the West Africa Cable System). Connecting to the internet is still extremely expensive, however cyber cafes and other Wi-Fi hotspots are constantly growing (most people does not have the economical resources to buy a laptop or subscribe for internet services).
In the country there are around 5.1 million mobile subscriptions (but only 11.7% of them have an internet mobile subscription) and 12% of the population are active social media users.
Finally, it has to be remarked that the government closely controls internet and telecommunication access: for example, during the 2015 constitutional referendum it suspended internet and text communication services throughout the country for 10 days; while at the time of the 2016 presidential elections internet, text, and voice services were suspended for four days.
The most popular web search engines in Congo are Google (95.7%), Bing and Yahoo (2.3% and 1.4% respectively).
- E-commerce market
E-commerce is still in its infancy in the Republic of the Congo, as the country lacks adequate ICT and online payment infrastructures. According to the Digital 2019 report for Congo by Hootsuite and WeAreSocial, online payment is barely used in the Republic of Congo: only 4.4% of the population has purchased on the internet or paid bills online, while a mere 4% of the population has a credit card (6.2% have a mobile money account). Furthermore, shipping is hard, especially outside major cities (in general there are no street addresses in rural area) and there are no suitable stocking facilities. The UN Conference on Trade and Development B2C E-commerce index ranks Congo 145th out of 151 countries and 38th in the African continent for its readiness and capacity to support online trade. B2B e-commerce is also almost non-existent.
Some companies – like GIA Markets, Nourishka et Brazza shop – recently started promoting their products online through social media platforms and specific apps.
Facebook has an estimated 670,000 users, Linkedin 96,000 and Instagram 74,000. Companies are increasingly using Facebook or other social media for advertising. Most social media users are men.
Identifying a Supplier
- Type of Production
According to the World Bank, the agricultural sector accounts for 6.4% of GDP and employs 36% of the active population, with cassava, plantains, bananas, peanuts, and palm oil as main crops.
The industrial sector contributes 53.5% of GDP and gives employment to 22% of the workforce. It is dominated by the petroleum sector, which also accounts for 90% of FDIs to the Congo.
Finally, the services sector accounts for 40.1% of Congo’s GDP and 42% of total employment.
- Multi-sector Directories
- DR Congo Business Directory
To search directories by industry in Congo, check out our service Business Directories.
- Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
Chamber of Commerce of Brazzaville
- General Professional Associations
Employers' and Interprofessional Union of Congo (Union patronale et interprofessionnelle du Congo - UNICONGO)
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Latest Update: September 2023