The EU’s contribution to consolidation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is based on strong support for political, economic and commercial development in the country under the Cotonou Agreement.

Political Relations

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the EU participates in political and human development through a comprehensive approach, which has notably enabled the organisation of the first European security missions without NATO participation. Since then, work has begun on reform of the police and army.

The EU has actively participated in the international community’s efforts to restore peace and democracy in the DRC through financial support for the constitutional referendum in 2005 and the electoral processes in 2006 and 2011, and by deploying substantial election observation missions. The EU places great importance on regional stability and has also been heavily involved in international efforts to bring about stability. In this regard, a Special Representative for the Grands Lacs region has been appointed since 1996.

Beyond the political and military aspects, contribution to consolidation in the DRC is based on strong support for development under the Cotonou Agreement, which was signed in 2000. The envelope for the 2014-2020 period (11th European Development Fund) is one of the largest in bilateral terms, with over €620 million being made available through four priority axes:

  • Health.
  • The environment.
  • Strengthening governance and the rule of law.
  • Infrastructure.

This partnership provides for sustained political dialogue, which allows the EU and the DRC to discuss subjects of shared interest in a regular and open manner, in particular the preservation of political space and respect for human rights.

Economic and Trade Relations

Economic relations:

The private sector in the DRC is sluggish due to the poor business climate. In view of this, the EU provides economic aid on both a macro and micro-economic level in development financing for the private sector.

Specific financial instruments are available to the DRC:

  • PROINVEST is a programme for the promotion of foreign direct investment, which seeks to encourage investment and technology flow to the DRC by strengthening intermediary organisations (investment promotion agencies, private intermediary organisations or service providers for businesses in terms of investment).
  • The Centre for the Development of Enterprise (CDE) has had a positive impact on small and medium enterprises and supplies skills and capacities to businesses across a wide range of sectors. It also focuses its activities on businesses launching new projects.
  • The BizClim programme aims at improving the business climate. The programme has two strands: reforming regulatory frameworks and those of public enterprises and developing financial systems.
  • The Microfinance framework programme aims to improve access to financial services for poorer populations.
  • The objective of the Investment Facility (European Investment Bank) is to stimulate regional and international investment; strengthen the capacity of local financial institutions; consolidate local, financial and capital markets; encourage foreign investment; and facilitate development of the private sector by financing projects, as well as commercially viable businesses and companies.

The EU also cooperates in the reform and modernisation of public finances in the DRC.

Trade relations:

From 2010 to 2015, the Democratic Republic of the Congo went through a period of overall strong economic growth. Up until the beginning of 2016, this macro-economic performance contributed to continuing relative political stability, commitments to structural and economic reforms, and to mining exports. This also enabled the Democratic Republic of the Congo to improve its standing on the Human Development Index despite starting from a weak position, but there is no certainty that this trend will continue.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo remains one of the least developed countries. The main objective of the DRC’s trade policy is to reduce poverty by:

  • Continuing trade liberalisation.
  • Accelerating privatisation.
  • Implementing sectoral reforms, especially in the fields of agriculture, mining, industry and services.
  • Promoting diversified exports.

The national trade strategy paper, developed with the aid of the EU, is focused on participating in global trade. It is crucial that this strategy, which is part of an extensive development plan to be put in place by 2035, focuses on opportunities offered by globalisation, such as participation in value chains and integration into the regional economy. Market access (the EU market in particular) is only one strand of the solution. Sharing a border with nine countries, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a key player in the region. Exports to African countries have increased considerably since 2008. These exports represented almost 24 % of total exports in 2014; a positive development. Strengthening regional integration would be beneficial.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has designated key areas of reform, notably:

  • Industrialisation.
  • Productivity growth in the mining sector.
  • Developing agricultural potential.

Putting these objectives into practice and consolidating the country’s position in global value chains are major challenges.

EU Aid for Trade Programme, 10th EDF

In April 2010, the EU signed a financing agreement with the Democratic Republic of the Congo with a view to implementing an Aid for Trade programme (worth €16 million), which is now nearing completion. The overall objective of this programme was to support the government in its efforts to make the economy more competitive on internal, regional and international markets and to prepare its integration into the global economy under EPAs. Activities have been carried out in terms of the programme’s four strands, namely Improving the business environment through legal and judicial protection (Component 1); Facilitating trade and customs reform (Component 2); Capacity building in trade matters (Component 3); Quality and development support for exports (Component 4).

However, given that there will be no follow-up of the Aid for Trade Programme under the 11th EDF, it is likely that trade support will be provided through Regional Indicative Programmes (RIPs). Of these, support is provided to the Democratic Republic of the Congo under CEPGL, SADC, COMESA, and the CEMAC configuration of the DR Congo and Sao Tomé (making up the Central Africa RIP).

Enhanced Integrated Framework

The Enhanced Integrated Framework is one of the Trade Ministry’s flagship projects (supported and administered by the World Trade Organization with the support of various donors) and it has enabled the implementation of a well-equipped unit to provide technical support to the Trade Ministry (UNMO EIF). A stimulus plan for oil palm production in the town of Tshela is currently being implemented thanks to support provided under the EIF.

The EU facilitates donors to the EIF and has accompanied the Trade Ministry in completing the Diagnostic Trade and Integration Study (DTIS), and in implementing projects in Category 1 (implementation of UNMO EIF) and 2 (validation of the stimulus plan for oil palm production).

The EPAs are based on four principles:

  • Partnership.
  • Regional integration and gradual liberalisation.
  • Differentiation and flexibility.
  • Compatibility with multilateral rules governing trade.

Adopting an overall approach, the EPAs will be closely linked to development aid, including technical assistance linked to trade.

An EPA offers tax- and quota-free access to the European market for all products, but at the same time seeks an (asymmetric and gradual) opening of the local market for European products. The Democratic Republic of the Congo negotiates EPAs as part of the Central Africa configuration (CEMAC + the Democratic Republic of the Congo + Sao Tomé), but limited political involvement is evident, mainly due to the fact that the Democratic Republic of the Congo still benefits from the Everything but Arms initiative as a less developed country (LDC).

Humanitarian Aid

The recurring conflict has caused massive displacement of the population and a chronic humanitarian crisis in the DRC. In February 2016, there were 1.9 million displaced persons within the country and over 500 000 Congolese refugees in neighbouring countries. The country is faced with multiple epidemics such as measles, yellow fever and cholera, and DG-ECHO is responding to these epidemics through its medical partners.

The main objective of DG-ECHO, the European Commission’s humanitarian aid and civil protection department, is to provide emergency assistance to displaced or vulnerable populations through appropriate humanitarian aid whilst in keeping with humanitarian principles such as impartiality and neutrality.

DG-ECHO funds are used for goods and services, such as:

  • Food.
  • Clothes.
  • Accommodation.
  • Medicines and medical care.
  • Water.
  • Sanitation
  • Emergency repairs.
  • Demining.

DG-ECHO also finances preparedness and risk mitigation projects in regions prone to natural disasters. DG-ECHO also provides assistance to refugees arriving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Burundi. In zones where it is possible for refugees to return home, DG-ECHO provides the minimum conditions to help them reconstruct their lives and improve basic social services.

In zones not affected by conflict, humanitarian aid is mainly focused on acute malnutrition, food insecurity and epidemics (particularly measles and cholera).