The DRC trade equation: EAC is missing in the Big Picture

What you need to know:

  • The EAC member states are said to be losing trade deals worth around $10 billion (Sh23 trillion) annually in the DRC, according to a study by the East African Business Council

Dar es Salaam. Pressure for the East African states to tap the trade potentials in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is growing - given the many missed trade opportunities the country offers.

The EAC member states are said to be losing trade deals worth around $10 billion (Sh23 trillion) annually in the DRC, according to a recent study commissioned by the East African Business Council (EABC).

But what are these opportunities that the EAC bloc needs to tap? The study identifies the potentials in three categories: foodstuff, textiles and leather.

DRC processed food imports

As of 2019, the DRC imported prepared foodstuffs worth $514 million, representing growth of 20 percent since 2012.

The data reveals that beverages, spirits and vinegar were the most imported in the category of prepared foodstuffs in 2019.

Sugar and sugar confectionery were the second most imported, at $118.2 million. This was followed by preparations of cereals, flour, starch and milk.

However, most of the imports were sourced from Zambia (33.3 percent), Kenya (7.46 percent), South Africa 7.3 percent), Belgium (6.9 percent) and China (6.2 percent).

In the same year, all the six EAC partner states combined exported prepared foodstuffs amounting to $146.4 million (28.4 percent of DRC’s prepared foodstuff imports.

Kenya and Uganda are the dominant suppliers of prepared foodstuffs among the EAC states.

It also shows that in the period 2013-2014, Tanzania’s exports of prepared foodstuff significantly rose to the tune of $129.8 million - only to sharply fall in the subsequent year.

Textiles market in DRC

The market for imported textiles into the DRC was worth $235 million in 2019, representing a 12 percent decline for the period 2015-2019. The data reveals that textiles were the most sought after, that is, worn clothing and worn textile articles and articles of apparel and clothing accessories, knitted or crocheted. Textiles made out of cotton come in third at $34 million.

The data reveals that most of the textile imports are sourced from China (54.6 percent in 2019) at $128.9 million. In the same period, the rest of the imports were from; Belgium ($20 million), India ($13.1 million), South Africa ($12.9 million) and the Netherlands ($10.2 million).

As a bloc, the EAC supplied textiles worth $30.7 million in 2019, and most of it was from Rwanda (53.3 percent or $16.3 million).

Rwanda’s textile exports to the DRC has been steadily rising in the period 2014-2018, while that of Tanzania has been fluctuating a lot in the same period. As a bloc, textile exports to the DRC significantly increased in the period 2015-2017.

Plastics and rubber market in the DRC

The data shows the DRC imported plastic products worth declined to $284.9 million in 2019 from $316.2 million in 2012, while rubber products amounted to $85.6 million.

Most of the plastics were sourced from: China ($94.6 million), South Africa ($48.3 million), Saudi Arabia ($21.7 million) and India ($17.8 million).

In the same period, the main suppliers of rubber products into the DRC were: China ($37.6 million), South Africa ($26.5 million), Zambia ($5.5 million) and France ($2.9 million).

In 2018, the EAC’s supply of both plastics and rubber products to the DRC totaled $29.2 million, down from 46.5 million in 2016. Most of it was exported by Uganda ($11.8 million).

Kenya’s exports of this product category to the DRC has alarmingly declined since 2013, while exports from Uganda and Tanzania made some progress in the period 2017-2018.